"The Harvest" Film Review

McNaughton to present ‘The Harvest’ at Film4 Fright Fest

Nearly 25 years have passed since John McNaughton’s landmark true-crime horror film “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” snuck into U.S. theaters — and that itself was long after its 1986 festival premiere, a protracted tussle with the MPAA accounting for the delay.

Filmmaking would never be an easy ride for the Chicago-based director. Half a dozen narrative features (offbeat comedy “Mad Dog and Glory” and erotic thriller “Wild Things” among them) followed before he retreated from bigscreen work in 2001. Sporadic TV assignments followed — including a 2006 chapter for Showtime’s “Masters of Horror” series, which placed him in the company of John Carpenter and Takashi Miike, among others.

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And it’s to the horror genre that he returns with his comeback feature “The Harvest,” which McNaughton will present Aug. 23 at FrightFest in London. Starring Samantha Morton as the dangerously overprotective mother of a teenage shut-in, with Michael Shannon and Peter Fonda among the supporting players, the film has been amassing steady buzz among midnight-movie acolytes since making its world premiere last fall at the Chicago Film Festival —­ where “Henry,” not coincidentally, also began its journey to cult status.

Reviewing it at Fantasia Festival in Montreal, Variety critic Peter Debruge was among the impressed, declaring it has “the potential both to scar and strengthen the psyches of an entire generation.”

Whether an entire generation will get to see it is another question, as distributors have been slow to step forward for the tough-minded film, which boasts McNaughton’s career-long ally Stephen A. Jones among its producers. That’s not an unfamiliar impasse, of course, for the director, who at least appears to have regained his taste for the medium — he has spoken in interviews of a future project with three-time collaborator Bill Murray.

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