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Harvest Lake
by Scott Schirmer

Like a lot of people, I first became aware of director Scott Schirmer by way of his 2012 film Found. It's a bold, uncompromising work that definitely got my attention. As other fans I was curious to see what was next for the man which lead to me eagerly checking out his next film, Harvest Lake. I purposefully kept myself from gathering too much information about what the film was about beforehand. I just wanted to experience the film first hand and figure things out along with the characters. It turned out to be quite an interesting journey.

Harvest Lake follows a group of friends staying out in the woods to celebrate their buddy Ben's (Dan Nye) birthday. Ben, his girlfriend Cat (Tristan Risk), and their two friends Jennifer (Ellie Church) and Josh (Jason Crowe), think they're in for a simple outing, however, the woods and nearby lake are anything but ordinary. They hold a mysterious, overpowering force that will soon take over.

The shift from the normal tone of friends interacting with one another to the strange and mysterious is handled in a unique fashion. The characters, through most of it, don't even realize what's happening to them. The power and influence of the woods changes how they think and act. It all centers around an intense sexual energy with an alien or monster form that wants to use the campers for its own purposes. The enticing, seductive nature of the forest and lake make them characters all their own.

The film is wonderfully atmospheric and there are moments, intermixed with the friends just hanging out, that suddenly turn intense and lyrical. It's an effective juxtaposition that sets up for what is to follow. The use of music and imagery reveal a skillful design that draws the viewer in. Everything is shot well and the performances really compliment the overall film. The chemistry between the characters felt natural and never forced. I felt like I was watching friends interacting as opposed to a bunch of performers trying to force a connection. I credit both the writing and acting for this as the exposition and dialogue is handled with care on both fronts.

To say too much more would be a disservice as the film really needs to just be experienced as it comes at you. It's strange and offbeat, but seems to have a tight grasp on what it's doing and never feels random. The climax brings everything together in an artistically genuine way that completely satisfies. I respect films that take chances and put themselves out there and this certainly applies to Harvest Lake The best part? It works.

P.J. Griffin, HMS

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