MOVIE: ELIZABETH HARVEST
STARRING: ABBEY LEE; CIARAN HINDS; CARLA GUGINO
DIRECTED BY: SEBASTIAN GUTIERREZ
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
Elizabeth Harvest looks like a sci-fi film that you have seen before or maybe we just don't see enough of them anymore. Director Sebastian Gutierrez introduces us to a happy, newlywed couple, driving home to a remote Hollywood hills mansion. Elizabeth (Abbey Lee from Neon Demon) is a younger woman and Henry (Ciaran Hinds) is a wealthy, brilliant scientist. They seem destined to live wedded bliss, expressing full commitment to one another. When they arrive to their Frank Lloyd Wright-style glass house, we meet assistants Claire (Carla Gugino) and Oliver (Matthew Beard), seemingly there to wait on the couples every need. Only in this movie nothing is like it seems. We get a tour of the home and Elizabeth is told she can enjoy every room in the house...except for one. And we know what happens to characters when they are told about a room they can't go into. Elizabeth Harvest is multilayered. It's sci-fi, it has a bit of Ex Machina, and a dash of Frankenstein. It's claustrophobic and it's filled with all sorts of surprises. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
It helps that I am a massive fan of films that deal with secluded areas and a house being more than what it looks like. Films such as Alien: Covenant, Ex Machina, Cube, House on Haunted Hill or 10 Cloverfield Lane come to mind, but what Elizabeth Harvest has going for it is a more cerebral approach, including getting into the mind of Henry and Claire through their scientific journals. We find out about the two mildly mad scientists when Elizabeth stumbles upon a room that has not one, but multiple clones of herself. They are stored in cryogenic lockers and when Henry learns that Elizabeth is aware, he decides to start over again, killing her, and awakening the next clone. It's quite creepy.
One of the major successes about a film of this nature is that Gutierrez and his team have gathered a perfect cast. Actor Abbey Lee is a rising star, with a unique, fascinating look and aura that matches her previous roles in Mad Max: Fury Road and Neon Demon. There is also the excellent work of Carla Gugino, who was a star in the Netflix/Stephen King movie Gerald's Game, and isn't given enough roles to spread her wings. Here, there is a cool debate between the two scientists of what it means to play god. Creating Elizabeth seemed like a good idea, but keeping the clones contained is a monster waiting to get out.
Some may sense that the excitement of Elizabeth Harvest wears off after the first acts initial impact, that point may be true to some, but I was surprised by the depths Gutierrez goes into these characters. The third act, with Elizabeth version 2...or 3...or 4, each finding their personality, is backed up with the psychological themes of what it means to be alive, play God, or mess with science. It helps that the performances from all involved, especially Lee, as her character fights with isolation, make the dramatics work like a well paced play. It comes up every year where film critics wish for better, smarter sci-fi, and Elizabeth Harvest is just that. It's a movie with multiple personalities and more than enough clones to keep audiences interested.
Written by: Leo Brady