Two boys, a girl, and a ritzy space. A yacht. A day trip. It was supposed to be fun, jaunting out on the water with friends. But tensions rise over a mysterious text message. Next a birthday present becomes a threat and a champagne bottle a weapon. And then things get really f*cked up. This is the premise of the horror-comedy Harpoon.
There was a time when Richard (Christopher Gray), Sasha (Emily Tyra), and Jonah (Munro Chambers) were the best of friends. But that was a couple of years, a couple of betrayals, a couple of deaths ago. Now, they’re stuck in a rut of recriminations, resentments, and grand gestures of posh apology. Which is how Jonah getting his ass kicked by Richard turned into a trip on the latter’s family yacht. A trust fund kid with a temper, Richard is used to buying his way out of trouble. Jonah’s broke, orphaned, and growing sick of his ol’ pal’s impulsiveness. Sasha is Richard’s girlfriend and Jonah’s recurring defender. And this too is getting old. So when the boat breaks down out on the open ocean, this bad blood boils into something lethal.
What might make for a bleak horror flick about three toxic but beautiful people ripping into each other psychologically and physically gets a boost thanks to running commentary that ruthlessly mocks their every move. Brett Gelman, whose played abrasive assholes in Fleabag and Stranger Things, lends his snarling voice to the unseen narrator who provides swift backstory along with important information about nautical superstitions concerning seagulls, right feet, and redheads. See, if it weren’t a bad enough idea to go yachting with a violent, entitled, rich jackass, this trio has also jinxed themselves in a barrage of ways, dooming them to starvation, mutilation, madness, and more. At least that’s what we’re told in a hasty montage halfway through the movie.
The darkly funny narration gives the audience license to laugh at the pain of the protagonists while bringing a sense of structure to the crusty crews’ days of drifting. But these voiceover intrusions feel haphazard, making me wonder if the film was shot initially as a straight horror-thriller, and it just wasn’t working. So maybe this narration was an afterthought. Why not work in some snarky commentary to punch up the energy, tweak the tone, and fill in some narrative gaps? It works well enough, making Harpoon a solidly amusing and demented romp. But there’s not much there there. There are grimaces, glares, and some seriously ghoulish gore. Yet despite an opening quote from Aristotle and prattle about superstitions and friendship, this story has very little to say. Plus, it’s sparse twists range from solidly shocking to painfully predictable. But at least the cast is game, bringing a scorching attitude to bickering, battling, and bloodshed.
All in all, Harpoon is a wonky ride. But if you’re looking for a mental Midnight Movie or a funky flick for a friends’ night, you could definitely do worse.
Harpoon made its Quebec Premiere at Fantasia International Film Festival on July 27.
Header Image Source: Fantasia