Though shot on the cheap, SAVAGE HARVEST showcases some burgeoning talent in front of and behind the camera.
A group of young friends--Mikki (Lisa Morrison), Karen (Ramona Midgett), Mark (William Clifton), Nathan (D.J. Vivona) and Loretta (Rebecca Kennebeck)--volunteer to clean up an old barn belonging to Karen's Uncle Gary (Rick Fischer). Mikki's boyfriend, Jeff (David Berliner), with whom her
relationship has become strained, arrives unexpectedly, but after some tension, the couple manages to patch things up. A devotee of Native American mythology, Gary shows the group some stones that supposedly act as conduits to ancient Indian spirits; when night falls, he becomes possessed by an
animal demon and infects Loretta with the curse as well.
One by one, the group falls victim to death and possession by the ancient demons, and are prevented from leaving the area by an invisible barrier. They discover that summoning and destroying the chief demon, Retlawkoob, is the only way to end their ordeal, and only Mikki and Karen are still alive
by the time they're able to conjure him up. Retlawkoob (Jerry Bates) kills Karen, and Mikki then destroys the demon and escapes as the only survivor.
The device of stranding a group of young people in an isolated area and having them systematically dispatched by supernatural forces is a popular one with independent horror filmmakers, and SAVAGE HARVEST doesn't boast too many surprising twists on the formula. But within its prosaic framework,
writer-director Eric Stanze demonstrates a good deal of ingenuity and style, making the most of his limited resources and displaying a keen sense of composition and pacing. The script tends toward talkiness in the first half hour, but once the characters and situations have been set up, the movie
picks up speed and rarely goes slack thereafter.
While the shot-on-tape visuals (including footage of the Midwest's Great Flood of 1993 that Stanze has worked into the plot) belie the very low budget, the mostly nighttime, woodsy exteriors are evocatively lit, and the acting is quite a bit better than one usually finds in this kind of regional
genre production. The makeup effects are sometimes quite convincing, sometimes not, but Stanze wisely doesn't linger on them in the manner of many of his independent contemporaries. (The most imaginative creation is a vulture-demon that shows up after the killings and feeds on the corpses.) SAVAGE
HARVEST suggests that with the right funding, Stanze and his crew are clearly on their way to bigger things. (Graphic violence, profanity.)
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