Gruesome thriller ‘The Harrowing’ is a change of pace and direction from the plethora of holiday themed horror movies released this month. Despite releasing on Christmas Day, the crime-thriller has not a single Elf, Reindeer or Santa Claus in sight – swapping out the usual festive fiends for a number of blood-spattered demons.

At its heart, ‘The Harrowing’ is a crime thriller with horror themes. A police investigator finds himself in the middle of a case he can’t hope to understand or solve, but yet, if he is to keep his job (and indeed keep himself off the suspect list) he must go undercover at an asylum which links a fellow officer and the bizarre double homicide which claimed the life of his life long friend and partner, in addition to the prostitute they were using to ensnare corrupt officials.

In a bust gone bad, the killing frenzy that followed the stakeout links the aforementioned asylum and a set of Demon’s which are said inhabit all of us. Blending psychological horror, creature horror and crime thriller the film follows the investigator decent into madness.

Whilst I would struggle to say that the film excels in any particular area, it covers enough ground in both plot, character and gore to make it a pretty enjoyable movie to watch. The cast is well chosen, and it was definitely a good choice to go for a more mature cast – including big screen veterans Michael Ironside and Arnold ‘The Mummy’ Vosloo. This definitely helped to add a level of feasibility to the thriller style opening act. The films lead, Matthew Tompkins also provides a decent performance throughout, despite some of the film’s hammier horror moments threatening to derail an otherwise very serious portrayal of the troubled ‘Officer Ryan Calhoun’

The script is equally strong, and whilst the film begins to struggle to find the line between exposition and ‘holding a little something back’ for the films inevitable ‘twist’ ending towards the end of the film, some decent dialogue to complement the fairly generic but engaging storyline throughout.

I’m sad to say the films weakest moments were in-fact the scenes which shared set-pieces and visuals more akin to horror films than thriller. Had the films inner demons theme stayed metaphorical then we would not have to have seen the rather goofy looking monster costumes, which I will accept were cool in concept, but just didn’t quite gel with the films gritty ‘real life’ locations and aesthetics. I accept, had we not have had these scenes, then the movie wouldn’t have been as engaging, so your mileage may vary, but for me it dragged the otherwise solid production value down a couple of notches.

Having said that, some of the other creature effects look pretty cool, and whilst the CGI effects stood out a mile, some of the gore was surprisingly strong, and the blood in particular looked the part. SO again, your mileage may vary with regards to the shaky cam and demon outfits.

Overall, I enjoyed it. Neither the plot, or the ‘horror’ is going to blow you away, but it’s a solid watch for those who wasn’t something a little different to round off their Christmas holidays. As I mentioned in the opener, its out on Christmas day so could be a shout for alternative boxing day viewing.

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