One year ago (the film opens in 1962, with a kid wearing a JFK mask being brutally murdered a full year before the real JFK would meet his own demise), teenager Jim Shepard (Britain Dalton) defeated Sawtooth Jack, splitting open the creature’s pumpkin skull and feasting on the innards. There was much celebrating, with Jim’s family reaping the rewards as Jim himself cruised off into the night in his new car.
Now, Halloween has come around again, and Jim’s younger brother Richie (Casey Likes) wants to participate in the annual event, even though his parents insist he doesn’t have to — the Shepard family already “won” once, after all. But Richie is insistent on partaking in the Halloween hunt, even though bullies at school think less of him and would rather see him sit this one out. As the night approaches, Richie meets Kelly (E’myri Crutchfield), another outcast since she’s seemingly the only Black person in town, and she, too, will end up participating in the battle against Jack, even though the ritual usually only involves teenage boys.
There’s some murky stuff in here about mysteries of the town — the event is sponsored by an all-powerful group known as The Harvester’s Guild, and the town’s very angry sheriff (Luke Kirby) clearly knows more than he’s letting on. But all of that feels like window dressing; it’s clumsily handled and not very captivating. What is captivating, though, is the film’s Halloween atmosphere. We’re treated to countless shots of cornfields, and backlit characters donning cool masks, and streets full of rowdy teens gone wild. Then there’s the monster himself, a creature with a pumpkin head and a spindly body, stalking through town and spilling copious amounts of blood in the process.
“Dark Harvest” is ultimately a film of style over substance, but hell, that style sure is grand. I don’t think anyone will be calling this a new Halloween classic, but it’s definitely an experience that can coast on v i b e s, and what great vibes they are. I didn’t love “Dark Harvest,” but I loved basking in its atmosphere. Happy Halloween.
/Film Rating: 6 out of 10