There are many types of demons in the world: the ones invented by man and the ones that live within us. Those are often the darkest forces, the ones that can be most lethal. In Jon Keeyes’ latest horror film The Harrowing, sanity and grief are put under the spotlight as one man tries to understand the true nature of the demons he encounters. Billed as an intelligent and tense thriller, The Harrowing is a genre-bending film that is part police-procedural and part supernatural horror.
Detective Ryan Calhoun (Matthew Tompkins) has seen the worst of what society has to offer but even he struggles to reconcile the horror of seeing his best friend killed in a ritualistic murder. When it becomes apparent that one man could be behind the murder, Calhoun goes undercover at Auburn Forensic Hospital to investigate the great Dr Franklin Whitney (Arnold Vosloo).
Whitney believes that man created demon-lore from a base misunderstanding of the nature of mental illnesses. If demons are just a figment of man’s imagination, why are so many of Whitney’s patients seeing them?
Believing he has the upper hand and lulled by a false sense of freedom, Calhoun conducts his investigations but catastrophically underestimates the nature of the threat facing him.
The Harrowing is one of those films that is set up so well, with excellent performances from all the cast and a fascinating backstory. And then, just when you’re ready for the grand, mind-bending reveal there’s a big hole of... nothing. Or at least, nothing more than you hadn’t guessed already. The bad guys are indeed revealed to be bad guys but there is no explanation whatsoever of their motives, nature or intentions.
For 90 minutes, I was really expecting more from this film but ultimately it was another case of horror films acknowledging the presence of evil but doing nothing to explain its nature. And, not for the first time, I have to mention that the mere presence of a plot twist doesn’t imply an actual plot.
It’s heartbreaking because Matthew Tompkins, Arnold Vosloo, Arianne Martin and Hayden Tweedie all gave incredibly good performances but ultimately this film is all form and no substance.
Entertaining for 90 minutes but let down by its climax, I give The Harrowing three out of five stars. I’d still recommend it as a filler, due to how much potential the film could have had, but don’t expect too much.