M.L. Miller here and welcome to my tenth anniversary Best in Horror Countdown! Every day in this glorious month of October I’ll be counting down the best in horror, culminating with the best horror film since last Halloween! With theaters closed for the bulk of this shitty, shitty year, much of the countdown comes from alternative sources like streaming services, digital download, and On Demand. Plus, we saw the return of the drive-in theater, which is awesome! This list compiles the best horror films released beginning on October 1, 2019 and ending on September 30, 2020. No elitism here—only films released to the public on this list which rules out haughty festival flicks that only esteemed reviewers get to see. If it played on a public screen this year, it’s fair game to be on the list. Here we go!
Released on October 8, 2019. Available on digital download and On Demand from Dread Pictures and Epic Pictures Group! Also streaming on SHUDDER!
Directed by Rob Grant
Written by Rob Grant, Mike Kovac
Starring Munro Chambers, Emily Tyra, Christopher Gray, and Brett Gelman as the Narrator
I love films set on one location. The more the cast and crew are limited in terms of space and budget sometimes leads to highly creative and entertaining art. This is the case with Rob Grant’s HARPOON. After delivering a pair of fantastic low budget shockers with MON AMI and FAKE BLOOD, Grant shows a more restrained hand with HARPOON, focusing on the complexities of relationships and adding a heavy dose of conflict and humor. The result is a riotous mix of laughs, thrills, and back stabbings.
HARPOON focuses on a trio of twenty-somethings. Richard (Christopher Gray) and Sasha (Emily Tyra) have been dating for quite a while, though their relationship is tumultuous to say the least. In the middle of this pair is Jonah (Munro Chambers), best friends to both of them. Richard is prone to fits of jealous rage when it comes to all things Sasha, with Jonah often playing the referee between the two in order to keep the peace. When a surprise birthday party results in Richard believing Jonah and Sasha are having an affair, Richard freaks out. Once he comes to his senses, Richard tries to make amends by taking the three of them out on an afternoon boat trip on his daddy’s boat. Once in the middle of the ocean, suspicions again rise, leaving the three kids trapped and adrift in the middle of the ocean with no hope for recovery in sight.
Basically, HARPOON sets up three flawed characters and traps them in a dire situation with no chance of escape. Either they kill each other, the elements kill them, or they work out their issues and work together to survive. Filmmaker Rob Grant does a fantastic job of establishing the characters of Richard, Sasha, and Jonah—giving them glaring faults as well as a few likable traits as well. Throughout this story, you love and loathe these characters. A lot of that has to do with the way information is doled out. It’s done with a careful hand that shows Grant’s skill in making resonant characters worth caring about.
It also says a lot about these three young actors. I haven’t seen any of them on screen before, but all three do a great job with the material. Emily Tyra’s Sasha is beautiful, and one can understand why these guys love her, but she isn’t afraid to get down and dirty here and even holds her own in banter between these two guys whose relationship goes back to childhood. Though Richard could have been played as a simple dumb jock/rich kid, but Christopher Gray gives his character nuances that make it hard to loathe him in the situation he finds himself in. Finally, Munro Chambers’ Jonah plays the part of middle man to a tee—always aiming to please everyone and never really doing it. Seeing these three extremes and developed personalities tear into one another and fall in and out and back into love with one another is a masterful play of character and script.
The tone of HARPOON is absolutely black. The humor is as sharp as the weapon the film is titled after. With the terrors of the deep all around them and no one in sight, the stage is set with all kinds of mayhem to happen. The fun part is that these three characters love one another, but then again they hate each other. They have been around each other for so long that it makes a bond that cannot be broken, even when they do horrifying things to one another. HARPOON is a fantastic dissection of complex relationships, while being devilishly funny and occasionally downright gory and intense. It’s the perfect blend of suspense, horror, humor, and relationships. Grant has set up a fantastic row of dominoes and seeing his thumb flick the first one and those tiles fall is the stuff that honors screenwriters like Hitchcock and Mamet before him. I know Grant is destined for great things. I knew it watching MON AMI and FAKE BLOOD. HARPOON just seals the deal that he is a filmmaker to look out for. Don’t miss HARPOON. It’s an unforgettable story of trapped friends and desperate measures.
THE 2019-2020 COUNTDOWN!
#11 – HARPOON
#12 – GRETEL & HANSEL
#13 – THE HAUNTED
#14 – DOCTOR SLEEP
#15 – DANIEL ISN’T REAL
#16 – THE VAST OF NIGHT
#17 – HOMEWRECKER
#18 – IMPETIGORE
#19 – BUTT BOY
#20 – BECKY
#21 – UNDERWATER
#22 – THE DEAD CENTER
#23 – BLOOD MACHINES
#24 – ALONE
#25 – THE BEACH HOUSE
#26 – AMULET
#27 – LAKE OF DEATH
#28 – SEA FEVER
#29 – THE RENTAL
#30 – ANTRUM: THE DEADLIEST FILM EVER MADE
#31 – REPLACE
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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