Haunted by the ritualistic killing of his best friend and determined to discover the truth, a vice detective goes undercover into a forensic hospital and is plunged into his own personal Hell where demons might be real.
I think what I admire the most about the new supernatural crime thriller The Harrowing is its conviction that it can successfully infuse the conventional storyline with an original idea. Boy, does it try. Somehow though, we are still sliced back into the same cliches we have seen before.
The film begins as detective Ryan Calhoun (Matthew Tompkins) is managing a prostitution sting operation with his lifelong best friend Jack (Damon Carney). After they have a heated exchange with Roy (James Cable), who happens to be one of the cops helping them, Ryan heads across the street to grab coffees for everyone and to check in on his wife Anne (Arianne Martin) who languishes at home, longing for her husband’s shift to end. Something goes horribly wrong, and Ryan returns to the sting operation to find that annoying cop, Roy, has slaughtered everyone and is eating them alive. Points for an original plot point here.
“…returns to the sting operation to find that annoying cop, Roy, has slaughtered everyone and is eating them alive…”
We next see a deliciously cheesy scene featuring Lt. Logan (Michael Ironside) and Ryan that exemplifies what is both perfectly right and terribly wrong with The Harrowing.
Ryan: Jack was my best friend.
Lt. Logan: And you left him alone.
Ryan: Is that how you’re gonna play this Lieutenant?
Lt. Logan: If I can’t get you fired, I can at least get you outta my division.
After the obligatory moment where Jack hands over his badge, Ironside buttons the scene with “Don’t call us, We’ll call you.” We have a script here that is self-aware enough to flaunt cliché, but it is never brave enough to toy with the silliness of the conventions. We have flashes of originality, but there is absolutely no surprise in this story.
“At least we have Ironside. That man could read a phone book and be entertaining…”
Our hero Ryan decides to infiltrate a psychiatric hospital run by Dr. Franklin Whitney (Arnold Vosloo) after discovering that the flesh-eating Roy once had extended treatment at the facility. Lt. Logan begrudgingly agrees to the investigation as to what might have caused the massacre. This is a leap, no question. In fact, it’s a good 40 minutes into the film before we get to the real arch of the story with Ryan trying to get to the bottom of a rash of attacks that may have been caused by Dr. Whitney.
The real enemy in The Harrowing seems to be the pacing. Writer-director Jon Keeyes handles things with a ceremonial, leaden momentum that tends to drone on. Tompkins is a leading man dripping with machismo, bordering on the comical. Ironside is the same, angry, lumbering character we have seen him play a million times before, but somehow he makes it infectiously watchable. Then, of course, there is Vosloo as the evil Dr. Whitney who ends up being slightly underused but still smarmy.
The story does reach a conclusion, but if you have seen anything resembling this, you have seen the ending too. There are literally no surprises here as the film leans heavy on convention while expecting that it may, somehow, surprise you. While fully watchable, we as the audience have already played out the scenes in our head long before they have finished. At least we have Ironside. That man could read a phone book and be entertaining.
The Harrowing (2018) Written and directed by Jon Keeyes. Starring Matthew Tompkins, Arnold Vosloo, Michael Ironside, Hayden Tweedie,
5 out of 10 stars