Gung ho gore on a messy day out on a yacht from Canada’s Ron Grant

Harpoon IFFR

Source: IFFR


Dir Ron Grant. Canada. 2019. 83 mins

What does one buy for the alpha male psychopath with everything (including rage issues)? On the strength of this lively, messy reimagining of an Edgar Allan Poe story, a spear gun is probably not the best idea. That said, despite the prominence of the weapon in the film’s title, the three members of the imploding love triangle at the heart of the story find all kinds of other creative ways to hurt each other, so perhaps while violence is inevitable, the harpoon is incidental. The emphasis here is on gung-ho gore, rather than polished performances or persuasive storytelling.

This is not a film which takes itself remotely seriously

A rabble-rousing gross-out approach to physical injury should see this picture sit comfortably in midnight and genre slots at further festivals. It’s at events such as these, with a receptive audience, that the film’s comic elements will land most successfully. Horror fans might note the similar premise – beautiful young people turn against each other on a yacht – to Oliver Blackburn’s Donkey Punch. And while this film has less of the grim cynicism of Donkey Punch, it shares the same problem of wildly inconsistent characters. Not that this will necessarily hurt the release prospects of a film which could achieve minor theatrical returns or might connect with a wider audience through a VOD platform. 

A narration steeped in irony lists the key types of friendship, as identified by Aristotle. The one which characterises the relationship at the heart of the story is defined by a shared history, binding together sad sack Jonah (Munro Chambers) and his brash, monied buddy Richard (Christopher Gray), even as their lives have moved in different directions and they have next to nothing in common. Caught between the two is Sasha (Emily Tyra), Richard’s girlfriend who benefits from her lover’s wealth, but frequently finds herself the target of his volcanic temper.

But on the morning in question, Richard’s rage is directed at Jonah, whom he suspects is having a fling with Sasha. The misunderstanding is cleared up, but only after Richard has beaten his best mate until his face looks like tuna tartare. The suspicious text messages in fact referred to a harpoon which the pair had impulsively bought for Richard’s birthday. To make amends, Richard takes his friends, and his new spear gun, for a day trip on his father’s boat.

A metallic, grinding score which sounds like fingernails down a blackboard – atmospheric but unpleasant – accompanies a boat trip which soon hits the rocks when further secrets are revealed. A failed engine and non-existent water supply leave the gang desperate and dehydrated; they are reduced to squeezing the moisture out of a dead seagull to survive. A secondary infection after a harpoon injury, and an ad hoc amputation using a broken bottle are both queasily effective moments. The increasingly preposterous plot twists might have been an issue, but, as the dripping sarcasm in the narration is at pains to stress, this is not a film which takes itself remotely seriously.

Production company: 775 Media Corp

International sales: Yellow Veil Pictures

Producer: Michael Peterson, Kurtis David Harder

Screenplay: Ron Grant

Production design: Tim Rutherford

Editing: Rob Grant

Cinematography: Charles Hamilton

Music: Michelle Osis

Main cast: Munro Chambers, Emily Tyra, Christopher Gray, Brett Gelman