The Harbinger (2022) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

The Harbinger (2022) Review

Horrorific content by angie on July 26th, 2022 | Movie Review | Supernatural, Mind Bender, Demon, Drama, Mystery, Virus

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It's about a demon that feeds on negativity and paranoia infecting a woman during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The Harbinger was directed by Andy Mitton (The Witch in the Window, We Go On, and YellowBrickRoad) and stars Stephanie Roth HaberleRaymond Anthony ThomasGabby BeansLaura Heisler (We Go On), Emily DavisJay Dunn (We Go On), Cody BravermanAnita MorenoCandyce Adkins, and Myles Walker.

The Harbinger (2022) Review

A man wearing a mask enters a woman's apartment to find her screaming and scratching her arm so hard that it is bleeding. He is the landlord, and she is having a nightmare where a Plague Doctor is chasing her. It's a standard horror movie plot, but with a twist: the woman wakes up, apologizes, and puts on her cloth mask because the movie is set during a lockdown.

There is no shortage of films set during the COVID pandemic, but The Harbinger is the one that uses the virus and its effects in a non-exploitative way. The film's events occur during the lockdown when people are already isolated, suspicious, and paranoid about infection and death. As a result, the characters in the movie often talk about things like wearing masks, staying isolated, and picking up food without coming into contact with others. This makes the film relatable while providing information about these characters and how they deal with the world around them.

And that's an important context to remember when considering The Harbinger, a story about a demon that thrives on negativity and despair.

The woman suffering from constant nightmares is Mavis. Following her most recent episode, Mavis contacts her college friend Monique for assistance. In contrast to Mavis' dreary and depressing life, Mo is surrounded by laughter and love in her family home. Despite the current pandemic and her father's failing health, Mo enjoys spending time with her brother Lyle and their father Ronald in the suburbs.

When Mo decides to go into the heart of the infection at her friend's request, her brother and father are worried and upset. However, Mo has not made this decision lightly, as their reunion shows how strong their friendship is.

Mitton takes the time to introduce the shared history of both women, which makes The Harbinger so effective. The pandemic provides a healthy dose of paranoia and mistrust and an explanation for why the women haven't been in contact. The film's first section is well-done, introducing the themes of mental health and female friendship in an organic way that doesn't beat the viewer over the head with the message.

This is a horror film, however, in which the protagonist Mavis becomes lost in her dreams, sometimes for days at a time. Despite her efforts, Mavis cannot escape the dream. Finally, a dark figure haunting her warns that time is running out.

The Harbinger posits a scenario of perpetual dreams that give birth to an entirely new otherworldly mythology. Although there is a menacing figure who presides over the dreamscape, the film does not echo A Nightmare on Elm Street. Instead, it's more like the less-known Canadian movie Come True, in which nightmares become endurance tests. Mitton's style is not as surreal or suggestive as Anthony Scott Burns', but the dreams in The Harbinger—which feature hands punching through walls and environments that suddenly change—are still impactful and full of scares that make you jump.

When Mo realizes that hearing Mavis' story is enough to "infect" her, it's a clever parallel to real-world anxieties about the coronavirus. Setting the film during the lockdown, The Harbinger asks questions about the meaning of safety and responsibility (to yourself and others) when friends and strangers can be carriers of the disease. There's a recurring scene where Mavis' neighbor Crystal questions anyone who enters the building. In a clever bit of criticism, the film always shows the angry woman without her mask.

Worth Watching? 

The Harbinger stands out for its ability to find a middle ground between fantastical elements and real-world issues. For example, as Mavis and Mo become increasingly sick, the movie's hidden message becomes clear: even if you don't believe in a disease, it can still hurt or kill you. But at the same time, hope and optimism are vital in fighting off the negativity and gloominess of life. This lesson is not just relevant to the story world of "The Harbinger," but it's also something that audiences would be wise to keep in mind in real life.

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