Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Ten Days of Terror!: The Harbinger (Dir. Andy Mitton)

Film: The Harbinger (Andy Mitton)
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on basement television.

If you read the previous review, you had to expect that I was going to review the other film called The Harbinger next, assuming that I was able to find it. Fortunately, it was available streaming and was easily accessible. Even more fortunately, it’s not only quite a bit better than the other movie with the same name, it’s actually a pretty good movie in general.

We’re going to find out immediately that this version of The Harbinger is very much a pandemic movie in the sense that it clearly takes place during the COVID-19 pandemic. That means we’re going to have people wearing masks and we’re going to have people very specifically not wearing masks not as a plot point but just as a fact of life. The pandemic isn’t the focus of The Harbinger, but it’s definitely something that impacts the plot. This is a movie that would work without the pandemic, but having people isolated and afraid certainly adds a great deal to what it wants to do.

The opening establishes that we are in the pandemic and introduces us to Monique (Gabby Beans), who is isolating with her father (Raymond Anthony Thomas) and her brother (Myles Walker). She receives a call from an old friend named Mavis (Emily Davis) who is having a problem that she can’t explain over the phone. An incident in the past makes Monique feel indebted to Mavis, so against the wishes of her family, she goes to Mavis’s apartment to help her.

What Mavis tells Monique is that she has been having dreams, but these are not normal dreams. She finds them difficult to awaken from and has sometimes found herself sleeping for more than a day. In the dreams, she encounters a creature that looks a great deal like a Medieval plague doctor, although not entire the same. What Monique soon finds is that the dreams Mavis is having are, for lack of a better way to put it, contagious. Mavis starts having the same dreams, and both of them feel as if the dreams are building to something, and that something will be their complete erasure from existence. They won’t simply disappear; it will be as if they never were.

One of the reasons that this film is good is that the characters are smart. With nothing else to go on, Monique draws a picture of the creature that they are seeing and posts it on Reddit. While most of the “hivemind” doesn’t know anything, the pair are contacted by a demonologist (Stephanie Roth Haberle) who forces them to delete the Reddit post and burn the drawing before she will talk to them. When she does, she tells them of a rumor of, for lack of a better word, a demon that essentially erases people from existence, but does so imperfectly. There is always a trace left behind, which may well be what infects the next person. Additionally, we are told that the pandemic has only increased the demon’s power. Around this same time, Mavis admits that she has a picture of someone that was clearly taken in her apartment, but she has no memory of that person.

The Harbinger is a very smart movie, one that is intelligent enough to guess at the expectations of the audience, play with them, and in several cases subvert them. A few of our expectations will be met, and that’s exactly what is going to be played with more than once. A smart filmmaker knows what the audience is going to suspect, and Andy Mitton is clearly a smart filmmaker. For most, the culmination of the film is going to come as a surprise despite everything that we know. As a part of the audience, I respect that immensely.

If there is a downside to The Harbinger, it’s that the movie is ultimately nihilistic in the extreme. That can be really difficult to deal with. I think there should be some glimmer of hope in most films, something that we as the audience can connect to ultimately, and The Harbinger doesn’t give us that. It’s ultimately extremely depressing and not in an “I’m sad” way, but in a “existence is bleak and worthless” way. That’s hard to deal with.

So, if you’re willing to dive head-first into some very dark territory, The Harbinger is filled with some true dark delights. If you aren’t prepared for serious existential dread, you’d do better elsewhere.

Why to watch The Harbinger: It’s a very good, insidious idea.
Why not to watch: It’s absolutely pitch black.


  1. Replies
    1. This is a critic movie. Evidently, audiences were not fans of this.