A nightmare story of three friends trapped on a boat, HARPOON is the most gruesome version of a bottle episode I’ve ever seen.
When Richard, an angry rich kid, his best friend who just lost his parents, Jonah and his girlfriend who often mediates wars between the two, Sasha, go for an ill-fated day trip on Richard’s boat, bursting personal tensions lead to a stranded group of three who can barely trust each other enough to blink.
After accusing Sasha of cheating on him with Jonah, Richard takes the group onto his boat. When his suspicions get the best of him, he uses his newly gifted harpoon… or… spear gun… to try and kill Jonah, but is ultimately thwarted by Sasha and left in the water to drown. Needing each other to survive, the trio does their best to trust each other in what proves to be a deadly situation when they can’t get the boat started and have chucked any life-saving supplies overboard.
In the spirit of the sitcom favourite “bottle episode,” this isn’t just three pals just gunning for survival at any grotesque cost (like drinking seagull blood), there are stacks of reveals and twists that come out as each sense they’re closer to death and wants to barter or even atone.
Though not every joke lands, the dialogue is pretty snappy and sells that these three are ‘ride or die’ friends. Munro Chambers (Turbo Kid) is the absolute standout here making him both a sympathetic protagonist and impossible to trust.
Writer/ Director Rob Grant also directed one of my Blood in the Snow Festival favourites, Alive, and his sense of “I can barely look,” gore is not missing here. He is a master of both over the top gore that is played in a way that isn’t comedic blood spattering, but tension building and shiver-inducing. I love the aesthetic of the early fights being too bloody to be real and the characters’ later deteriorating in a way that feels perfectly real. It plays twists and reveals in a way that tests the limits of the human spirit and the desire for survival.
What the film misses is the opportunity to be about much more than the gruesome tale of untrustworthy friends. The quips don’t all deliver, the twists and turns aren’t incredibly surprising, and plot points about abusive boyfriends, privilege and murder are played more for a quick rising action than anything important.
I had a lot of fun with this take on a marooned survivalist film, and everything Rob Grant brought to it. It’s gruesome and all kinds of bloody while remaining a buyable sunlit tale of some friends out on a boat. A familiar aesthetic to films like Triangle, HARPOON is nothing like it. It’s much more the first scenes of a comedy about a cheating wife mixed with the hopelessness of 127 hours flipped on its head to make for a terrifying tale of desperation and working with those you are stuck with because you’re too desperate to survive to do otherwise.
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