Savage Harvest (1994) Review

 

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Savage Harvest is a film about an overly-privileged family, headed by Capt. Augustus Bedford “Duke” Forrest from MASH, who are attacked by lions in Africa. With the viewer spending the entire eighty-six-minute run-time awaiting for the next smug dolt to be killed off.

Oh, wait. That’s Savage Harvest (1981). I’m supposed to be reviewing Savage Harvest (1994).

Well, SH ’94 is a The Evil Dead style SOV (shot on video) film, evocative of the days  where you’d walk into your local corner shop and come out with the dodgiest-looking video tape grabbed from the back of some shelf. The sort of film you can sit and watch with a few beers, not worrying about getting invested.

The ‘plot’ concerns six young friends who find themselves stranded in the wilderness after retreating to the lakeside for a weekend of fun. The rub, however, is that the planned location for their retreat is built upon a Cherokee burial ground. Because of course it is. At this rate, I imagine even the team of astronauts who colonise Mars will end up desecrating a Native American grave-site upon arriving on the Red Giant. Though I suppose, that’ll just end up being Ghosts of Mars (2001).

Let me state that Savage Harvest starts off rather badly. It opens with natural imagery and depictions of a strange ritual, but with its low quality and cheesy tone it resembles a progressive rock music video. From here Savage Harvest doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, with its boring Lifetime Movie esque side plots.

It’s not until half an hour in that the movie begins showing signs of life. As is the case with The Evil Dead, the plot of Savage Harvest follows an ancient curse that’s broken by the sheer idiocy of the protagonists, and transforms the characters into incredibly difficult to kill demons. Demons who, for the small budget, look awesome: gunky, long-toothed, and utterly distorted.

With the amateurish video quality camera-work and lame, repetitive metal riff soundtrack show director Eric Stanze‘s indie stripes are on full show. It’s like watching Some Kind of Monster on a CRT TV. As such he makes some obvious mistakes. The main problem with Savage Harvest is that it’s the old aged driver in film form. It takes far too long to get not particularly far. For a film filled with dire acting and terrible pacing, you’d think it’d be in more of a rush to get to the gore.

Because Savage Harvest actually has decent practical effects behind it. The designs of the demons are actually quite effective, evoking memories of Kevin S. Tenney‘s Night of the Demons (1988).  There’s all manner of bodily abuse on display here – throat slitting, chainsaw dismemberment, fridges being pushed onto corpses, even cannibalism.

For such a low budget movie, Savage Harvest pulls off the ‘night of endurance and torment’ plot rather well. It’s just a shame that the rest of the production values are rather shoddy. One character, a certifiable metal-head, is supposed to be a teenager I assume, but he looks like he was held back in sleaze-bag school for about a decade. That’s another issue with Savage Harvest, it’s only memorable in broad strokes – I can recall set-pieces but not one thing about the protagonists.

There’s also a ten-minute lecture on Cherokee myths and legends, that’s about as much fun as, well, actually attending a lecture on Cherokee myths and legends. I’d recommend Savage Harvest overall, however, mostly because it captures the spirit of The Evil Dead and Night of the Demons. But also because it serves as a reminder of why the video store bargain bin has gone the way of Indian burial grounds – built over and replaced by something that’s probably a fast food joint.

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