Review by Jay Bowman
The camera work in Gothic Harvest is decidedly busy, no doubt an attempt to blend the atmosphere of its Mardi Gras setting with its Southern gothic horror plot. Things flash, the film itself seems to skip at times, the camera shakes, and unless someone is talking it refuses to linger on a person, place, or thing for very long. It’s dizzying at times, even disorienting when the tension escalates in the final act. Unfortunately, everything between the first ten minutes and the last twenty minutes is quite unexciting and sluggish.
Four female college students are enjoying their last night of Mardi Gras with excessive alcohol intake. They were supposed to stick together—after all, strange things happen at Mardi Gras, as they learn early on when they encounter a voodoo practitioner who claims he can see the future—but Hope (Abbie Gayle) lets her sloshed self get sweet-talked and seduced by one of the French Quarter locals. One car ride later and she finds herself the hostage of the 19th century Boudine family, who are cursed (by voodoo, of course) to live forever while repeating the same cycle of events every so often. Our three remaining drunks buddy up with a charming-yet-grisly detective (Bill Moseley) to track her down.
While the camera and editing are busy overwhelming you with sights, and the soundtrack hits you with a bevy of styles and genres, Gothic Harvest is a movie where very little happens over a very long time. There’s something in watching the main characters unravel a mystery that we the audience have already been made privy to by the antagonists that should speed up the pace, but here we have time to kill and kill it we do. Drinking! Sobering up! Flashbacks! All this and more, carried out by a cast that’s too large and bloats what should be a rather simple A to B story.
Naturally, we don’t learn much about our heroines, but we learn little more about the villains outside of their curse. Attempts are made to flesh certain members of the clan out, but that appears to be just a means to play to horror expectations. Dolly, the emotionally stunted daughter, collects dead bodies as dolls. Amelia, another daughter, murders men through BDSM games. All well and good I guess, but what the writer seemed to forget is that trying to make your audience feel something, be it fear or arousal, works best as a tool to keep them invested. Instead, they felt clumsy here. The sex-murder stuff, in particular, felt like it came from another movie entirely (presumably one airing on Cinemax after midnight sometime in the 1990s).
To the film’s credit, I will say this: the atmosphere across the board is handled with great care and shows interest on the director’s part to make the setting believable. If you want to explore that or see some weird visual tricks you can use to mess with an audience, I’d recommend Gothic Harvest. But if you’re looking for a story, or at least a horror flick that won’t drag, look somewhere else.