The Harbinger Review – Fantasia 2022

The Harbinger (2022) Review - Fantasia 2022
The Harbinger (2022) Review - Fantasia 2022 1
The Harbinger (2022)

When deciding to cover the Fantasia Festival this year, I expected there would be at least one movie that touched on the pandemic, but I did not think one would be quite as direct as The Harbinger. Set during the peak of the pandemic, this is a film that blends dreams, demons and the horror of disease we have all experienced in a unique, interesting package. Filled with some good ideas, the end result can feel confused and muddled at times, but The Harbinger still feels a worthy watch from this year’s fest.

Directed and written by Andy Mitton, The Harbinger follows Monique (Gabby Beans) who gets called by an old friend to help out in her time of need. With the world in shambles at the heat of the pandemic, Monique makes the journey into the city to try and help her friend Mavis (Emily Davis), even as the people around her are pleading with her to not go.

The Harbinger (2022) Review - Fantasia 2022 2

What at first seemed like nightmares and simple sleep issues is soon shown to be something much more sinister, after Monique catches the same condition that has plagued Mavis. With little recourse, and out of ideas, the pair seek help online, only to find out there is a malevolent demon at play, pulling the strings and twisting reality, and there is no easy way to make it all stop.

The Harbinger uses its setting and concept to an amazing effect. It is a reality we are all aware of, and the customs and precociousness shown early on in the film is instantly recognizable. We have all lived through that, and know just how stressful the simple activity of going to see a friend really was. Blending the supernatural with the real life aspect helped ramp up the tension, painting just how tormented the characters of the film are.

The Harbinger is a unique and engaging story of collective drama, and the creatures that feast on that pain.”

The simple act of coughing, that once was seen as mundane, now helps build the tension that runs throughout the film. The Harbinger builds on preconceived concepts and works to build a world ravaged by fear, doubt and helplessness. Even the demon at the centre of the story takes the shape of the plague doctor, further building on the intrinsic fear we now all suffer from.  

Gabby Beans makes the role of Monique her own, giving her a purpose and backstory, well beyond what is shown on screen. She feels like a character who, although is struggling, is also working to make everyone around her better, doing all she can to help however, or wherever she can. The rest of the cast also work well with what they are given, building on the sense of fear and doubt that is palpable in every scene of the movie. 

The Harbinger (2022) Review - Fantasia 2022 3

Focusing on dreams and trauma, The Harbinger uses its concept to build out the world and the people within. From the abstract dreams about each character’s personal demons, to the many ways it shows the demon seeping into their minds, this is a film that does a lot with the budget it has. While there are a few moments that feel noticeably cheesy, most of the dream worlds deliver in the way they need to.

If I had any complaints, it would be about the story of how it all comes together in the end. There are some very creative ideas below the surface in The Harbinger, and the way the demon kills makes for a vast range of possibilities, but the ending ultimately feels forced, never feeling earned as it rolls credits. While this is not always a bad thing, you need to give room to shock the audience, and it does not work nearly as well as it could have here. 

Gripes aside, The Harbinger is a unique and engaging story of collective trauma, and the creatures that feast on that pain. With good performances, and an interesting premise, this is a film that delivers on most of its promise, and does it with an engaging look and feel. While it won’t dethrone any of the great dream based horror films, it is a worthy addition to the pantheon.

Final Thoughts

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