Harpoon (2019) [Fantasia Festival 2019]

Munro Chambers is one of the most underrated actors working in film today. He’s been a man mostly working in the corners of film with unsuspecting genre fare and every time he’s managed to turn in stellar performances. In “Harpoon” he manages to deliver a very layered and impressive turn as Jonah, a perpetually cursed protagonist who is revealed to be something and someone completely different every time Rob Grant’s twisted dark comedy reaches a new turning point. “Harpoon” is a fantastic addition to Fantasia this year, putting to film a morbid and weird amalgam of comedy, relationship drama, survival thriller, and horror.

Wealthy Richard (Christopher Gray) is prone to fits of violent anger, particularly when he believes his girlfriend Sasha (Emily Tyra) is cheating on him with his best friend Jonah (Munro Chambers). Once reassured that his fears are unfounded, Richard invites Sasha and Jonah on a day trip on his yacht to make amends. What starts out as a pleasure cruise becomes a fateful trip when festering suspicions and resentments bubble to the surface, and the trio become stranded on the open sea with a dead motor, extremely limited food and water, and one of them grievously injured. They are soon at the mercy of starvation, dehydration and their growing hatred toward one another that builds in to a gory fight for survival.

“Harpoon” is such a weird hodgepodge of sub-genres and character beats that I was worried we’d be in store for an uneven mess. Ultimately Rob Grant manages to build a often entertaining and grueling tale of three despicable people turning one another when the shit hits the fan. What adds an extra dose of sardonic spice is the narration from Brett Gelman who is there to revel in the sheer stupidity of these characters and how the situation seems more hopeless as the narrative unfolds. “Harpoon” engages us in the plight of these characters despite their inherent awful personalities, and that’s thanks to the great screenplay.

Although I found reasons to loathe these characters, I was also very engrossed in what they’d do to one another to come out ahead in the end. The more the movie descends in to darker comedy and vicious violence, it’s shockingly compelling. You don’t root for anyone, but you also want to see how the fall out will be if they all make it back to shore with their limbs mostly in tact. The minimal cast really benefits the claustrophobic setting of “Harpoon’ with Gelman’s narration feeling almost like karma watching them from afar and enjoying the spectacle. Stars Christopher Gray, Emily Tyra, and Chambers garner excellent chemistry with one another, and play off of each other’s personas beautifully.

The revelations and plot twist punctuate their performances perfectly, and director Grant allows them to shine amidst the twisted material. “Harpoon” is a fantastic experience with one hell of a darkly sense of humor horror fans will appreciate.

Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 11th to August 1st 2019