As an apology for a brutal and familiar bout of violence, trust fund kid Richard (Christopher Gray) offers to take best friend Jonah (Munro Chambers) and girlfriend Sasha (Emily Tyra) out for a day trip on his yacht.
With both metaphorical and literal harpoons loaded, it doesn’t take much for the group’s awkwardness to burst into full-blown hysteria, leaving them stranded in the middle of the ocean. A stilted truce means every object that might be used as a weapon — from a fishing pole to the boat’s radio — must be jettisoned before they can return to shore.
The situation is exactly as bad an idea as it sounds, and the three find themselves stranded with very few options but a lot of hostility. The new horror comedy Harpoon feels like a classic “bottle episode” set-up, and one that really commits to applying pressure till the characters break. Director Rob Grant plays the escapade as an almost cat-and-mouse style game with the audience by withholding the right information until the most devastating moment.
Harpoon constantly takes things one step farther than you think they’re going to go ... and then takes one more step. The greatest strength of the script is how the emotional torture and, well, torture torture motivate each other, so each moment of escalation is backed by a new revelation or secret. The group’s desperation isn’t always believable — they all remain remarkably energetic for being stranded at sea for days — but their distressed reactions are.
Although there are moments of intense gore, Grant relies more on low-level, visceral horror. This is especially evident in a scene in which the group, starving and dehydrated, manages to capture a seagull. Richard bites its throat out and drains the blood into a tupperware container, and they all take turns trying to drink it. It’s disgusting, and a prelude to further inevitable degradation.
None of the people trapped on the boat are morally upright, but there’s definitely a hierarchy of terribleness, which turns into one of Harpoon’s weaknesses. By the end of the movie, not everybody has equally “earned” (in the dubious horror movie morality system) their punishment. That’s a relatively minor complaint though because the ending pays off on the dark comedy promise exactly as you’d hope.
Harpoon hits the darkness heavier than this year’s other stand-out comedy-horror, Happy Death Day 2U; it’s closer to a Saw movie where the sadistic torturer is all of them, for each other. But director Grant’s brisk, Edgar Wright-esque style and droll narration by Brett Gelman keep the comedic part of the equation sharp. If you want a break from all the self-serious horror movies available to you, Harpoon hits the mark.
Harpoon is now open in theaters and available on VOD.