Director/Screenplay/Music – Andy Mitton, Producers – Jay Dunn & Richard W. King, Photography – Ludovica Isidori, Visual Effects Supervisor – Justin Chandra, Special Effects/Makeup Effects – Moung Hui Park, Production Design – Xiyu Lin. Production Company – One Bad Idea Films.
Gabby Beans (Monique), Emily Davis (Mavis), Ray Anthony Thomas (Ronald), Myles Walker (Lyle), Jay Dunn (Jason), Stephanie Roth Haberle (Crystal), Laura Heisler (Wendy)
During the midst of the Covid Pandemic, Monique receives a call from her college friend Mavis asking for help. Monique is greatly indebted to Mavis for the help she gave her some years ago and immediately goes to her despite the concerns of her family. Mavis has been suffering from terrifying dreams and nightmares in which a creature stalks her and from which she is unable to wake up. Monique then starts having the same dreams too. The two consult a demonologist who says the creature is a Harbinger, who comes to claim a person and wears them down through their dreams, before erasing all memory of their existence from people’s lives.
The Harbinger was a film from Andy Mitton. Mitton made an impressive debut as co-director of YellowBrickRoad (2010), along with Jesse Holland. The two next made the ghost story We Go On (2016), before Andy Mitton went out on his own to make The Witch in the Window (2018).
The Harbinger – not related to The Harbinger (2022), another horror work released around the same time – was shot by Mitton in Binghamton New York in February 2021. This was a point when the Corona Virus pandemic was at its height and lockdowns and masking mandates were in full force. While it is ostensibly a film about a demonic force, it is a film very much about the pandemic even if it isn’t directly so. It is hard not to draw analogies between the characters affected by The Harbinger fading away from people’s memories and those secluded in isolation suffering loneliness.
Mitton shoots in a drab low-key manner. Both because of pandemic restrictions (and also because of the very theme of isolation), the film is restricted to being a work involving minimal characters – the most we ever get is two, occasionally three, people in a scene. Most of the film takes place on the plain, unadorned stage of a large, mostly empty apartment. It is a bare, even austere film.
It is also one of the most startlingly effective films I have seen in some time. There is the jolt moment where Gabby Beans wakes from a dream and receives a call on her phone from her brother (Ray Anthony Thomas) about how they have become infected, before she hears loud crying from the apartment above and the child upstairs then comes abruptly crashing through the roof and she turns to see a strange shadow creature appearing upside down in the doorframe. From that point on, Andy Mitton keeps messing with our sense of Reality and Illusion, drawing us into dreams, offering potential solutions and then drawing us back in even further just when we thought it was over.
The film has a unique and very original idea for a demon. This is spelled out with chilling effect when Gabby Beans and Emily Davis have a video conference with the demonologist (Laura Heisler). Perhaps the most chilling scenes are when Emily Davis picks up a photo commenting on how it seems to indicate that she had a relationship with another guy but has no memory of who he is. That is before Gabby Beans abruptly wakes up in an empty apartment and we realise that Emily Davis has now disappeared, along with her all her belongings, and Gabby faces an annoyed landlord (the film’s producer Jay Dunn) who turfs her out as a squatter. All before reaching an incredibly bleak ending.