After the death of his partner during an undercover operation, cop Ryan Calhoun (Matthew Tompkins) is trying to move on and keep his career together. Another sting operation goes horrifically wrong when a senator, a prostitute, and Calhoun’s best friend are murdered by another member of the force in a ritualistic killing that seems to have something to do with demons. Calhoun finds links between the murderer and a shady mental hospital, and goes undercover to investigate.
The Harrowing has an intriguing if slightly familiar set up. A solid couple of opening scenes draw you in nicely, with pulses of bloody action, a compelling hook to get you interested and some strong prosthetics and effects work. When a seemingly normal character is found eating the corpse of another before babbling about demons, you feel like you’re on the path to a dark cult horror with shades of Lovecraft, but The Harrowing never manages to create a satisfying or particularly interesting plot from its opening. Things start to slow down as Calhoun reaches the insane asylum, with hints of occult experimentation and interesting images that fail to convert into something worthwhile. Instead we get a film that relies completely on the possibility of a deeply damaged and unreliable protagonist which we’ve seen quite a few times before. As questions stack up you feel any accrued interest seeping away. It’s not that ambiguity can’t be interesting, but its payoff isn’t earned and a largely uneventful middle wastes the films opportunities.
Matthew Tompkins is a solid and comfortable presence in front of the camera, convincing enough as a policeman with a few years on the force under his badge and with enough acting chops to sell Calhoun’s emotional, fragile state. Arnold Vosloo (most well known as Imhotep from the 90s Brendan Fraser The Mummy movies) is sold short as Dr Whitney, the head of the asylum with perhaps a lot to hide. He’s a calm and calculating character who never truly gets to make an effective impact. Too little is made of the psychological impact and possibilities that it presents, so the film shuffles to a climax that is bereft of power.
The Harrowing is a passable if underwhelming psychological horror. Tompkins and entertaining effects keep things moving, but it’s let down by a plot that never effectively unravels, instead just relying on the unreliable protagonist trope.
THE HARROWING / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: JON KEEYES / SCREENPLAY: JON KEEYES / STARRING: MATTHEW TOMPKINS, ARNOLD VOSLOO, MICHAEL IRONSIDE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW