Underground Film Journal

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Short Horror Film: The Last Harvest

By Mike Everleth ⋅ February 18, 2011

Is The Last Harvest a horror movie? Or an experimental film? Well, it feels like a little bit of both. In Heidi Phillips‘ spectral and spooky short, a scavenger picks through the rubble of an old, abandoned farmhouse completely unaware of the female apparition lurking about in the cobwebbed corners. Featuring an abrasive, startling soundtrack and a totally unique way of “projecting”‘ ghostly special effects, this is an unexpected supernatural treat.

I particularly like the way Phillips creates her ghost through projecting film of her actress onto the actual walls of the farmhouse. What’s nice is that there’s no illusion going on. That Phillips isn’t trying to convince us this image is a ghost, but figures the audience is either going to make that connection, or not.

Ghostly image of a woman's eyes

It is a bit misleading to call The Last Harvest a “horror” movie. Not all movies with ghosts are horror movies. But, I think its a fair appellation given the stingers — the screechy music cues accompanying the color flashback cuts — designed to give us a periodic jolt. This horror based on just mood, tone and the occasional shock.

What the film reminds me most of, actually, is Mike Rollo‘s great experimental film Ghosts and Gravel Roads, which ironically doesn’t have any ghosts in it at all.

Both films are shot in rural locations and in abandoned, decaying structures and deal with issues of memory, even though each film enacts those issues very differently. Rollo is very measured and lyrical, while Phillips’ style is much more aggressive and genre-influenced.

But, ultimately, the true haunting quality to The Last Harvest is one of attachment and loss. The final images outside the house where the ghost looms large over the intruder who has recovered the high school trophy has a feeling of ecstatic release. There’s no indication if there’s any connection between the living and the dead, except the last shots do imply an emotional bond.

This is a really beautiful and starkly shot film with a very satisfying emotional arc, which separates it from being a strictly experimental film. Is it horror? Is it experimental? How about this for a label: Damn good.

For more info on Heidi Phillips, please visit her official website. Plus, she has uploaded several films to Vimeo, many of which have strongly different styles than seen in The Last Harvest.

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