Harpoon: Whale Watching Massacre

Year:  2009
Director:  Julius Kemp
Cast:  Nae Yuuki, Terence Anderson,  Miranda Hennessey, Pihla Viitala, Gunnar Hansen

A diverse group of vacationers on a whale watching excursion are thrust into a nightmare beyond imagination when a freak accident kills their tour captain.  Scared and hopeless, they easily accept rescue from a shady character with a fishing boat.  He takes them back to his massive, isolated fishing ship where, along with his demented mother and brother, systematically begins slaughtering the helpless whale watchers.

Harpoon: Whale Watching Massacre can easily be added to the long list of  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes clones that deal with a stranded or lost group of people encountering a homicidal family.   While the setting of the film is the obvious element that makes it somewhat stand out, it also is simply a very good horror film that rises heads and shoulders about most films that implement this cliched plot tactic.  The film is gritty and the atmosphere is dirty and uncomfortable, which definitely plays in the film's favor.   The tone of this film is extremely nasty and mean-spirited and the antagonists definitely are not shy about brutalizing their victims and they have enough dialogue and focus to make them interesting and frightening.   And while gore hounds will probably expect a lot from this film based on its title alone, the gore is never over the top and actually does not even seem like a major focus.   In fact, the gore could have been amped up a bit.  This is not saying that the film is not gory---it is and there are some disturbing deaths--but the use of gore seemed carefully thought out for its full effect.   One thing that definitely sets this film apart from other of its kind is the fact that by the end of the film, the characters are completely developed and the viewer can sympathize and even like them.   This is certainly effective because it makes difficult to witness their fates.   But the star of the show is definitely the setting.  One could not ask for a more perfect slasher film setting than the large, run-down, and isolated fishing ship that serves as the slaughtering grounds for the killers.   Once they family traps the victims on the ship, they are completely and utterly helpless with few hiding spots and virtually no escape except for plunging willingly in the into the ice cold sea.  Director Kemp recognizes the gold mine he has in the setting and takes full advantage of it, allowing the camera to give viewers a glimpse of just how powerless our victims are.  There are some wonderful, claustrophobic camera shots and the atmosphere and tension created is palpable.    It is really one of the best, most competent uses of setting for a horror film in quite some time.   

And while the film delivers with the tension and slashing, problems do arise, particularly during the ending of the film.   Characters do some very questionable and stupid things that seem, well, out of character,  and our only done to set up specific plot devices.   The Night Of The Living Dead inspired ending involving our male hero is handled well, but that could have easily been the films final moment.  Instead, there is a sequence with a whale terrorizing our remaining survivors which is confusing simply in its purpose to the film as a whole.  Was it a statement that the whales supported our murderous family's efforts in disposing of thrill-seeking whale watchers because of some environmental or animal rights reason?    If so, it was not handled very well and really was not necessary in the context of the rest of the film.   However, the last small twist at the end is clever, but definitely leaves the viewer wanting to know more about the specific character who survives

Overall, Harpoon: Whale Watching Massacre is a highly stylistic, tension-filled old-school slasher that rises above recent efforts.   It definitely knows exactly what it is and strives and succeeds in delivering an entertaining, disturbing, and gory entry into an otherwise bland and cliche-ridden sub-genre.

Fright Meter Grade:

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