Harpoon (Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre)
Director: Júlíus Kemp
Stars: Pihla Viitala, Nae, Terence Anderson
Review by Brian M. Sammons
Originally released as Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre, the first movie I thought of when hearing this title was … well take a guess. That’s right, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Upon watching this film, I came to realize that this was more than just a coincidence and that’s not just because Gunnar Hansen is given top billing. Oh, and here’s a little hint, don’t believe the hype. Gunnar has basically what amounts to a cameo in this film and worst yet, he’s not the one doing the massacring.
No, the man who was the original and best Leatherface plays the captain of a ship which goes out to sea with a group of international clichés on a whale watching expedition. There’s the stereotypical gay man, the drunken Frenchman, the Japanese tourists with cameras, and more. The boat breaks down and this group of cardboard cutouts calls for help. Unfortunately when a ship comes to their “rescue” the horror has just begun.
What they first mistake as their savors turns out to be a psychotic family mad at the world because their way of life and their livelihood has been changed against their will. Where as in the Texas film that meant the automation of the local slaughterhouse, in Harpoon it means the outlawing of the family’s floating slaughterhouse. By that I mean all the environmentalists coming out against whaling, the family’s traditional way of life. So this weird family is off to kill anyone they come across, and yes often a harpoon is used. Yeah it’s not quite as cool as a chainsaw, but it can do quite a bit of damage. I mean, it kills whales, right?
Starting with the good, this movie does have a few good gore scenes and juicy kills for the splatter fans. Furthermore the effects are practical, that is, they use fake blood and latex as opposed to the vastly overused, and often horrible looking, CGI. Also it’s cool to see slasher films from parts of the world you normally don’t see them. I always think of them as sort of National Geographic documentaries with gore gags. Last, this movie tries to walk the fine line between horror and humor and it did make me laugh a few times, so good on it for that.
Unfortunately the items in the “bad column” are far more numerous than those in the good. First there are the afore mentioned clichéd characters. The acting is abysmal, the dialog is laughable even when it’s not trying to be funny, and the number of really stupid decisions they make in order to just advance the story is mind-boggling. Really, since a movie is only as good as the people in front of the camera, this film can be excruciating to watch at times. To make matters worse, the plot advances at a glacial pace, and yes I’ll resist the urge to make an Iceland joke about it.
To further not entice anyone to buy this movie on the new Blu-ray just released by Image Entertainment, the disc is pretty bare bones. There is a short behind the scenes featurette with Gunnar Hansen and that’s it. What? Does the phrase “bonus features” not translate into Icelandic?
So when the scorecard is tallied you have an unoriginal story taking place in new location (referring to both Iceland and whaling vessels). The gore is pretty good but the acting and writing is downright bad. Last, either some better direction, editing or both, could have been used to speed things along a little better. This means this movie was as middle of the road as a dotted white line. So if you’re looking for something a little different then you might want to give Harpoon a shot. But if you want something more than a little different then you might want to give it a pass.