Written and Directed by Andy Mitton
Monique ventures out of quarantine to visit an old friend who’s plagued by nightmares. She finds herself drawn into a hellish dreamscape where she must face her greatest fears – or risk never having existed at all. (IMDB)
So, having just recovered from COVID over Christmas and after everything that has gone on over the last few years, was a horror based around COVID really what I wanted to watch? Who knew? But I did, and I am glad I did.
Although The Harbinger from Andy Mitton (not to be confused by The Harbinger NOT from Andy Mitton) IS set during the COVID pandemic, it is not really ABOUT the pandemic. Or, at least, that is not the primary driver behind the story which is more an allegory about the lasting social impact of the Pandemic.
Monique (Gabby Beans) is isolating at home with her brother and father when she gets a call from an old friend who needs her help. Breaking her quarantine, Monique travels into the city and finds Mavis (Emily Davis) at the end of her tether, haunted by dreams that she is struggling to separate from reality and which seem to be being manipulated by someone in a plague doctor disguise. After Monique begins to see the same entity in her own dreams they discover the plague doctor is a demon, a Harbinger, identified by a demonlogist who has been researching it. The terrified domnologist reveals the demon is stealing people from the world and erasing all memories and traces of them.
As the story progresses, Mavis and Monique’s dreams get more and more frightening and harder and harder to discern from reality until both Monique and the audience are unsure if they are still dreaming or back in the real world. Some viewers may find that frustrating and there are a number of false “endings” and red-herrings before the films is over. Depending on your point of view you will either feel the story has come to a fitting end, or you will be annoyed by what some might consider to be loose ends.
This confusion is compounded by Monique who may not be the most reliable narrator and there have clearly been issues in her past that raise questions about her mental state. A hint at a suicide attempt and issues with her mental health suggest that we may not be able to trust everything from Monique’s perspective. Indeed, at one point, when Mavis questions why her friend would come all the way to see her and risk infection during lockdown, Monique simply says Mavis once saved her life, but we learn nothing more about what that might have entailed.
We don’t know for certain what is going on in Monique’s head or if, indeed, everything is going on in her head! But this adds layers to the story and makes it all the more intriguing for it.
For me, this perfectly reflected the theme of the film which explores the impacts of COVID and the effects of lockdown. Lockdown was a hard time for a lot of people and The Harbinger explores the collapse of social links and norms and the way in which many vulnerable people were forgotten about during lockdown. The disconnection of Mavis and Monique, the way the Harbinger’s victims are forgotten about and lost in time, reflects the isolation of lockdown. It’s not necessarily a subtle message, but it is delivered well, COVID being the background, rather than the constant focus of the film.
The Harbinger was an enjoyable horror, with a decent atmosphere, a few good scares and chills, and a good cast. The concept of dangerous dreams is hardly new, but The Harbinger had a decent stab at being its own thing and I enjoyed the watch. Some may find it a bit slow but, again, that is fitting for the style of film and the dreamy subject matter; it was not a negative for me. It is a bit confused towards the end as Monique slips in and out of dreams and we are never quite sure if she is asleep or what is reality, but this is deliberate and part of the story and it never put me off continuing to watch – it never felt gimicky. In fact, it probably warrants a second sitting to appreciate all the red-herrings, twists and turns. Although not quite enough was revealed about Monique’s past to truly figure out what is going on with her, a second viewing, armed with what we do learn, could make for an interesting follow-up.
The Harbinger is a decent low-budget chiller that is worth a worth a look if this sounds up your street!
The Harbinger comes to you from Signature Entertainment and is available to stream from 23rd January 2023