Jessica and Charlie’s dad gets a kick out of scaring his children. During an autumn trip to Grandma’s house, he tells his kids about the mysterious creatures in the cornfield that abducted his childhood friend. In typical teenage girl fashion, Jessica doesn’t believe anything her dad says, until her brother dares her to go in the cornfield (with the failsafe plot device: “what are you…chicken?”) and she must face the creatures herself.
Sam Shapson has created something a little spooky and a lot professional in his 11-minute short film, Harvest. Each piece of the filmmaking puzzle – Matt Stemmley’s cinematography, Kevon Cronin’s score, Tim Gadient’s editing – offers a unique, crisp perspective while simultaneously honoring the standard conventions of the horror genre. Shots of mailboxes on quiet, country streets and empty cornfields at dusk open the film, but when these shots are combined with more modern, cozy scenes, the film doesn’t quite fit into the traditional horror you initially expect.
By the end of the film, you realize you haven’t been watching a horror film, but a quiet family drama. The interactions between Jessica and Charlie, and between the kids and their father, are much more interesting than the mysterious creatures in the cornfields. And, as it turns out, these relationships are much more relevant. The child actors (Grace Etzkom and Steffan Argus) deserve a lot of credit for making these interactions credible.
The writing itself, though, is the most impressive. Avoiding the expository trap most short films can’t help but fall into, Harvest sets up a believable family in a few seconds, and creates real and perceived danger just as quickly. A few weird moments distract from the overall tone of the film – the “chicken” thing is annoying, as is a series of flashbacks of material viewers saw 30 seconds ago – but, overall, this is an impressive finished product.
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