This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of the actors currently on strike, the films being covered here wouldn't exist.
by Philip Price
I had no idea what this was about or that it was based on a novel going in, I only knew that David Slade made an underrated banger in “30 Days of Night” that I liked when I was 20 and that one AFI music video back in the day, but damn! I didn't expect this!
I love a movie that completely creates its own world and in the case of “Dark Harvest” builds something of an alternative reality while also being a period piece set in the 1960s. Establishing the rules of this world while also keeping plenty of mystery intact Slade's adaptation of Norman Partridge's story balances this task and tone with great atmosphere (Slade bathes nearly every shot in the blue moonlight) that, along with Brian Reitzell's really cool score, emphasizes the heightened experience of it all while somehow still landing some emotional pull and thematic resonance by the final act.
It should also be noted that the film's antagonist, a Pumpkinhead-esque creature named Sawtooth Jack (which maybe should have been the name of the movie?), is a real treat in terms of conceptualization and execution. It's clear “Dark Harvest” doesn't have the biggest budget, but the practical effects work utilized to bring him to life and conduct his movement are especially chilling while also showing off a few tricks when it comes to the slick, but gnarly kills he doles out.
It may get a little too far out there to land for some, but the ideas around getting so lost in a system or tradition that we lose sight of the purpose of our actions are really driven home by Casey Likes' frustration and anger as he tears through the town on Halloween night. It also doesn't hurt that Luke Kirby is just all the way going for it and loving it.
I was 10 years old when I watched the VH1 “Behind the Music” episode about Milli Vanilli and it was the first time I'd heard of them or the scandal around them. I think it may have premiered even before Rob's death, though when I was watching this new documentary I for some reason thought Rob had committed suicide by jumping from a building or hotel room.
Anyway, the point is, I realized there were a lot of assumptions I'd made or been led to believe about the Milli Vanilli story while watching director Luke Korem's film as the crux of this recounting is whose idea the whole hoax was in the first place. There is still speculation to be had as no one owns up to things outright (Fab has his version, Ingrid Segieth has hers, and Frank Farian - at 82 years old - didn't care to talk about it), but there is kind of a bias based not only on what we want to be true but given the tone of the talking head interviews from both Fab and Ingrid.
We will never know the absolute, 100% truth of what went down in that studio in Germany, but like the thesis the documentary settles on, it doesn't seem that debate matters all that much when one considers the heartbreak caused by the repercussions of the scandal. Mostly, the regret we see in the stories these people tell has been overcome, but it is the tinge of sadness knowing it didn't have to go down the way it did that will forever resonate and is what lends Korem's film a genuine soul.
"Milli Vanilli" is streaming on Paramount+.