Sometimes audiences receive incredible films, from first time feature filmmakers, and that’s the case with Kevin Stocklin’s The Harrow, a thrilling movie, generating an emotional tension layered in truths perceived in different manners, which he also served as screenwriter. His film, not based on pressure settings, grandiose theatrical setting or action driven sequences, rather a tad laid back, country feel, centering on obsessions, possessions, abuse and mental anguish. In his story, one can hide the skeletons in the closet and keep the ghosts buried but the mental monsters always find a way to expose themselves, especially to love ones, and Stocklin’s film with many difficult issues. Rather the audience engages with a slow burning story, boiling with raw emotion, allowing the undertone of madness to run gently like a calm brook, developing more so into a dark drama, wrapped in a mystery and tied with a crime-ridden bow. The Harrow keeps the audience in the dark, sparking the interest in undying love; muddle in a world of tragedy, the atmosphere Stocklin employs into this script translates wonderfully on the screen. In addition, the usage of flashbacks which normally break the tension, work in reverse to create it, detailing the darkness and a haunting present day storyline. Needless to say, Kevin weaves a captivating film, which obtains distribution through Breaking Glass Pictures on all media levels.
The narrative in Stocklin’s movie generates a whodunit element through a visual display told by the characters who tell a compelling story. Ruth (Sonya Harum) comes to town in search of answers about its most notorious crime, the brutal murder-suicide of Gale (Maggie Geha) and Uriah Thomas (Lars Gerhard) a couple years before, meeting at a local eatery with the Sheriff (Gabe Wood, from Stomping Ground (2014)) inform of the only people who know of anything. He warns that some truths bring more than ghosts do, monsters lurk in the darkness, more ominous thoughts exposed to the audience. Ruth learns some truths already, through a series of letters, which concerned her grandmother and other personal harms, other disgusts. Hence begins the hunt for Uriah’s sister Adele (Geneva Carr) and Miller (Tom McKay), who’s a mister fix-it, living alone, in historical protected abattoir (a slaughterhouse, complete with the hooks that held the beef), how charming. The back-story told from Miller’s point of view, working on a tobacco farm, saw the signs of abuse, but unsure what to do, how far to intrude, but that a secret love blossoms, but not everything in life becomes a rosy bed of happiness, no matter how much one wants it. Herein, the characters provide the more intrigue and deeper understanding of the heartaches from past memories and haunting ghosts of pains, and the film conveys it all very nicely, with a mysterious path. McKay transforms his role, Miller, on a continuous arc during the film, noticing the subtle changes, which fits with the flashbacks, resulting in a positive reflection of progression and not regression often associated with the technique. Only the conclusion of the movie veers into the horror realm briefly, but with a tad too much foreshadowing, however getting there becomes the dramatically wonderful trip.
First, the cast provides a fine performance, collectively realistic understanding the dark subject material, and show believable chemistry. The film contains excellent cinematography from Adrian Peng Correia, who does a wonderful job in bringing these characters to life, along with the setting. The only downside, and this might drift over from Stocklin’s past of many short films, wherein one contains 20 to 40 minutes to film, rather 95-minutes, lies in too much early foreshadowing, the suspension works, but lacking the punch of shock, dials the movie downward, at the wrong moment.
Stocklin delivers a solid film, mixing mystery and thriller qualities, together, while spreading about a lot of dark themes, of spousal abuse, in the forms of physical, mental and sexual, and extending that into other area best left unmentioned, and generating an effective movie. The blood loss for the most highly limited, and the briefest hint of T&A, but actually the movie doesn’t need either one, it presents fine on its own, and while not the next Psycho (1960) flick, it does have some Hitchcockian elements, likely to entertain, on a peaceful night.