The horror movie market is a pretty crowded place at the moment, with every country rushing to produce the next horror movie that gets the world talking, into the fray comes Iceland with their offering Harpoon (AKA Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre) a movie that claims to offer something different, but does it?
The story surrounds a pretty multi-cultured group of people, (an aspect that I really liked because each culture speaks its own language which in turn creates problems) whom partake in a day trip out to see the wonder of Iceland’s whales. Something is amiss from the offset, a strange young man who tries to sell wooden whales to the tourists who may or may not have learning difficulties, a sudden change of boat due to an “incident” and then the rather unfortunate incident involving a drunken Frenchman a pipe, and the ships captain played by none other than Gunnar Hansan (Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). It’s at this point they meet up with a group of what are referred to on the movies packaging as Fishbillies, an inbred looking group who slowly rather than help the stranded whale watchers pick them off one by one.
On the whole Harpoon is pretty standard horror fare following the likes of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Wrong Turn; but at its heart if your prepared to look a little deeper is something rather special, something very realistic and very honest. The greatest terror of the movie is not the trio of Fishbillies, but the darkness that lies within an individual when pushed to the edge. Yes the killers are a little bit of a hazard but comparatively speaking the passengers fall foul to one another or acts of circumstance rather than the quite bungling inbreeds. I say this a lot in my reviews and feel a little repetitive saying it again but nobody is likable in this movie, they are all despicable individuals with rather screwed up motives, and a thirst for survival; the ones you expect to be the heroes are the underdogs, the ones who look like they will be the first to fall are the last standing and it’s how they get there that keeps this otherwise dull horror moving along at a speed of knots.
I’ll stay with the characters for a bit, because quite how despicable they all are is the real beating heart of this movie. One of the characters is permanently used as a sex ornament, and while nobody ever actually gets to have sex with her, nobody ever really puts in much of an effort to help her either. When she is ensued in a rather extreme assault one of the characters having seen her despair gives no consolation, or any interest in help. Another character who supposedly is caring for a sick woman actually uses the woman as a method of disposing of one of the movies “villains”. From here on out its one level of treachery to the next, people are tools to get you from A to B, what happens to them in the meantime seems no concern to anyone at all.
The scenery, what little there is to see is beautiful, and I think the producers do a reasonable job at promoting Iceland, although it does seem to have that gloomy downtrodden feel that nearly every Australian movie does. Nobody ever seems to portray Australia for the country it is, its always doom gloom, and frankly a little backward; and the same crime is committed on Iceland to a level, although while feeling that doom and gloom it does not feel in any way alien, in fact it feels a lot like home.
I was half bored half elated by Harpoon, while its main story offers nothing new it’s the underpinning stories that keep you from slipping off into a deep sleep or worse a coma after repetition takes a firm hold. Despite this I really rather enjoyed the movie, its nice to see the dark side of human nature delivered in such a way that you need to look inside yourself and ask the question “if I were in these circumstances what would I do?” the disturbing matter for me is that placed in the same position I’d probably commit some of the vile acts carried out by the movies “heroes”. And full marks go out to the makers of the movie who make you root for the villains not the heroes; the question is who is the strongest to survive?