Harpoon Written by Rob Grant and Mike Kovac
Directed by Rob Grant
Cast: Christopher Gray, Emily Tyra, Munro Chambers, Brett Gelman
Release date: October 3-11 U.S. theater tour
October 8, 2019 (Blu-ray & VOD, Amazon Prime Video)
At last year’s NYC Horror Film Festival I saw a really good modern take on the Frankenstein story with Rob Grant’s Alive. So it’s no surprise to me that a year later I am again intrigued by one of the Canadian filmmaker’s projects, in this case it’s minimalist thriller Harpoon. Shot almost entirely on a small yacht during a fishing trip and featuring a cast of literally three on-screen actors with a voiceover narration from Brett Gelman (Murray Bauman on Stranger Things), Harpoon somehow evokes tension, terror, and laughs. With the small setting and smaller cast, Grant’s film plays out like a stage play: imagine Open Water, only you’re on the boat with the sharks.
Our three characters are Jonah (Munro Chambers), Sasha (Emily Tyra), and Richard (Christopher Gray). We learn from our helpful narrator that Jonah is a down on his luck loser whose parents died and their crippling debt left him with next to nothing. Richard is a rich guy’s son with anger issues whose introduction into the film is bursting into Jonah’s to beat him up under suspicion of sleeping with his girlfriend. That girlfriend is Sasha, who is party-first girl who became a nurse. She insists that the mysterious texts between her and Jonah were about Richard’s birthday present: a new harpoon… speargun. These are not three people you want to openly root for and if you’ll find a negative it’s that point. But to me, their friendship/history felt genuine. And sexual tension between long-time friends as well as “cheating through text” are as plausible a reason as any to build tension between characters who are off alone stuck in some potentially life-threatening scenario.
Within minutes on Richard’s yacht secrets are revealed and the three are at war. But in order for all three to survive, deals must be made. The problem is that once things break down between them… the boat breaks down and now the three are forced to struggle for survival constantly looking over their shoulders. Days stretch into nights, resources dwindle, and with only a liquor bottle to share, more and more secrets come to light. Any details after this point would serve as spoilers, but suffice to say you honestly don’t know what’s going to happen next.
There is so much fun to be had once we settle into the second act though: Hilarious voiceover about all the bad coincidences their trip had and a great aside from Emily Tyra detailing the Richard Parker mythology from Poe to England and even referencing Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, which also dealt with a shipwreck and was a story of survival. The actors all do a great job and you believe their plight and the decisions they make are completely aligned with the characters they are written as. Rob Grant’s direction is fantastic, alternating between tense showdowns and comedic refrains all while maintaining the survival story at float… no pun intended.
Harpoon is a wonderful mix of suspense and dark comedy. You’ll never expect the bizarre turns that come next. It is a smart little movie but it benefits from clear direction and writing, three stand-out performances, and a gorgeous seascape. It’s minimalism works to its advantage.
The film make its world premiere earlier this year at the International Film Festival Rotterdam 2019 and also showed at the Chattanooga Film Festival 2019. It will be available on Blu-ray and VOD (iTunes, Prime Video) on Tuesday, October 8, 2019. It also gets a limited U.S. theatrical tour from October 3-11; check official site for dates and locations.🛥🦈