Movie Review: Harpoon: The Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre (2009)
“The catch of the day … is you.”
Harpoon: Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre (2009)
Director: Júlíus Kemp
Cast: Pihla Viitala, Nae, Terence Anderson
Synopsis: A group of whale watchers whose boat breaks down are picked up by a whale fisher vessel crewed by a bloodthirsty psychotic family.
There’s an unexpectedly humanist subtext at the heart of Icelandic filmmaker Julius Kemp’s gory – and clumsily titled – horror flick, Harpoon: The Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre. The authentic historical footage of the fate that awaits whales unlucky enough to be captured at sea that are shown over the opening credits parallels that of the witless band of tourists who climb aboard a decrepit boat in the hope of seeing some of the gigantic creatures in their natural habitat. Embodied within these stereotypical characters – a Frenchman who murmurs ooh-la-la, a Japanese man who films everything he sees, and so on – is every unsavoury aspect of human nature that you can imagine: racism, sexism, objectification, misogyny, conceit, you name it – everyone in this unlikely assortment of sightseers is burdened with one or other of these exclusively human flaws.
The ship’s captain (Gunnar Hansen – who was none other Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) dies in a freak accident caused by the antics of the permanently intoxicated Frenchman, and when the only other member of the crew flees alone in the ship’s sole lifeboat, the hapless tourists are left at the mercy of the elements. They’re also preyed upon by a crazed fishbilly family of ex-whalers with a bloodthirsty taste for mutilation and murder who persuade them onto their boat under the pretext of sailing them to safety. A hammer to the forehead of one particularly vocal female soon has the rest of the group suspecting that the odd-looking family might not be their saviours after all, and with depressing inevitability they scatter to the four corners – well, two ends – of the boat in their haste not to become the second victim of their deranged hosts.
Harpoon: The Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre might not be the subtlest horror movie ever made, but it is a lot of fun despite suffering from shortcomings common to the genre. Broadly sketched characters we care nothing for suffer grisly and outlandish deaths, but because Kemp is more concerned with picking off his cast rather than having the audience emotionally connect with most of the cast, it sort of works. We don’t really care who buys it or who survives, we just want to see how they meet their end. Harpoon: The Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre is definitely one to file under ‘guilty pleasure.’
(Reviewed 17th May 2016)