Director: Andy Mitton
Writer: Andy Mitton
Cast: Gabby Beans, Emily Davis, Myles Walker, Ray Anthony Thomas
Producers: Jay Dunn, Richard W. King, Andy Mitton
Music: Andy Mitton
Cinematographer: Ludovica Isidori
Editor: Andy Mitton
Cert: 15 (TBC)
Running time: 87mins
What’s the story: Monique (Beans) agrees to break COVID lockdown to help her friend Mavis (Davis), who is struggling alone in her apartment. Mavis is convinced she is being trapped in nightmares lasting days by a mysterious figure resembling a plague doctor. Shortly after arriving, Monique begins to experience odd occurrences in the apartment.
What’s the verdict: Is the filmmaker who chooses to tackle Covid’s first lockdown brave or foolhardy? Don’t most people want to move on, and worry instead about the high cost of living, nuclear annihilation, or monkeypox?
Possibly, but an idea as compelling as what writer-director Andy Mitton has here must have itched to get free. Refusing to go down the zombie contagion route (thank God), Mitton instead looks inward at the paranoia and anxiety that can breed when fear blends with isolation.
Revealing too much will spoil The Harbinger’s sly, chilly plot revelations. But safe to say it is one of the most memorable and unusual apocalypse movies we’ve seen. Mitton captures the uncertainty, unease and surrealness of the pre-vaccine days of lockdown, when paranoia ran high, tempers often higher, and the everyday became threatening.
Even more impressive is how he uses both the monster movie and haunted house genre to create an allegory about the mental strain of that time. While packing in jump scares, brain scrambling rubber reality, overwhelming dread, and a central threat that takes contagion to new levels. As if this wasn’t achievement enough, he also edits the film to a nervy pace that allows little respite, and coats the movie with his foreboding score.
Gabby Beans is strong in the lead, supported by Emily Davis, who provides a good line in twitchy exhaustion. Myles Walker and Ray Anthony Thomas also convey the forced-smile weariness of the year 2020 as Monique’s brother and father. An early scene of family bonhomie based around an apparently funny anecdote falls flat, but beyond this no-one sets a foot wrong.
While unlikely to reach the same crossover audience as Rob Savage’s Host, The Harbinger joins She Dies Tomorrow, It Comes At Night, and It Follows as accomplished horror that taps into our contagion anxieties.