Movie Review: Harpoon: Reykjavik Whale Watchinhg Massacre (2009)
This film was released in its native Iceland way back in 2009 under the title The Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre, my copy came with the word Harpoon splashed across the cover! After a tiny bit of research, Wikipedia informed me that the original advertisements displayed the tagline, “should only be seen if you have a sense of humour”, this almost put me off wanting to watch it but; on I charged with the knowledge that Iceland must be capable of putting together a decent film, if their number one cultural export, the quirky and brilliant Björk is anything to go by, this should be very Random indeed!
The name Gunnar Hansen is proudly displayed above the title. As a result of this I was expecting good things, despite what I had read on Wiki! What I saw, other than Hansen’s lack of overall screen time was quite possibly one of the best Random Horror Films I have ever seen!
Let me begin by saying that anyone that is opposed to whaling or finds any kind of cruelty to animals offensive, should fast forward the opening credits for your own good! Having said that, if any of the above makes you queasy, you probably shouldn’t be watching any Horror film!
Right, warning out of the way... The story follows several groups of people from all cultures and creeds boarding a whale watching boat in the nippy waters of Iceland. The Poseiden, captained by Gunnar “Leatherface” Hansen picks up the group of people and heads off for open water. The groups are made up of Asians, Germans, Americans, various locals and a Frenchman. Things take a sharp turn for the worst when an intoxicated Frenchman (Slightly stereotypical) causes havoc on the deck! What results can only be described as Random! The group of tourists soon find themselves in their worst nightmare as they must battle a family of disgruntled whalers aboard their own decommissioned whaling boat!
Harpoon sails along very nicely, not falling into the same pitfalls that befoul so many of the recent efforts from the States, mainly re-makes I must add! It’s as gruesome and hardcore as a film can be while maintaining that all important enjoyment factor. Some of the torture scenes are quite close to crossing that fine line but some good tongue-in-cheek moments balance those scenes very well.
The first thing that one notices about Harpoon is the abundance of atmosphere it manages to carry. It is amazing how claustrophobic the deck of a boat can be even with all that fresh air around you, there’s still no where to go! The characterisation builds with great gusto and although our empathy for some is higher than others, there is no denying that we get to know all the characters and their own individuality. Something that is of great difficulty for most film-makers is made to look so easy by Julius Kemp and his cast of unknowns. Of the cast, a few notable remarks must be made for Terence Anderson and Pihla Viitala. Anderson plays the apparent hero, Leon while Viitala plays the unfortunate victim of most of the torture, Annette. A very unnerving and eerie moment in the film sees Annette singing the Björk song, “It’s Oh So Quiet” over the boats speaker system. As haunting as it is, it is made even more poignant by events taking place elsewhere as the rendition progresses! A very moving and victorious scene which sets the pace for the remainder of the movie!
Harpoon can find comparisons from all over the Horror world. The obvious one comes from that which gave the Icelandic Hansen his notoriety and fame, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, not only in title and star but also in atmosphere and shock value. Another, which could quite possibly be an even bigger factor to the storyline, is the influence it takes from George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. As one of the main protagonists, Leon can be directly compared to Night’s Ben in that he has whether by choice or not, become the hero and attempts to save everyone from their horrific fate!
With twists and turn at every corner and revelations throughout, Harpoon was fast becoming one of the best films I have seen in a long time. The “Horror” is perhaps not as in your face and obvious as a lot of films but as an overall project, this one definitely shines bright. Without giving too much away, the ending has so many levels, I just wasn’t expecting any of it. I will say one last thing though, the fate of one character in particular pays great homage to another classic Horror film. I will let you see for yourself!
As I said before, Harpoon was one of the best Random Horror films I have ever had the pleasure of watching. I am already looking forward to the second viewing just to make sure it wasn’t a Random dream! I would thoroughly recommend this film to any fan of the genre and anyone who is not a massive fan should watch it too. The question it raises though is, why isn’t Iceland putting out more films like this one? Here’s to hoping!
Year Released: 2009
My Rating: 8.5