New Horror Releases: The Harrowing (2018) - Reviewed

Do cannibalistic possessions and eviscerations bring out the holiday spirit in you?  The Harrowing, arriving to us on Christmas Day, might not be the average filmgoer’s first choice for this time of year, but it’s a special present from Santa for any horror buff that feels like flipping the bird to tradition.

Ryan Calhoun (Matthew Thompkins) is a detective whose life is forever changed when a surveillance mission ends in violent bloodshed and he is forced to shoot his seemingly possessed best friend.  Grief-stricken and determined to find answers to this inexplicable massacre, his research leads him to a forensic hospital, where he begins to suspect demons exist — and in turn, must ultimately face his own inner demons. 

Matthew Thompkins is a natural fit for the weathered, gritty protagonist.  As the film progresses, it would be an easy role to “over-act,” but his restraint is commendable.  The entire ensemble echoes this sentiment, from seasoned pro Michael Ironside playing Calhoun’s no-nonsense lieutenant, to Arnold Vosloo playing Calhoun’s stern yet refined psychiatrist.  The caliber of acting here is one of the film’s strengths, and grounds even the most extreme moments of the film.

Yes, I said “extreme.”  While the majority of the film could easily be categorized as a dark cop drama or thriller, the horror attributes of the plot are gory enough to keep a modern horror fan’s attention.  Most unsettling are Calhoun’s numerous nightmares that feature enough blood and dismemberment to make Eli Roth swoon.  They are jarring, gripping, and blur the lines between fantasy and reality.  More often than not, however, the horror is more psychological than overt.  It is a well-paced, suspenseful slow burn that doesn’t overstay its welcome, with haunting atmospheric music to accentuate its dismal air, which never lets you forget that it is a horror film at heart.

Despite its carnage, The Harrowing is actually a nice-looking film.  The cinematography is moody and appropriate, with a saturated color treatment that makes even the bloodiest scenes pleasing to the eyes (assuming you’re not a squeamish person).  Every shot is well-conceived, with subtle camera pans and pushes that add dimension to the quieter moments of the film.  The creature design is particularly creepy and inventive, giving the demons a unique and menacing presence the sparse times we encounter them.  

The Harrowing might not be the most obvious choice for Christmas time viewing, but give it a chance if a blend of tastefully done mindfucking and manslaughter sounds like a good time.  It is well-executed on all counts, and has some twists that will keep you guessing until the very end.

--Andrea Riley