What is a Sweet Vacation House Worth to You?

If you happen to be a character in the film 'Harvest of Fear', the answer is 'my life. I would gladly die to spend a few days in a small vacation house in a small forested town.'

I've struggled with the best way to explain just how absurd the decisions that these characters make are, and I've decided on the timeline/body count. So let's take a look a a chronological listing of the murders in the film Harvest of Fear, and the decisions that a group of college students make in response to them.

Night 1

Two local sexy teens are murdered in the woods.

(Body Count: 2)

Night 2

Despite the fact that two teens were stabbed to death by a mysterious killer the night before, two more sexy local teens drive out into the woods to get it on.

They are also stabbed to death.

(Body Count: 4)

Day 3

Even though it must be national news that four teenagers have been stabbed to death by a madman within a 24-hour period in a town of less than a thousand people, a town named “Devil's Lake”, by the way, a group of nine college seniors keep their plans to spend a week in that town.

Night 3

The college students elect to throw a party. Two of their number sneak out to a shed behind the rented house to have some sex.

One is stabbed to death, the other strangled.

(Body Count: 6 - Two of which are friends of the college students)

Day 4

The college students are faced with a Sophie's Choice-level dilemma. Observe their discussion, in one of my favorite bad-movie scenes of all time:

I don't envy the writer of this scene. He needs to accomplish something that's basically impossible - explain why people who know that they are being targeted for death don't immediately flee for the hills at the first opportunity. So many avenues of explanation are closed to him, too. The students can't rationalize that the dead couple was a specific target, and they therefore aren't in danger, because there had already been four unrelated murders in the previous two days. Likewise, he's already established that the students are just in town for a party, and since they're tertiary characters at best, he doesn't have the time to develop them enough to offer some deeper reason why they'd stay in the face of such danger.

So all the filmmakers are left with is the idea that, if they leave now, they'll be out the money they paid to rent the house for a single week. Setting aside the fact that they could sue for the money if the landlords were so insane as to deny a refund to people whose friends were murdered on their property, let's consider the value these people just put on their lives. The house isn't particularly large or well-furnished, so the cost of a single week's rental couldn't possibly be higher than a thousand dollars. It's probably less than that, but for the sake of simplicity, let's call it a grand. Split between seven friends, that's 141 dollars each.

These seven people have just announced that they're willing to risk their lives for a under a hundred and fifty dollars.

What do you think happens next?

Night 4

The college students attend a sexy party. Despite the fact that they know a murderer is running around killing people in their exact demographic group they elect to split up-

And are brutally stabbed to death as a consequence. One of them was a member of the group, two were just friends.

(Body Count: 9: Five of which are friends of the college students)

Night 5

Somehow, the six remaining college students are still in the house. At this point you may ask "But wait, Count - Now it isn't just their 'friends' - one of the actually renters has been brutally murdered - Why on earth wouldn't they leave?" That's an excellent question, one that the filmmakers hope you won't ask. To cover for this gaping hole in the plot, they simply elide over the students' response. There isn't a single scene featuring them between one of their number and two friends being murdered on night 4-

And two of them being stabbed to death on night 5.

(Body Count: 11: Seven of which are friends of the college students)

Day 6

The four remaining college students are interviewed by the police about the fact that two of their group were murdered in the same house their were sleeping in.

Night 6

The remaining four teens spend the night in town. Despite the fact that they have no sane reason to stay, and despite the fact that they shouldn't be legally allowed to remain in an active crime scene - in fact, since four people people died there, it would probably count as the worst crime scene in the city's history.

No one is murdered that night, making the overall chances of at least one person being brutally murdered on a given night in Devil's Lake 75%, at least from the POV of the renters. Which is a considerably lower survivability rate than I think most people are looking for in their vacation destinations.

Day 7

The students finally decide to pack and leave. A good question to pose here is 'Why didn't they do this on Day 6?' Again, the answer is 'by not showing them for most of that day, we hoped the audience wouldn't ask that question'.

At least they're safely out of town, right?

Night 7

Oh. I guess not.

One hundred and forty-one dollars. According to the film Harvest of Fear, that's what seven college seniors would willingly values their lives at.

Which is what makes this one of the most singularly ill-conceived movies I've ever encountered.

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