Entertainment » Movies

Elizabeth Harvest

by Kevin Taft
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Aug 10, 2018
'Elizabeth Harvest'
'Elizabeth Harvest'  

Writer/director Sebastian Gutierrez ("Girl Walks into a Bar") has crafted a moody Brian DePalma-inspired horror mystery that utilizes a one-location production to spectacular effect.

"Elizabeth Harvest" opens as young, beautiful newlywed Elizabeth (Abbey Lee) wakes up in her wedding gown as her new much-older husband Henry (CiarĂ¡n Hinds) drives his fancy sports car to his modern palatial estate in the middle of nowhere. He carries his new bride across the threshold where his complacent house assistants Claire (Carla Gugino) and Oliver (Matthew Beard) await their arrival.

Soon enough, Elizabeth is shown the layout of the entire house, complete with massive rooms of artwork, a lap pool, a closet as big as an apartment, and grounds that go on forever. But when she comes across a room deep in the bowels of the massive structure, she is told to stay out. Of course, this will only pique Elizabeth's curiosity, and soon enough she's sneaking into the mysterious room, where she stumbles across something truly horrifying.

This is where I will end my recap of the film's plot, as the film's strengths are the twists and turns it takes, many of them unexpected and completely curious. And while the biggest conceit of the film is revealed fairly early on, there are more secrets left to discover.

None of this would work without Gutierrez's gift as both a writer and director. He keeps the audience on their toes, but also handles the dialogue and emotional component of it quite deftly. This easily could have gone down the sort of cheesy rabbit hole that even DePalma sometimes slides into, but Gutierrez avoids that. His use of color is fascinating, and something that feels like should be studied in some film class somewhere. Scenes are drenched in primary colors like red, green, blue, and yellow, which add to the unreal and uneasy momentum of the story. All the while, we are intrigued by where the film will go, trying to unravel the ambiguities, and firmly entrenched on the side of Elizabeth who has stumbled upon something unthinkable.

Which brings me to Abbey Lee. Best known as a fashion model for the likes of every major designer, as well as one of the late '00s Victoria Secret's finest, she has appeared in a number of films where her background as a model has been the focus (and an asset.) She was one of the blank, scandalous models in Nicholas Winding Refn's "Neon Demon," one of the scantily clad women on the run in "Mad Max: Fury Road," and a god in "Gods of Egypt."

But here Lee really cements herself as an actress to be reckoned with. Her character is put through the wringer here, and she handles each twist and emotional high and low with the precision of an actress beyond her years. It would be easy to write her off as another model that wants to act. I'd offer that she is a stellar actress who happens to have gotten her start as a model.

Hinds, Gugino, and Beard are also excellent here in a film that could almost be a stage production. (The set design would be quite spectacular.) None of these characters are exactly what they seem to be, and as the story progresses they get to play with these new reveals.

As critics and audience members, we crave fresh and original stories that take us new places and intrigue us without the need for over-the-top special effects or IP. Here we have an original story with slick direction and production design, accomplished actors doing terrific work, and a director who has crafted an old-fashioned edgy mystery that keeps us captivated from frame one.

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to 'Star Wars' and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg.


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