Don’t read this review.


Watch the film.

Writer/director Sebastian Gutierrez’s psychosexual sci-fi/horror Elizabeth Harvest works best the less you know, any review of the film inevitably providing spoilers to some aspect of his adult fairytale’s rug pulling.

So don’t read this now.


Watch the film.

Then come back and read the review and see if you agree with it.

Last chance…

After a whirlwind romance, ethereal and naïve, young, beautiful newlywed Elizabeth (Abbey Lee) and her much older husband, wealthy scientist Henry (Ciarán Hinds) arrive at Henry’s palatial, high-tech estate in the country to begin their lives together.

Welcomed by Henry’s oddly familiar staff, enigmatic housekeeper Claire (Carla Gugino) and blind flower arranger Oliver (Matthew Beard), Henry takes great pleasure in showing off their opulent home to the wide-eyed Elizabeth, giving her free run of the house apart from a mysterious locked room in the basement, Henry’s study/laboratory which he asks her never to enter.

A few days later, Henry leaves Elizabeth alone when he ostensibly goes on a business trip and of course Elizabeth succumbs to temptation and enters the forbidden room. At which point Henry appears with a rather large machete, chases her through their now red neon-splashed home and brutally murders her, burying her in the garden with the aid of Claire and Oliver.

Then, after a whirlwind romance, Henry brings home his beautiful young bride Elizabeth (Abbey Lee), ominously warning her never to enter the locked room in the basement…

A Gothic/sci-fi riff on the Blubeard folk tale by way of Brian De Palma, Nicolas Winding Refn, and Alex Garland’s Ex Machina, Sebastian Gutierrez’s Elizabeth Harvest manages to both have his cake and eat it, delivering a quasi-feminist cautionary tale of mad scientists, human cloning, toxic masculinity, female oppression and the commodification of women even as he commodifies model/actress Abbey Lee, his camera lingering on her body and face in much the same way as it lingers on the gleaming, sterile surfaces of Henry’s home, Elizabeth as much a trophy, a possession, as any of Henry’s glittering baubles. And Henry is driven to create and then to destroy her, over and over again, in order to fully possess her, murdering her the ultimate affirmation of his ownership, their lives a Möbius strip of sex, desire and violence.

Beautifully shot and suffused with a clammy, almost incestuous, undercurrent of lanquid sexuality, Elizabeth Harvest often feels more like a half-remembered fever dream and it’s at it’s best when it’s not explaining it’s overly convoluted plot, the film’s last act bogging itself down in largely expository flashbacks via Elizabeth’s reading of Gugino’s Mrs Danvers-esque Claire’s journal which at least gives the always under-utilised Gugino something to do other than smile enigmatically. Hinds as ever is wonderful, his Henry is a very human monster; driven mad by first by grief, then by hubris, embracing the darkness within himself and being utterly consumed by it, his matter-of-fact justification for his crimes to Gugino made all the more chilling by his smug sense of entitlement.

Surprisingly good however is Lee. Building on the strong work she did in Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon, the initial listless, passive naiveté of her performance evolves into something much more interesting as the film unfolds, her Elizabeth growing from blank, newborn innocence to a womanhood hard won through experience, knowledge and painful revelation.

A post-modern adult fairytale where curiosity kills more than cats and misogyny is fuelled by the male fear of a woman with knowledge, Elizabeth Harvest is a smart, stylish, elegant slice of sci-fi/horror that comments on the queasy gender politics of Princess fantasies even as it slyly embraces them.

Rental Review: Elizabeth Harvest
3.5Overall Score
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