The Harrowing (2017)
Director: Jon Keeyes
Starring: Matthew Thompkins, Arnold Vosloo, and Michael Ironside
A tense, surreal thriller plus demons and a sadistic mental hospital – what more can you want?
When detective Ryan Calhoun (Matthew Thompkins) suspects a conspiracy after witnessing the murder of his childhood friend, he persuades his superior to let him investigate by going undercover in a mental hospital. Film doesn’t waste time, and the thriller is certainly packed with horror flavor. Psychiatrist Dr. Franklin Whitney (Arnold Vosloo) has a long-standing theory that uses demons as metaphors for antisocial human behavior, but it moves beyond metaphor into reality when Calhoun finds himself subjected to the strange experiments and hauntings that plague him while in the hospital. The film has an action-packed start that sets a tone bordering the surreal. And when Calhoun tries to escape, it only gets worse for him.
The film’s strong point is how it pushes the boundaries between reality and hallucination. We’re never entirely sure if Calhoun’s experiences are real or just the impact of trauma. Director Jon Keeyes doesn’t leave it at that though, using the film’s color palette to indicate sharp contrasts in experience. The film grows ever darker, more high contrast and saturated colors until it becomes surreal. Thompkins’ performance is strong, and the director allows some intimate moments to help us get a bearing on and better empathize with his plight. We the audience don’t know what’s reality from fantasy anymore than he does, and it really is an enjoyable experience. The action Is clean and easy to follow, and the film is a slow decline into psychological terror. If you like psychological thrillers and a supernatural mystery, this is a good choice.