Dec 1st, 2022 Update: Available on all major VOD channels and Select Theatres
When considering the bounty of movies made concerning the pandemic, Andy Mitton The Harbinger is the definitive movie to watch. This film concerns what people must and must not do if they want to survive. Here, Monique (Gabby Beans) lives with her brother and father in a family bubble which they maintain with vigilance. In order to stay healthy and safe, they no longer live in the big city.
One day, her oldest friend Mavis (Emily Davis) gives her a call and says she’s being tormented by nightmares, has trouble waking up, and she needs her bestie by her side. She’s afraid something will take her away, and without someone near, nobody will notice she’ll be gone.
Monique heads to New York to be by her side, but in what she discovers is much worse. She learns everyone in the entire building is affected by the same dream Mavis has, and a demon is stalking them! And if this plot sounds familiar, that’s because the Nightmare on Elm Street vibes are certainly there. Instead of offering up grisly kills, what we get is a large exposition about the anxieties over what the future holds for every person these ladies have talked to.
This movie deftly examines how everyone is scared in their own unique way. And I surmise the supernatural manifestation is not just because they created it, but rather they summoned it. The difference between this film and Wes Craven’s work is that this demon is not a product of past sins. Instead, it formed out of the fear of being unloved and forgotten.
The Harbinger’s terrifying tone gets established right down from the first frame to the last, and its assault is gentle but yet relentless. I don’t think I’ve seen a horror film that begins in black for a few minutes and turns the light on to break the tension! Milton isn’t breaking any rules of storytelling, but to start a tale in medias res is often the best way to approach horror. In regards to what gets developed is in how close Monique and Mavis were prior to the pandemic.
They even worry about the kids down the hall, but Edward (Cody Braverman) may hold a secret. He’s like Carol Ann from Poltergeist, and this child actor nails that right tone to deliver the chills. He knows they’re here and what that night terror wants! All we get to see is someone wearing a plague doctor mask instead of a gas one, before asking, “Are you my mommy?”
That doesn’t happen, and I don’t want to ruin this film’s climax. The Harbinger is an excellent movie, which may well be the crème de la crème of films made during the pandemic about another pandemic. It deftly examines how people feel when faced with having to isolate themselves from the world. We’re social animals, and to be denied human interaction is gut-wrenching. As for the spiritual aspects, I doubt this filmmaker had that particular discourse in mind because it doesn’t answer what (other) dreams may come if we let it run its course.
Anyone familiar with Mitton’s The Witch in the Window will be in for a treat. His latest piece subverts the “I am haunted” trope, and what we are watching is this writer/director’s commentary on what society has become because we’re facing uncertainty with and if the COVID-19 pandemic will end. The world this filmmaker constructed shows it won’t, and what comes instead is just as daunting.
As for what Monique and Mavis discover, that’d be telling. This creature is affecting the world and what this film reveals is that what’s happening is not an isolated incident. Clinical psychologists will have fun dissecting this film about the fear of being forgotten. This theme just makes the horror all the more real.
4 Stars out of 5