And You Call Yourself a Scientist!
THE HARVEST (1993)
"Is anything else
missing? Something we can trace?"
|Director: David Marconi
Starring: Miguel Ferrer, Leilani Sarelle Ferrer, Henry Silva, Anthony John Denison, Harvey Fierstein, Tim Thomerson
Screenplay: David Marconi
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 Charlies 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 Charlies 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
Comments: Taking as its basis one of the
most unnerving of all urban horror stories, the black market organ trade, David
Marconis The Harvest plays like a paranoiacs 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
writers 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 wouldnt 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 Ferrers trademark deadpan sarcasm, and also by his casting with Leilani Sarelle, at that time best known as Sharon Stones 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).
Theres also a certain alarming irony in the moment when Charlie Pope introduces Natalie to a friend by saying, "I believe shes gunna be my future ex-wife." Henry Silva gives a convincingly edgy performance as Victor Topo, while one can only imagine how the films producers felt about the characterisation turned in by Harvey Fierstein, who plays Charlies unsavoury boss, Bob Lakin. Lakins 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 Ferrers cousin). Even those looking for him might not spot him, and since I wouldnt want you to miss him, Ill give you a clue: he is gloriously second-last billed as "lip-syncing transvestite"....