Interesting title, eh? Originally titled REYKJAVIK WHALE WATCHING MASSACRE in it’s native Iceland, HARPOON: WHALE WATCHING MASSACRE gets my vote for the best titled film of 2009!! And best yet, it delivers on the title. We get tourists out for a nice day of whale watching around Iceland getting massacred. I like when a film lives up to the title.
The story begins as do most slasher flicks: With the diverse cast gathering together on a boat to go out and enjoy a nice day of whale watching. There’s a group of three older ladies, a group of Japanese tourists, and some other scattered nationalities. Once out on the ocean, there’s an accident with the ship’s captain (Gunnar Hansen) which leaves the group stranded in the water. They send out an S.O.S. signal and a decommissioned whaling ship pulls up to help them out. This is when the fun begins. The ex-whalers are pretty pissed off that they were forced into giving up their lucrative job of whaling and reduced to selling shitty little nicknacks to tourists. What’s even better is that the ex-whalers are a mom and her two sons (it’s always a mom and her sons!!). They use the stranded tourists to take their frustration out on the “whale huggers” and environmentalists who essentially shut them down. Pretty much as soon as the tourist/whale watchers are helped on board the whaling ship, their hosts start killing them off, forcing the initial survivors to scatter all over the boat. We then get your pretty standard stalk n’ slash flick.
The basics of this film are fun. The gore is well executed and the acting is pretty solid from the entire cast. I had some issues with the plot, though, and I attribute this to being a foreign film. I know that sounds like I’m sticking up for the film on shaky grounds, but if you’ve seen HARPOON, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Huge example: HARPOON kind of comes across as a black comedy, but did director Julius Kemp intend it to actually be one? HARPOON has a weird kind of energy to it and goes off on a lot of odd tangents (one of the main characters almost gets raped). Some characters’ motivations aren’t explained at all making it seem like they just do things for no particular reason. A timid Japanese woman suddenly becomes extremely cut throat and convinces her friend to sacrifice herself because “your grandfather was a Kamikaze pilot” (consequently she does sacrifice herself and dies a horrendous death), and one of the girls is really bitchy for no reason and won’t lift a finger to help any of the other characters). There’s many loose threads in this one and most of them are left dangling and never “snipped.” Some may find this annoying, but I find it to be the norm, especially with Scandinavian genre films.
But I just sat back and took it all in and found myself enjoying HARPOON despite the huge holes in the plot and the sometimes random events unfolding in front of me. We get some pretty damn fun gore and Kemp isn’t afraid to throw around the red stuff!! There’s also an interesting anti-environmentalist message here that makes a solid point (how American policy has carelessly ruined many people’s livelihoods in Iceland). The pacing drags in some places, but once the survivors get on the whaling ship, it picks up and becomes rather enjoyable.
This one probably didn’t make any “Best Horror Films of 2009” lists, but it’s an overall enjoyable film that puts the slasher film in a different setting and has some pretty fun kills and good gore. You’ll also love the NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD-inspired ending (although this one is a little more racist). You can catch HARPOON streaming on Netflix, and if you find yourself in need of a decent film, check it out. You could do worse … way worse.
Director: Julius Kemp
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
Gore: 7 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer