Movies about the COVID-19 pandemic have been all over the place. And when it comes to horror and thrillers you have the epic lows of Songbird, and the tangential highs of KIMI. So when I saw that the pandemic horror film, The Harbinger, would be playing at Fantasia International Film Festival 2022, I was excited to see where it would land.
Directed and written by Andy Mitton, The Harbinger is a supernatural horror story that grounds itself on the fears we all experienced at the beginning of the pandemic, exacerbated by isolation, there is a connective thread between something we’ve lived, and something clearly fiction that works.
In The Harbinger, Monique (Gabby Beans) has been quarantined with her father and brother away from New York City. In a bubble they’ve worked hard to maintain, the family is protected and taking every precaution to stay that way. One day, her oldest friend, Mavis (Emily Davis), reaches out in a panic, claiming a life or death situation. Tormented by dreams so intense that she’s unable to wake, sleeping through alarms, and sometimes lying trapped in a nightmare state for days, Mavis is more than just haunted by her nightmares, they torture her.
Against the wishes of her family, Monique drives to New York City to visit Mavis at her Queens apartment. Excited to be reunited with her friend, and to see someone who isn’t her family for the first time since it all started, Monique soon discovers that the dreams haunting her friend are contagious, and so is the monster that visits her. Attracted to cities through dark energies brought out by the pandemic, the titular monster visits its victims wearing a plague mask, threatening to erase them from the world.
A blend of intimate storytelling through trauma and creepypasta, The Harbinger packs one hell of a punch. For the first half of the film, we see COVID anxiety that slowly builds until the real focus of the film, the nightmares, comes over it. The film’s strength is Mitton’s ability to pull the rug out from under you completely.
Scenes are crafted like reality only to be shattered. Moments that feel too odd to be real, are. In the film’s final act we enter a terrifying descent through nightmares that push Monique to confront her past and fight for her present. She’s thrown around through her trauma and forced to process it. Beans is phenomenal as Monique. She’s emotive and vulnerable, and captivatingly so. Beans pushes the film further and farther.
The Harbinger manages to accomplish a lot with little. An intimate horror story that uses the time-tested trope of an idea spreading like a virus, The Harbinger succeeds, even with odd pacing choices in the film’s finale.
The Harbinger screened at the Fantasia International Film Festival.
The Harbinger manages to accomplish a lot with a little. An intimate horror story that uses the time-tested trope of an idea spreading like a virus, The Harbinger succeeds, even with odd pacing choices in the film’s finale.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.