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cast: Terrence Anderson, Pihla Viitala, Miranda Hennessy, Aymen Hamdouchi, and Carlos Takeshi
director: J�l�us Kemp
84 minutes (18) 2009
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
E1 DVD Region 2 retail
review by Jim Steel
Harpoon: The Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre
The title pretty much nails it and, if that doesn't do the trick, there's also a cameo from Gunnar 'Leatherface' Hanson. Have your expectations
been lowered enough? Good: now there's a chance that you might enjoy this Icelandic slasher movie in its own right. The setting is original and,
while large chunks of it may be flawed or derivative, it does succeed in keeping you guessing as to the identity of the survivors (assuming, of
course, that there are any).
The opening credits play over footage of authentic whale hunts and it is grotesquely effective. Nothing in the film matches this for horror,
but it also instantly lets you know that this film is attempting to be something other than a mere prom-queen massacre. A mismatched group
of international tourists gather on a pier one morning to go on a whale-spotting expedition. The cranes on the Reykjavik skyline suggest that
this was filmed before the recent financial collapse, but the state of the fishing boat that arrives to pick them up suggests that the writer
is referencing an older economic malaise.
The ship and its two-man crew have obviously enjoyed better days and the collapse of the fishing industry has hit them hard. The tourists
themselves are a mixed bunch and most of them are pretty unpleasant. Bottom of the heap is alcoholic Frenchman Jean Fran�ois (played by Aymen
Hamdouche in a manner that suggest he hates Frenchmen and acting in equal measure), but several of the others run him close. A group of three
golden girls, two Japanese women under the control of the super-sexist Nobuyoshi (Carlos Takeshi), and another three individuals make up the
numbers. One of the others, Marie-Anne (Miranda Hennessy) is on what would have been her honeymoon if her fianc�e hadn't died, and she hooks
up with another American, Leon (Terrence Anderson), in an attempt to get rid of a creepy vendor (Bjarni Gautur T�masson) who has followed her
onto the pier. The vendor, to no-one's great surprise, is reconnoitring the situation for his creepy family. But we are getting ahead of
It doesn't take long before things start to go disastrously wrong on the whale-watching expedition - these people really have no need of an
outside force to create their own splatter movie - and when rescue comes, it is in the shape of the vendor's brother (an effective Helgi
Bj�rnsson) who ferries the survivors out to his family's whaler. The whaling vessel is, of course, another victim of changing times and the
collapse of that industry seems to have unhinged the crew.
Things kick off pretty rapidly after that, and it is merely a question of what happens to whom. Violence..? Yes, but not so much that it's
unwatchable - and it helps that some of the victims are so unpleasant that you actively hope for their dispatch. A sprinkle of black humour
seasons the grue, and the violence continues relentlessly, if inventively, until the end.
The title may seem like a pastiche (and in truth it came before the script), but it delivers honestly enough; Reykjavik, a harpoon, a
massacre and, yes, even whales make an appearance. The affiliation to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre would have been obvious even if it
hadn't been referenced in the title, but the northern lighting is wonderful and creates little bits, now and again, that make you wonder what
would have happened if Ingmar Bergman had directed a splatter movie. These little bits, it should be said, do not occur that often though.