Fantasia 2019: ‘Harpoon’ is Twisty, Witty, and Pretty Gross

Put three people on a boat, strand them in the middle of the ocean, and you’ve got the basic thrust of Harpoon, an official selection of this year’s Fantasia Fest. But there’s more to this film than a simple tale of survival. All of these people have terrible secrets, and nothing clears the path for spilling your guts like facing your own mortality.

Richard (Christopher Gray) is a rich kid with a propensity towards rage and unpredictable violence. Beyond that, he’s all right. Jonah (Munro Chambers) is a nebbish, a downtrodden schlub who has inexplicably found himself Richard’s best friend. Sasha (Emily Tyra) is Richard’s long-time girlfriend and, by default, Jonah’s pal. When the three of them take off for a day trip on Richard’s yacht, hilariously named The Naughty Buoy, they don’t expect anything untoward to happen. It does, though, and things get weird fast.

There’s no supernatural element here, no Bermuda Triangle or ocean ghosts. It’s just three people, their fatal flaws, and a strong will to survive, no matter the cost.

Directed and written by Rob Grant, with additional writing by Mike Kovac, Harpoon is a twisted tale. Viewers will wonder who the true villain is, if indeed there is one. Supplies on the boat are practically non-existent. Tempers flare. Allegiances change as the characters reveal more of their true selves. The careful timing and nature of revelations make Harpoon more than clever. It’s an intelligent thriller that provides laughs and winces in equal measure.

However, there’s another mystery in Harpoon besides the happenings on the boat. That is why this movie needs a voiceover. There is a good bit of narration from Brett Gelman. It’s entertaining, but it feels intrusive and out of place. The audience also never learns who this narrator is. He’s an unseen omniscient storyteller, observing and commenting on the action, but never becoming an actual character in the film. The usage of a disembodied voice to provide deeper insight into the situation is a strange choice. The argument can be made that it is not necessary.

I am willing to consider the possibility that Gelman is the voice of Fate. These three characters set themselves up for the horrors that await them at sea. We get to watch the knot between them tighten before it frays beyond repair. Munro Chambers (Turbo Kid) is delightful as Jonah, the most likable person in Harpoon. Your love of each character may vary, though. It is easy to see how someone could feel empathy towards any of these folks.

Harpoon is an excellent film, a deconstruction of friendship laced with morbid gallows humor. There are sequences that are also really bloody and nasty. I’m all for that. While I cannot say the movie is a “must-see,” Harpoon should be a frequent entry into late-night “have you seen?” conversations. For example: “Have you seen Harpoon? Dude, you totally should see Harpoon.”

When it comes down to it, that’s some of the highest praise one can offer a film, and I freely give it here. Dude, you should totally see Harpoon.

The Fantasia International Film Festival runs through August 1, 2019, Learn more about Fantasia 2019 at their official website.

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