The Harbinger Plot
The Harbinger takes place during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, following Monique (Gabby Beans) who has been in quarantine with her family just trying to get by when she gets a phone call from her old friend Mavis (Emily Davis). Mavis has had it tough, living alone in an apartment building during a quarantine which is only made worse by a case of strange nightmares that seem never-ending. Not just never-ending, but they’re all too real just to be a regular set of nightmares so Monique decides to brave the world and go to check on Mavis.
Once Monique gets to Mavis’ apartment, she sees that these nightmares are indeed doing a serious number on her friend and soon starts to have dreams of her own. The dreams put her right in the sights of The Harbinger, a being who will not only kill its victims but take the memories of them as well, so Monique had better hope she can find a way to stop it before she’s erased from the world.
The Harbinger Review
Much like another knockout horror film, Host, The Harbinger quite cleverly uses the trappings of the pandemic to help heighten the horror. The key difference here, however, is that while Host used the pandemic mostly as set dressing for a possession/haunting film, The Harbinger uses the pandemic as an integral element of the horror.
A well-timed cough can be a signal of something to come, seeing someone not wearing a mask is a sign that something is wrong and there’s a fantastic reason for everyone to be constantly paranoid. It takes the things that we all got used to in the first six months of the pandemic and elevates them substantially.
The Harbinger can, at times, feel a little bit like Nightmare On Pandemic Street with its use of the dream sequences that often start feeling almost normal (or at least about as normal as things could be in a film set during the start of the pandemic) and slowly devolve into some intense wild horror sequences that will have you gasping and grabbing at the armrest from fear. The use of nightmare imagery never goes into full cartoony level but maintains that weird dream logic that makes some of the best nightmare sequences work so well.
Fortunately, even among the weird imagery, the actual story and eventual impact of The Harbinger’s main villain are very easily explained, which adds to the theme of loss that runs through the film… namely the idea of how easy it can be to forget people who we lost, especially during the pandemic when people were dying at truly horrifying rates and how quickly everyone was expected to move on like they weren’t there. The insanity of that idea is made horrifically real with The Harbinger, taking the horror of the last few years and giving it the face of a plague mask just to really hammer home the harsh reality of it.
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The Harbinger also uses some of the more annoying elements of the pandemic that make it feel even more real, like throwing in an annoying neighbour who won’t wear a mask and only realises she’s in the wrong when a child she knows catches it. The horror of hearing someone in the next room coughing and wondering if they have it, the fear of taking the test and waiting for the result or even the gut-wrenching feeling you get when you hear the phrase “Spiked a fever”.
All of these moments that we all experienced over the last few years are here, they’re made even more intense through a fantastic score and some creative horrific visuals.
The Harbinger really excels when it just plays with the audience like a cat plays with string, the tension never lets up (because there’s always the underlying feeling that you’re just waiting for someone to cough which, in this setting, is basically a death sentence) and the film knows how to do one of the greatest tricks to ever be pulled with a dream sequence, namely letting a jumpscare let out some tension before ramping it back up as quick as possible with some intense messed up imagery. The film does this multiple times and it just works every single time.
The Harbinger Overall
The Harbinger is one of the top-tier pandemic films that has come out in the last few years, largely because it looks back on the past few years with the benefit of hindsight and nails the little details and uses them to terrify the audience. With a universally brilliant cast, an unnerving and creepy-as-hell-looking villain and a setting that is universally relatable, The Harbinger pulls at your memories of the last few years and uses them to haunt your nightmares in a way that’s terrifying and brilliant.
Its use of the pandemic is clever and well thought out in order to make the horror of the story as intense as it can get. Genuinely fantastic, a nightmare that you need to experience.
What did you think of The Harbinger?
The Harbinger showed as part of the A Night Of Horror international film festival at Dendy Cinema Newtown from 17th-23rd October 2022
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