Elizabeth Harvest Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Written and directed by Sebastian Gutierrez
2018, 109 minutes, Rated R
Released on December 4th, 2018
Abbey Lee as Elizabeth
Ciarán Hinds as Henry
Carlas Gugino as Claire
Matthew Beard as Oliver
Dylan Baker as Det. Logan
Elizabeth and Henry are newlyweds and he proudly carries his young bride across the threshold of his lavish house secluded far away in the mountains. She is introduced to a life of plenty, as Henry is a successful scientist and quite wealthy. She has everything she could possibly ask for; fine clothing, jewelry, money, anything at all, as Henry tells her everything in the house is hers. There is one small exception, however: a room downstairs in the basement is off limits to her. He says this is his work area and wishes to keep it private. She gives her word to respect his wishes and soon the happy couple retires to an excellent meal. Henry must go away on business the next day and leaves her in the capable hands of his servants Claire and Oliver. Elizabeth grows bored in his absence and within a matter of hours soon breaks her promise when she chooses to investigate the mysterious room. What she finds inside changes everything and has her questioning all she has taken for granted.
Nothing is as it seems in this growing mystery that unravels in a non-linear timeline. Claire and Oliver keep many secrets, some of which are written down in Claire’s journal. Oliver does his best to help Elizabeth discover the truth behind what is going on, but it may be more than she can handle. Making matters worse, a police detective friend of Henry’s has started coming by the house to keep tabs on the happy couple and Elizabeth must keep him at bay if she is to continue to enjoy this lifestyle. Questioning by the police proves to be the least of her worries as she begins to unfold the heart of the matter and realizes she is in way over her head.
Elizabeth Harvest is a contemporary re-telling of the famed French folktale Bluebeard. Abbey Lee (The Neon Demon) gives a strong performance in the lead role of Elizabeth. The character is deeply layered and complex and Lee really delivers with style. Ciarán Hinds (The Woman in Black) co-stars as Henry, a formidable man who carries many secrets, some of them deadly. We mostly learn about him in the second half of the picture during an exposition dump that provides much of the backstory. This information comes courtesy of Claire’s journal that is narrated over a series of beautifully realized flashbacks.
Carla Gugino (The Unborn) is Claire, a woman introduced as one thing but in reality proves much deeper. Providing an Everyman outsider’s perspective to the situation is the always welcome Dylan Baker (Happiness) as Det. Logan, a helpful yet somehow threatening presence in the house. The other key cast member, Matthew Beard (The Imitation Game) plays Oliver, the helpful servant with quite a whopper of a secret of his own. Each actor is given at least one strong scene to shine and everyone rises to the challenge with ease.
Written and directed by Sebastian Gutierrez (Girl Walks into a Bar), Elizabeth Harvest is an intricate puzzle that plays out at a steady pace providing clues that will keep audiences guessing. There are plenty of twists and turns that present the material in a fresh manner of storytelling. The second half of the picture is told in a series of brightly colored flashbacks that elevate the already beautiful production to an even higher level. Cinematographer Cale Finot (Hotel Noir) delivers in spades with his gorgeous lighting design and smooth camera moves. Production designer Diana Trujillo creates an incredible look to the spacious house that is both haunting and intimidating. I hate it when critics say things like “the house itself becomes a character”, but in this case it is true. So much of what goes on in this story revolves around the confines of the house that it takes on a significance of its own.
I had no idea where the story was going and immediately watched the picture a second time once it was over. Not everything works, as there are some issues during the extended flashbacks of the second act. As beautiful as the presentation is, it remains a huge amount of exposition that spoon feeds the information to viewers. Gutierrez is an accomplished director with a natural flair that brings to mind the early works of Dario Argento and Brian De Palma. I knew nothing about Elizabeth Harvest going in and I am glad. I discourage you from watching the trailer before jumping in and think you will enjoy it all the more for it. The first reversal of many in the plot drops within the first twenty minutes and after that, all bets are off. Mystery fans are in for a treat with this one and I look forward to what he makes next.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the picture receives a stunning transfer that is full of deeply saturated colors and inky black levels. There is a sharpness present that really benefits the movie and its state of the art location.
The default DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is an impressive one with plenty of separation to the music and effects tracks. Rear channels are active throughout and dialogue remains clean and free from distortion.
Optional English and Spanish subtitles are included for anyone in need.
A straightforward making-of featurette (15 minutes) provides a look behind the scenes at the production. Interviews with members of the cast and crew are punctuated by on-set material showcasing rehearsals and setups from the shoot. A lot of ground is covered in this relatively short segment and I wish it had been a bit longer.
The original theatrical trailer is included, but contains minor spoilers.
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