Elizabeth Harvest is one of those films that will surprise you. It starts as mystery thriller with some very fine ideas behind it. What it becomes is something entirely different. In order to preserve the best viewing experience it is best to avoid spoilers at all costs, which is what we will try to do here.
The film opens as Elizabeth (Abbey Lee), a young bride to the more mature Henry (Ciaran Hinds) wakes up as the passenger in a car. She seems somewhat dazed on the ride to her new home. What she finds upon her arrival is a beautiful house with Henry’s assistant Claire (Carla Gugino) and his son Oliver (Matthew Beard). She is given the run of the house except for a single room which is deemed off limits. This space is reserved for Henry and his scientific pursuits. Of course curiosity gets the better of Elizabeth and she enters the room and must then face the consequences of her actions.
The opening act of the film is littered with pointers to what may be going on with the overall story. The opening shot focuses initially on the opening of an eye as we see Elizabeth waken as if from a dream. Unsure of herself, it is left to Henry to remind her of what is going on and why she is there. Later as she talks with Claire she is questioning why Henry chose her as a bride as, in her own words, she is simple and he has a brilliant mind. Claire can only look at her and agree with an expression that conveys so many emotions at the same time.
The lead role is played by Abbey Lee in what is arguably her biggest role to date. She comes across very well as the innocent Elizabeth. There is a naivety to her performance that is convincing as the slightly troubled girl. Abbey Lee comes from a modelling background and she uses her looks and poise to create an impression of Elizabeth that starts off as one thing but is ever changing. As the film develops so does the character and Lee is able to transition this with ease.
She is ably supported by some serious acting talent. Ciaran Hinds is always good value and is no different here. He is effectively creepy as the scientist who seems quite lecherously taken with his young bride. Henry has a mask of intellectualism that occasionally slips to reveal something quite sinister. Carla Gugino is one of those actors that pop up in all sorts of stuff from serious drama to the likes of San Andreas. Here, as always, she is good value as the conflicted assistant. It isn’t a major role compared to the other leads but her time on screen is memorable.
The film makes full use of the sound design to ensure that the tension is ramped up in very subtle ways in the first act. The soundscape is introduced in such a way as to seem quite natural at first until it actually dictates the pace of a scene. Into this mix the composer weaves the score. There is a haunting oboe motif that occurs whenever things are getting even slightly dangerous for Elizabeth.
The director has taken a bit of inspiration from Dario Argento and the Gallo movement. The use of block primary colours to enhance the mood is used here to great effect with bold red green and blues matching tension and heightening the dream sequences. In doing this in the third act it adds to the soundscape to make it a memorable finale.
Elizabeth Harvest is a film that rewards your patience and turns into a very entertaining thriller.