Newlywed Elizabeth (Abbey Lee) is driven to the country house in the middle of nowhere by her older, scientist husband Henry (Ciarán Hinds), aware she will be cut off from civilisation to some extent, but she is nevertheless flattered to have the attention and devotion of such an intelligent man. Once they arrive there, she gets herself comfortable with her new surroundings and the wedding night goes swimmingly, though when Henry gives her the tour of the place, it all seems lovely until he informs her there is one room in the lower echelons of the building that he forbids her from entering. Intrigued, she squirrels away this information for future investigation...
If that sounds familiar, you know your European myths for it is fairly blatantly following the fable of Bluebeard, though here Hinds remained resolutely cleanshaven. In fact, so recognisable was this framework that you quickly began to wonder why bother watching the rest of the film when it appeared predictability was going to reign and it was building to a late climax where Elizabeth would finally enter the forbidden chamber and all would be revealed of the true horror of her spouse's past wives. However, writer and director Sebastian Gutteriez was pulling the wool over the eyes of the audience, for that both was and was not the destination he was aiming for, as you discovered.
And you discovered that pretty quickly into the running time too, which genuinely left you as a viewer unsure of Gutteriez's next move, apparently musing over where the line between true love and unhealthy possessiveness was drawn, yet not above including many shots where his leading lady was in a state of undress. Were we supposed to be getting off on Lee's physical attractiveness in the same way that Henry was? Or was this some form of meta comment on the methods male filmmakers used to keep the audience watching when they knew they would be guaranteed some T&A at regular intervals? Or further, was there no irony at all, and he was using his leading lady for decoration?
To be honest, it was difficult to tell, and as this advanced at rather too leisurely a pace towards a conclusion that was pointedly complex in a manner the source fable was not, on the surface at least, it was also difficult to tell if Elizabeth Harvest was a director's show-off piece or a sincere examination of gender politics, using the conventions of the far-off past to comment on the modern approach to similar yarns. He used plenty of techniques to wrongfoot the viewer, initially through the straightforward echoing of the story that many of us heard in childhood, matching the childlike innocence of the Elizabeth character. Lee had a somewhat thankless task here, for as a well-known supermodel she had a hill to climb when more or less everyone watching her would have a hard time believing she could act - which she definitely could.
Act to any degree of accomplishment at any rate, compounded by her character's naivety which made her come across like a dumb redhead and not someone whose curiosity will gradually serve her well, giving her the smarts to assert herself, which is kind of what doesn't happen, yet what does happen as well. It should be pointed out this was a horror movie as well as a science fiction effort, so the genetics that were glossed over to keep the plot in motion were overwhelmed by the chilling admission that serial killers may not have any other motivation to kill than they really enjoy murdering people. You can apply all the psychology you want, but it may well boil down to the power trip they get off on, and that was undoubtedly the sickest joke here. Away from the message-making, Gutteriez conjured up a sleek, stylish appearance to his artificially presented ruminations, well-served by Diana Trujillo's production design and Francisco Arbelaez's art direction; they all meshed very well together to deliver a work that caught the eye, if not wholly the intellect. Rachel Zeffira's "sinister Mike Sammes Singers" music was effective also.