Story: Monique (Gabby Beans) has been beyond careful during the coronavirus pandemic, concerned not just for herself and brother Ronald (Raymond Anthony Thompson), but mostly for her father Lyle (Myles Walker). The family recently lost their matriarch and Monique is determined to keep her dad safe and in good health, so she and her brother practice impeccable safety protocols. But she decides to make an excursion outside of that bubble of caution, when a close friend named Mavis (Emily Davis) contacts her with a desperate plea for some help. She trusts Mavis when she says she has also been careful, so she ventures for the visit and while her family seems worried, she assures them she will continue her routine. Of course, once she arrives and the two start to reconnect, both she and Mavis take off their masks and soon enough, Monique hears a cough from above, a neighbor’s child is clearly ill. The distance from the child eases Monique’s mind, though Mavis’ tales of horrific dreams is enough to unsettle her, especially when she begins to have some of her own. As she tries to help her friend, she also realizes she has entered more of a risky situation than she expected, even beyond the pandemic.
Entertainment Value: An eerie, ethereal at times chiller that deftly combines horror with the psychological trauma of a global pandemic, The Harbinger is an excellent cinematic experience. The narrative is well crafted and to me, creates such a dark, heavy atmosphere, which is perfect for a movie set in the pandemic. The same anxieties, fears, claustrophobia, and isolation that were present for so many during the Covid era rush back here, making this horror movie seem so grounded, since it is so easy to relate those feelings. This is easily the best take on the coronavirus pandemic I’ve seen to this point, as it just gets that vibe so right and that enhances all of the horror elements immensely, since they’re familiar to those who experienced the lockdown era. There’s even a neighbor that spouts Covid denials, even as those around her get infected and die. The pandemic is woven into the genetics of the film, but there’s also threads about family, legacy, and loss that are more universal, though of course, amplified if you have those pandemic emotions stirred up again here. The visuals are bleak and eerie for the most part, in concert with the needs of the story and atmosphere, with some memorable set pieces blended in. There are some jump scares present, but this is not all about those kind of tricks, there is genuine dread conjured up and to me, The Harbinger had a very oppressive vibe, which is not easy to achieve and it is very effective. I found this to be a superb journey of pandemic horror, one I will definitely revisit and highly recommend.
The cast in The Harbinger is also excellent, a small, talented ensemble. Gabby Beans has the lead and she is more than capable of that position, as she is fantastic here. She has great screen presence and while the role is mostly serious, she is able to show her sense of humor and charm at times. I found this to be a well rounded performance that serves well as the central pillar of the narrative, delivering a true leading role level effort. Her scenes with Emily Davis are likely her best by my estimation, as she gets to show a range of her skills and the two have good chemistry in most scenes. Beans is able to make us care about her character and while the writing helps in that regard of course, her performance is very warm and relatable, so I think she deserves some serious credit for her work in this one. I also think she was able to do so much in the limited scenes within Monique’s family, which resonated a lot, given the short duration. I spoke about Emily Davis earlier and she is intense here, with quite a memorable performance as the erratic Mavis. The physical side of her turn is especially remarkable and I hope to see her in more roles in the near future. The cast also includes Raymond Anthony Thompson, Myles Walker, and Stephanie Roth Haberle.