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THE HARVEST (1993)

"Is anything else missing? Something we can trace?"
"No. Just my watch, and my ring. And my kidney. That’s it."

84.jpg (7170 bytes) Director: David Marconi
Starring: Miguel Ferrer, Leilani Sarelle Ferrer, Henry Silva, Anthony John Denison, Harvey Fierstein, Tim Thomerson
Screenplay: David Marconi

Synopsis: Writer Charlie Pope (Miguel Ferrer) is unable to complete the screenplay he is working on. Broke and on the verge of being sacked, he travels to Mexico to more thoroughly investigate the murder upon which his story is based. Once there he discovers that the murder was not a business-based hit, as previously believed, but that the victim was a child molester and the killer possibly the investigating police officer, Victor Topo (Henry Silva). Following the story, Charlie visits a bar frequented by the victim. Although it is basically a gay bar, dancing there is an attractive American girl, Natalie (Leilani Sarelle Ferrer), who had caught Charlie’s eye earlier at her hotel. Charlie makes contact with Noel Guzzman (Anthony John Denison), another displaced American who seems to know about the murder, but is distracted from his investigation when Natalie asks him to dance. The two spend some time together talking, then Natalie suggests a swim. As she vanishes into the darkness, Charlie is struck from behind and knocked unconscious.... Charlie wakes to find himself on a makeshift operating table in a derelict building, and with a drip in his arm. He makes a break for it, stumbling onto a golf course before collapsing. A medical examination reveals that one of Charlie’s kidneys has been stolen. After being questioned by Victor Topo, Charlie decides to leave the country, but soon learns that his life is in danger when his taxi is hijacked. Fleeing his assailants, Charlie goes to Topo for help, but the police officer also attacks him. Making a second desperate escape, Charlie sets out to track down Natalie, who he suspects may have set him up.

Comments: Taking as its basis one of the most unnerving of all urban horror stories, the black market organ trade, David Marconi’s The Harvest plays like a paranoiac’s fever-dream. The film opens with a double layered ambiguity: a literal harvest which may or may not be that of the title. During this sequence we see a murder committed, an event that apparently only happens within the imagination of writer Charlie Pope, who we watch as he writes a screenplay in which the killing takes place. Yet later on, Charlie encounters the killer of the opening scene in a Mexican nightclub. It is this structural fragmentation, with flashforwards and flashbacks, and its mingling of reality and fantasy, that gives a genuinely nightmarish tinge to the story of Charlie Pope, whose simple fact-finding mission in Mexico turns into a terrifying ordeal.

The Harvest cleverly exploits the fears, both real and xenophobic, of the stranger in a strange land. Hampered by his inability to speak the language, Charlie comes to believe himself at the centre of a deadly conspiracy, with everyone he knows having designs upon him of one kind or another. How much of this is real, how much paranoia, and how much the pure product of the writer’s imagination is very difficult to gauge, and it is precisely this that makes the film so disturbing. Several times it seems to answer the questions it has raised, only to yet again pull the rug out from under the viewer.

The Harvest may not work completely, but it is a highly commendable attempt to do something new within the horror genre. The film is carried by the performance of Miguel Ferrer, who once again demonstrates his mysterious ability, best showcased in Twin Peaks, to remain completely likeable while being obnoxious. Ordinarily, a depressed, Prozac-popping, hard-drinking, self-pitying hack writer wouldn’t be a sympathetic character, but Ferrer never loses his audience for a moment.

He is assisted by the screenplay written by director Marconi, which consistently pitches to Ferrer’s trademark deadpan sarcasm, and also by his casting with Leilani Sarelle, at that time best known as Sharon Stone’s girlfriend in Basic Instinct (1992). She and Ferrer met and married during the production of The Harvest, the whole romance being conducted fast enough for Sarelle to score a double-barrelled surname on the credits. The rapport between the two is obvious, and together they demonstrate that it is indeed physically possible to have sex in a moving Volkswagon (observation: it helps if the car has a sunroof).

There’s also a certain alarming irony in the moment when Charlie Pope introduces Natalie to a friend by saying, "I believe she’s gunna be my future ex-wife." Henry Silva gives a convincingly edgy performance as Victor Topo, while one can only imagine how the film’s producers felt about the characterisation turned in by Harvey Fierstein, who plays Charlie’s unsavoury boss, Bob Lakin. Lakin’s final lines, spoken as the film fades into its credits, are an incredible kicker, throwing a whole new layer of ambiguity over the entire story, and serving as a neat metaphor for the position of the professional writer in Hollywood.

The Harvest also boasts a cameo appearance by a pre-ER George Clooney (who is, of course, Miguel Ferrer’s cousin). Even those looking for him might not spot him, and since I wouldn’t want you to miss him, I’ll give you a clue: he is gloriously second-last billed as "lip-syncing transvestite"....

Check out all the details of this movie on the IMDB