Harvest of Fear Makes No Amount of Sense

While writing extensively (the argument could easily be made 'too extensively') about the film Harvest of Fear, I neglected to mention how little of the movie actually makes sense. So, in order to make an attempt at entertainment (while the other articles were, apparently, attempts at writing chores - successful attempts!), I'm going to list some of the myriad ways in which the film steadfastly refuses to be coherent. Before starting, however, let me present you with the trailer for Harvest of Fear, which was helpfully included on my DVD copy of the film.

Now that you've seen the trailer, I don't have to worry too much about spoilers, since they're nice enough to give away the film's twist ending right at the end there.

That's Billy McKinley. He's the killer. Why? Because his father had killed a lot of people in the town twenty years earlier. Why? Um... yeah, I'm not really sure about that one. We never really meet the father, so no insight is ever offered into his motives.

This is Doctor Jim Carpenter. For the duration of the movie he acts in an unbelievably suspicious fashion, for no discernible reason. Well, that's not entirely accurate - he acts suspiciously because the filmmakers want us to think he might be the killer. But he's not. So his behavior over 90 percent of the film makes no sense.

This is Stacey, Doctor Carpenter's assistant, and Billy's love interest. A few years ago her brother mysteriously disappeared, and his girlfriend wound up dead at the bottom of a ravine. That girlfriend was also the sister of-

Jake, local cop and Stacey's jealous ex-boyfriend. Who's played by an actor with an accent that, sadly, doesn't give off the kind of threatening thug vibe that the role demands.

Also in the cast is William Newton, the former sheriff of the town - he accused a local mentally deficient man of the murders 20 years ago, but when the retard died mysteriously in custody, the case went unsolved. Seemingly no one in the production felt it was confusing to have both a character named “William” and a character named “Billy” in the same movie.

Meet Sheriff John Roberts, who is profoundly not related to Stacey Rogers, although their names sound similar enough to be confusing.

Finally we come to Old Man Carter, the father of the scapegoat from 20 years ago - that's his other mentally deficient son next to him, who, as far as I can tell, is actually billed as 'Creepy Son' in the credits. For seemingly all this time he's known who the killer was, but for some reason he's never gotten around to telling anyone. The closest he'll ever come is calling the sheriff out of the blue and asking him who the 25th president of the United States was. If you'd like to double-solve the case, feel free to go and Google that info. I'll wait.
Alright, now that we've established the dramatis personae, let me explain just why this film is profoundly terrible in every imaginable way. (Note: This recap will not include the travails of those poor college students from last time except when absolutely necessary).

1 - The Mystery of The Dead Lovers

Enough fuss is made about the disappearance/death of a couple one year ago that we, the audience, are led to believe that something will come of all the fuss. That's a bad assumption to make. Despite being a vital part of the film's backstory, and a key mystery that the characters all care about, there is no solution offered to this case, and precious few details. All we ever learn is that Jake was the last person to see the couple alive before they went up to a makeout point. The next morning his sister was dead, and Stacey's brother had disappeared, never to be seen again.

Were they murdered? If so, by who? What, exactly, happened to Stacey's brother? All questions that the film raises, then never pays off. Did a 90-minute mystery film need additional plot threads? Of course it didn't. Not that would stop the filmmakers behind Harvest of Fear, of course.

2 - An Unfortunately Limited Set of Locations

Not only is the teens' sweet vacation cabin far smaller and shabbier than it should be, considering how many people are willing to die to stay in it a little longer, but the art director responsible for turning their available location into the 'lodge' where all the college students are having their big party didn't do a fantastic job of dressing the set.

Perhaps it's my own familiarity with this kind of facility, but the moment I saw this location I recognized it as being far more institutional than recreational. This theory of mine was borne out when I got a look at the hallways leading off from the main room.

Those are handrails running along every wall. Which establishes this as a nursing home. Not exactly the best venue for a swinging college party, I'd argue.

There is, however, one great upside to the party scene. We get a look at this woman's outfit-

Which is the clearly the highest-quality Electra costume 2003 had to offer.

3 - Seriously, Why Are You So Creepy?

This is Doctor Carpenter looming in a doorway.

This is his file room, which he tells Billy does not exist. Everyone else in town, however, seems to know about it. Why does he lie about it? Again, were he the killer, trying to cover his tracks, this would make a bit of sense sense. It could also be that he thinks that Billy is the killer - although he never shares that suspicion with anyone, and even if he thought that, what would depriving the killer of historical files accomplish?

Now he's confronting Billy, holding a knife in his hand. At this point he knows he's not the killer, even though Billy is accusing him of being guilty. Keeping the knife in his hand only makes him look even more so. Why doesn't he drop it? Excellent question.

So he can be shot by the former sheriff in a hilarious misunderstanding, of course!

4 - That's Not How Rooms Work

In one of the film's most preposterous scenes, a college student (who really shouldn't be in the cabin at this point, but whatever) has a dream in which the boyfriend she thought she was sleeping beside has been replaced by the killer.

Frightened by this terrible nightmare, she gets up and goes to the bathroom.

It's important to pay attention to the geography of the room just now. The boyfriend's side of the bed is next to the window, her side of the bed is next to the door.

This is her walking back into the room after visiting the loo. She crawls back into bed and attempts to initiate sexual relations with her boyfriend, which is completely a thing a person would do after five of their friends were murdered, two in the very house they're now sleeping in, which, again, they're free to leave at any moment.

But the dream has become reality, and the killer stabs her to death. Then he-

Gets out of bed and walks around the bed to the door-

Stepping over the boyfriend's body!

Which means that, in order for her to get back from the bathroom she would have had to avoid noticing him lying at the foot of the bed, in no way covered or disguised.

5 - Billy is Not Good At Framing People

Now we come to the big one - in order for the film's final reveal to work, Billy has to get away with his nefarious plan by framing the absurdly suspicious Jim Carpenter for all the murders he and his father committed. There's one problem with his plan, though: he's really, really bad at crime.

This is Billy in jail, looking immensely evil. Why has he been brought in? Because one of the college students saw him lurking around their house just before two of their number were murdered. Which, come to think of it, is a really good reason to arrest him. Notably, there are no murders while Billy is in jail, and he never offers even a fragment of an explanation for what he was doing at the scene of the crime, but that doesn't stop the Sheriff from phoning Jake and telling him to let Billy go.

Why does he do this? Well, we don't hear the Sheriff's side of the conversation, so it's up to us to imagine a a reason! Perhaps so Billy can have ample time to go and kill that hermit?

Yup, that sounds about right.

This is the now-dead Old Man Carter. Why is he dead? Who knows!? Well, you and I know that he was aware Billy was the killer (not that he ever told anyone, of course), but did Billy know that? That would seem to be his only reason to kill the old man - but it's impossible to imagine how he could have found out. The two never share a scene, and no one ever discusses the coot's ramblings with him.

The sheriff finds doctor Carpenter's ID on the old man's dead body. When did Billy steal this? How did the doctor not know? That's not even entering into the realm of alibis. Billy's plan would seem to rely entirely on Carpenter never having an alibi for any of the murders - was he really just sitting at home alone on every occasion?

This is Doctor Carpenter wandering into Stacey's house alone in the middle of the night - a fundamental requirement of Billy's 'framing' plan revolves around him doing this. No one called him and asked him to come over, no mysterious notes drew him over... So why is he there? Lord only knows, other than that the plot required him to be.

That's Jake, lying dead on the ground, having lost a fight with Billy (who was wearing his killer mask at the time). What's that in his hand?

A blood-covered knife, of course! He's stabbed Billy in the leg-

An injury he's shown sporting at the end of the movie. Was no one overly concerned about the knife with the killer's blood on it? Blood that didn't match Carpenter?

At this point, there's basically no way the 'frame' could have possibly worked, or anyone could have believed that Carpenter was responsible. And this is without even getting into the fact that Billy essentially confesses to framing Carpenter in front of Stacey without realizing it. Oh, did I not mention that? Yeah, right in front of Stacey, Billy loudly announces that he knows that the doctor's wallet was found at the scene of the old hermit's murder. The scene in which the Sheriff finds the body and wallet profoundly doesn't have Billy in it, and there's no reason to believe he and the Sheriff spend any time between them and the climax, since they arrive at Stacey's house separately.

6 - And, In Closing-

Harvest of Fear is so bad, in just so many ways, that it would take more time than I'm willing to spend in order to chronicle them all. Why, I'd guess you'd have to make a whole other movie just to cover all of its problems...

(Is that an obvious enough tease? Should I go bigger?)

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