REVIEW: The Harbinger (2022)

dir. Andy Mitton

During the Covid lockdowns Monique (Gabby Beans) leaves her family quarantine bubble to assist an old friend (Emily Davis) who is dealing with apparently unending nightmares. But it turns out these dreams are contagious, and usher a demonic presence into Monique’s life.

Andy Mitton makes great horror: having crawled under viewers’ skin with 2018’s superb The Witch in the Window the writer / director’s next offering is a terrifying vision of the pandemic-era. And though The Harbinger avoids exploiting recent history for cheap thrills, it layers dread into every exchange and uncomfortable pause. Add to this familiar lockdown imagery and the narrative has a profound impact, properly unnerving like a PTSD flashback.

From early exchanges that capture the real-world horrors that many of us endured in the Spring of 2020 through to a throat-punch finale, The Harbinger manages to balance modernity with more traditional influences. Beans and Davis have a relaxed charm together, their friendship possessing a lived-in quality that makes it entirely plausible that Monique would take the difficult decision of risking the health of herself and loved ones to visit. Mitton’s script disarms with effective humour, though this quickly gives way to tension and moments of skin-pricking terror, often in the same scene. A case in point? One Zoom call with a demonologist begins with the familiar awkwardness of balancing home working with child care before descending into disturbing supernatural lore.

At times the mythology of the central entity feels vague and the film is never as effective as early scenes which capture the experiences we’ve all shared. And yet this relatability still makes The Harbinger a cut above most recent horrors: that, and the fact that it is absolutely terrifying. 

© Russell Bailey


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