Jill Robinson, visiting her hometown from college, arrives in town to find her welcome anything but warm. The poor economy has caused the local bank to foreclose on several of the nearby farms, causing tension amongst the citizenry. The brunt of the backlash seems to be targeted at Jill’s father, whose job is to auction off all of the foreclosed properties. So when Jill finally makes it home to find the property vandalized, a mannequin hanging in the foyer, and her parents nowhere to be found, naturally she’s very concerned. But she’s also downright spooked when she walks into the kitchen to find the town oddball, Mervon, standing in the middle of the room decked out as a clown and offering her flowers. Seems Mervon and his brother Gary are the only ones genuinely happy to see her, because it’s apparent that someone in town definitely isn’t. While waiting for her folks, the house receives angry phone calls, and Jill’s pretty sure there’s someone prowling around the property at night. To top it off, despite contacting everyone she knows, Jill still can’t seem to locate her parents. But that’s all about to be the least of her problems. Because it’s not long before Jill’s other friends start to go missing and her prowler ups his game from stalking to murder.
Blood Harvest is a 1987 American slasher film directed by Bill Rebane. Rebane is mostly known for his catalog of low-budget horror films, most notably Monster a Go-Go and The Giant Spider Invasion, in part thanks to those two features being included in episodes of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. Blood Harvest came towards the end of Rebane’s filmography, so the movie holds a slight advantage over its predecessors, as by that point the director had a bit more experience under his belt. In theory, at least. But unfortunately that doesn’t mean the film isn’t still littered with all the problems one has come to expect from Rebane, or your typical low-budget horror outing for that matter.
The movie’s greatest claim to fame is that it features falsetto singer, and ukulele player extraordinaire Tiny Tim, in his first and only starring film role. I didn’t actually know that before watching the movie. But the film surely doesn’t want to let you forget it, because he’s the first thing you both see and hear as soon as the movie starts. He also, perhaps predictably, sings the ending song over the closing credits, so be prepared for that. I’m not entirely sure how Tim ended up in this film, but as the story goes, Rebane simply walked up to him after a local appearance and asked if he wanted to be in his movie. Clearly he said yes, but one really wonders why. I mean, I’ll just assume that the reason had to boil down to the money, because walking around as a cryptically talking clown who’s designed to be both feared and mocked certainly isn’t one of the most flattering portrayals he could have chosen. I will give the man credit, though. He does manage to make the creepy clown both highly unsettling and surprisingly sympathetic. So I guess on that level he did a fairly decent job considering what he was given, even though his acting skills only top out at amateurish at best. Mervo may be an awkward oddball, but Tiny Tim’s portrayal still easily makes him the film’s most interesting character. Which is higher praise than anyone else can be given in this movie.
Because, alas, while Tim might be a bit over-the-top at least he seemed to have put in some effort, because the rest of the cast just seem content to quickly waft through the entirety of the film, going through the motions until their scene is over. Dean West plays a rather subdued Gary (at least up until the end.) Peter Krause, seen here in his first film role, plays your typical “I only have sex-on-the-mind” boyfriend. Frank Benson is the familiar put-upon sheriff who seems more content to shirk his responsibilities by playing poker instead of doing his job. And Lori Minnetti is the quickly dispatched, blink and you miss her, supportive friend. But sadly it’s the film’s main character Jill who gets the bulk of the poor treatment, mostly because the movie doesn’t seem to feel the need to really give her much to do. She spends the vast majority of her time either sitting or lying around waiting for her parents. And when the film does deem it worthy to give her something else to do other than laze about, odds are she’s either going to overreact or, far more likely, criminally underact to the situation she finds herself in. Not only does this chick not seem to do anything half-way, but she usually does it in the wrong direction. Find a weird dude dressed as a clown in your kitchen? Just gently ask him if he knows where your parents are. Hear a squeaking noise outside? Panic and call the sheriff. Almost get sexually assaulted by one of your oldest friends? No biggie. Simply push him away and calmly tell him to leave because you need time to think. I swear it’s like this girl’s perception of danger is just completely out of whack. It’d actually be funny if her reactions weren’t so bafflingly annoying most of the time. I mean, kudos to Itonia Salchek for portraying an otherwise likable and sympathetic character and following what was in the terrible script she was given, (and putting up with all the nude scenes,) but I’ll be damned if I still didn’t want to smack her character a couple of times for being such a dip.
But while the characters themselves present their own befuddling problems, the vast majority of the film’s issues lie within the script itself. There are several events that take place for no discernible reason, like the point where a police officer’s convenient sudden appearance helps save Jill from an early death. No explanation is ever given for his spontaneous arrival. He just shows up, sirens blazing, which one would think would indicate some kind of an emergency. But no. He just turned them on for shits and giggles I guess, because all he does is knock on the door, glance around the porch, then leave. We never figure out why he’s there, and he doesn’t even try the front door which, incidentally, is another sticking point I have with this movie. Because by that point in the film I think that half the town has already walked through that family’s house without invitation. I swear 90% of Jill’s problems in this movie could have been avoided if she’d just bothered to lock the damned door. But like I said, that girl has no proper concept of danger, so I guess all that vandalism, harassment and stalking just bounced right off her. I mean, sure, she constantly says she’s worried, but never so worried it seems to make sure the house is locked up at night. For such an otherwise likable character, the movie sure did it’s best to make her piss me off.
But in her defense, it’s not just poor Jill who’s forced to make bafflingly bizarre decisions. Most of the other characters are also given similarly ill imposed acts of illogical actions to carry out as well. Of course the most obvious is Mervo’s sudden decision to want to join the circus and the town’s inexplicable acceptance of his sudden change in demeanor due to his obvious mental break. But others also suffer similar, and oftentimes more tragic, leaps in logic. When Jill’s friend Sarah exits Jill’s house and encounters the stalker, her immediate reaction is not to simply run back into the safety of the house she just walked out of. Because why on earth would you want to go back through a door that you know is unlocked, to a phone that you can use to call the police, and a friend who could help you defend yourself. That’s crazy talk. It makes far more sense to avoid heading towards any possible means of escape or nearby safety, and instead run off into the night towards the darkened, run-down barn several hundred feet away. Good call there, Sarah. You must have graduated valedictorian of your class.
I know I’ve ragged on it a lot, but believe it or not I actually didn’t hate Blood Harvest. Yeah, it’s got all the hallmarks of a very low-budget, hastily written slasher written all over it, but it also still ends up being surprisingly entertaining, thanks in no small part to Tiny Tim’s absolutely bizarre turn as the mentally disturbed Marvo. He can’t fix all the film’s problems, especially the horrible pacing and the seemingly brain-damaged characters, but I’ll be damned if he isn’t fascinating to watch. Of course, if you don’t give one flying fig about the falsetto singer, then you also have your typical low-budget horror staples of excessive nudity and blood letting to look forward to instead, neither of which the film is lacking. Granted, none of that makes the quality of the rest of the film any good, but hey, at least it’s something to look forward to. So if you like creepy clown movies, cheap slashers, or are one of those rare ukulele aficionados, then this is something you can look into. If not, you’ll probably want to steer clear.
Blood Harvest is available on a variety of streaming services.
Blood Harvest is also available on DVD.