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Savage Harvest (1995)

DVD Cover (Image Entertainment)
Movie Connections:
Savage Harvest
> Savage Harvest (1995)
> Savage Harvest 2: October Blood (2006)
Horror, Supernatural Horror
Eric Stanze Eric Stanze
Lisa Morrison Lisa Morrison
Ramona Midgett Ramona Midgett
William Clifton William Clifton
David Berliner David Berliner
D.J. Vivona D.J. Vivona

3.8 / 10 - 7 votes

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Review by Chad
Added: September 27, 2007
Old Indian legends have always been ripe for the picking in the world of horror, but sadly, most of the films that use them either screw it up royally or merely use it as a starting point for a separate plot point (ie, the old "Indian burial ground" setup that inevitably leads to all sorts of nastiness ranging from killer pets to zombies). It's sort of sad, really, as there's a lot of really good material in these legends that could easily be the basis for some excellent horror movies. While I wouldn't go so far as to call Savage Harvest an "excellent horror movie", I do have to say that it's one of the better ones that I've seen dealing with this subject matter, and it's even (supposedly) based on a real Indian legend. I say supposedly because I'd never heard of it before watching this film, but then again, I'm far from an expert on the subject, and besides... does it truly matter when one is watching a horror flick?

Taking a little (well, a lot) of inspiration from The Evil Dead, we begin our tale by watching six friends - Mikki (Lisa Morrison), Jeff (David Berliner), Karen (Ramona Midgett), Mark (William Clifton), Nathan (D.J. Vivona), and Loretta (Rebecca Kennebeck) - head out into the middle of the woods for a weekend of camping and sunbathing by the lake... oh, and also a little bit of manual labor. You see, in exchange for them getting the privilege of camping out on the land, they have to help Karen's Uncle Gary (Rick Fischer) and Aunt Linda (Tommy Biondo) clean up some of the junk that has been left behind by Gary's now-deceased father, but as Gary quickly mentions, that can wait until tomorrow: there's some stories to be told first.

Gary goes on to tell these young lads and ladies that a group of Cherokee Indians once called this land their home, and he also reveals that one of the village elders had a habit of summoning up various evil spirits. Of course, this little fact didn't go over too well with the other Indians in the tribe, and this particular elder was executed for his dealings with the dark arts. However, he did leave behind some rocks with bizarre drawings on them, and legend has it that anyone who touches these rocks will become possessed by the demon or spirit whose symbol marks that particular rock. Faster than you can say "Save us, Ash!", Gary breaks out a box loaded with these rocks, the kids start getting possessed by demons, and we have ourselves a nice little gorefest... and yes, there is some good chainsaw action to be found as well.

Let's just get this out of the way upfront: Savage Harvest is not a slick, polished horror film by any means, and it even makes the aforementioned Evil Dead look like a big-budget Hollywood production by comparison. However, in director Eric Stanze's first "real" film, he was able to do what so many indie directors fail at: borrow liberally from a highly-respected horror film without ever feeling like a cheap ripoff, insert a storyline with a touch of originality that the audience will actually care about, and splash around some damned fine gore sequences in the process. Granted, it's far from a perfect film, but it's a lot better than a large percentage of the direct-to-video horror movies littering store shelves at the moment, and that statement even applies to the gore; technology may have evolved over the years, but for some reason, it's always the older movies that really get the red stuff right, and this movie is no exception.

On the negative side of things, I felt that there was a couple of bad casting decisions made here, but before I get into that, a small disclaimer is warranted: none of the people in front of the camera for this movie were award-winning actors, but I can usually overlook that. After all, this is low-budget horror; do you really expect to find guys and gals who belong in Oscar-winning dramas? I think not, and unless someone is particularly bad, I usually just let this sort of thing slide when taking a look at these types of films. My complaint here stems from the fact that two ladies make it to the end of the movie (I won't spoil it by revealing who), and one of these ladies is downright wretched in front of the camera and the other is... well, I wouldn't call her an amazing actress, but she was entertaining and added a touch of personality to her character. Of course, the good actress dies and the boring one goes on to survive and deliver a small speech at the end, and while I realize that it was probably far too late to switch the roles at this point in the shoot, I have to admit that I was disappointed in the way things turned out in that regard.

Still, that's a minor blip in the grand scheme of things, and the rest of the film was surprisingly good. You've got numerous kills with great gore and monster effects, a storyline that goes beyond the traditional "there's a monster / ghost / serial killer / demon in the woods, run away!", and it all flows together better than what a lot of first-time directors whip up. 7/10.
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Griffinheart #1: Griffinheart - added 01/26/2008, 02:09 PM
The gore was good, and I know this was far better than I could put together, but most of the make-up was bad, and the acting was even worse. Five minutes in I wanted to stop, but I knew I'd never put the DVD in again if I didn't finish it that time.
Ginose #2: Ginose - added 01/26/2008, 07:40 PM
My thoughts exactally, Griff. 5.2/10

The second is better by a wide margin.
Griffinheart #3: Griffinheart - added 01/27/2008, 01:45 AM
Hmmmm...5.2 would be a bit generous, I think. But if the second is really better, I may have to watch it.
Ginose #4: Ginose - added 01/27/2008, 01:53 AM
I give it the 5.2 for (1.) The opening scene, that really kept me interested enough to watch the rest of it, now that's impressive. And (2.) A decent plot with very nice gore. Story orginality, charecters, and acting was all half-assed, and I knew it would be, but I thought all of it would be that shitty, I was happily proven wrong. I really wouldn't give it more than a solid 4/10. But the way it links into the serqual really boosted it.

The only flaw with the sequal (as Chad mentions hin his review) is that it feels like it should be parts two and three, given it has a forever changing story and is over 2 hours in length. Watch it if you'e got the time to sit through it all at once and the stomach for 3 or 4 bad-actors throughout.
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