In 2012, I had attended the Horrorhound Weekend show in Indianapolis. If I’m not mistaken, it was the inaugural year for their film competition. The only film I had watched was my friend Dave Campfield’s CAESAR AND OTTO’S DEADLY XMAS. Dave had mentioned a flick to me a couple times over the course of the weekend called FOUND and it ended up winning the competition. I made sure to nab a copy just before I left and it ended being one of the best things I had purchased that weekend. It was a deeply disturbing, coming of age horror film and quite fantastic. For his follow-up feature, director Scott Schirmer chose a different route, one that leads to the exact same place, success, but with a film nothing like I was expecting to see: HARVEST LAKE.
The setup for the story is pretty simple and nothing we haven’t seen before, four friends head off to a cabin in the woods for a weekend of partying. It’s Ben’s (Dan Nye) birthday and his girlfriend Cat (Tristan Risk) wants it to be a special one. They invite their friends Josh (Jason Crowe) and Jennifer (Ellie Church) along and it’s going to be a weekend filled with booze, drugs, and fun. When they arrive at the cabin, they settle in rather quickly and head to the lake for a swim. This lake is like nothing they have ever encountered, the forest, the lake, are all living entities, drawing them in, controlling them, and unleashing all their inner desires.
My synopsis doesn’t do justice to what HARVEST LAKE is. There are so many amazing things at play in the film. From a story standpoint (I won’t give anything away), aside from the initial setup, the path it takes was 100% unpredictable, I never had any clue as to what was going to happen next. The location plays just as much a character in the film as the actors do. It’s captured with elegance, beauty, and a foreboding darkness by cinematographer Brian K. Williams (who just so happens to be an accomplished director as well). He should also be credited with how well the pacing of the film works since he also served as editor. There are long moments without dialogue and these scenes are so intense, they grab you, holding your attention, and beat you senseless as the tension continues to build.
The practical effects are stunning! There’s a couple of great creatures but it’s the weird little fungi that mirrored sexual organs people will remember most. The cast is small, very small, like seven people small. This is fine, especially since most of them are the best indie horror has to offer. Their relationship with one another is all remarkably believable and their performances are top-notch. It was also great to see Kevin Roach appear in the film. If you haven’t seen the short film THE CONFESSION OF FRED KREUGER, do yourself a favor and watch it now (or after you’ve watched HARVEST LAKE), he’s fantastic in it. This is such an amazing cast and crew, it’s impossible not to see great things in the near future for them. Scott Schirmer has done the impossible, he refused to repeat himself with his sophomore feature and created a dark, sensual film, a slow burn that defies description, and one people will be talking about for years to come.