The Harbinger (2022)

Director: Andy Mitton

Running Time: 86 Minutes

Starring: Gabby Beans, Emily Davis, Raymond Anthony Thomas, Cody Braverman

Following 2018's chilling The Witch In The Window, writer/director Andy Mitton takes inspiration from recent real-life terrors for his latest unsettling tale. In the midst of lockdown, Monique (Gabby Beans) leaves her family bubble to help a friend with nobody else to turn to. She arrives to help Mavis (Emily Davis) through her terrible nightmares, yet discovers the bad dreams are contagious, along with the demonic presence responsible.

Throughout the film, Monique is characterized as an empathetic person constantly fearing for her loved ones. The believable performances and deft writing make these connections easy to believe in, particularly regarding her family. The familial bond has grown during their time in lockdown, as shown with a shared story involving a food vendor. They're also anxious regarding the outside world affecting their bubble, yet Monique feels it's vital to help her good friend.

Reconnecting with Mavis allows the old friends to gain a semblance of normality within this changed world, while feeling the weight of simply sharing each others company. This brings a trip down memory lane, as Monique is eternally grateful for her friend's past help and seeks to repay the kindness. This is where matters become more difficult than expected, as Mavis needs help with her waking nightmares orchestrated by an ominous figure.

What Mitton has crafted is an eerie piece of horror, where the feeling of isolation resonates within a world which shared that experience in lockdown. Central to these terrors is a horrifying demon wearing a plague doctors mask, preying on fears amplified due to the pandemic setting. It's described as a bad idea that wants to spread, and will happily use the world undergoing its own horror as its playground.

There's shades of A Nightmare On Elm Street to this terror, as one's never sure where the horrors will come from due to the unsettling ways memories and reality transition into nightmares. Awaiting within are superbly crafted chills which uses darkness to great effect, although the most creepy thing are the demon's powers. A truly frightening conceit lies behind them, with terrifying implications that feel exceptionally unique and hopeless to overcome. All that remains is the impact people leave on others' lives, and the hopes that will be enough.

The Harbinger premiered at Frightfest 2022. It will be released on Digital Platforms from 23rd January