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Cult Masterpiece or Missed Opportunity? || Blood Harvest (1987) Movie Review


If I haven’t already stated it before, I was one of the weird kids in middle school. I remember doing the Time Warp with my only friend at the time during lunch, I listened to bands you’ve probably never heard of (The Smiths), and regularly expressed my love for niche, weird celebrities like Tiny Tim and Emo Philips. Along with this, I especially loved anything and everything obscure in the realm of horror. My dad took me to FYE on a weekly basis to spend my allowance on slashers and B-movies. Despite how obsessed with niche horror topics I was at the time and how determined I was to be a “hipster”, I’m shocked that it has taken me this long to hear about Blood Harvest.

Blood Harvest (1987, dir. Bill Rebane) tells the story of a college girl named Jill (played by Itonia Salchek) who is taking a holiday to visit her parents. When Jill returns to her hometown, she finds that her family isn’t as popular as they once were. Particularly Jill’s father who works for the bank and has been foreclosing local farms one by one. Upon arriving home, Jill finds the residence vandalized and her parents missing. It seems the only people who are happy to see her are her friend Sarah (played by Lori Minnetti) and two neighbor boys Gary and Mervon (played by Dean West and Tiny Tim). The film then delves into a generic and rather unshocking “who-done-it” mystery with the Marvelous Mervo as an obvious red herring. The reason I say this is because the filmmakers hardly attempted masking the identity of the true killer – Gary. Very often before the “twist” of the film, audience members not only can see Gary’s sweater and wrist watch during the murders, but also can plainly see his face and hear his voice (or grunts, rather) through the pantyhose mask that he wears.


To be honest, there’s not a lot of substance that this film provides. Events happen, but none of which feel incredibly significant or important to what the plot is. For the most part the film is merely Jill staying in her parent’s house and sometimes calling for help from the incredibly rude and unserious Sheriff (played by Frank Benson). Additionally, Tiny Tim’s character Merv ends up being the only likable character throughout the film. Jill, who is meant to be the final girl, comes across as self-centered and annoyingly oblivious to her surroundings. I think what I ended up disliking the most about her was her lack of concern or panic over her parents being missing. Jill knows about the tension between her family and the townsfolk but it’s as if she doesn’t fully comprehend how serious of an issue that could be. Her father has taken away the livelihood of several farmers in the area, including Gary and Merv’s parents, and when she comes home to a trashed house she doesn’t once think about them potentially being dead or at least kidnapped. Just that they’re missing. And to top it off she thinks it’s clever to continue staying in the house alone – for what reason, audiences will remain unsure. Maybe I’m built differently but I would be staying with Sarah or renting a hotel room. I understand this is a horror movie and the protagonist needs to be in danger – but the type of danger Jill willingly lets herself stay in for no reason at all makes me completely unsympathetic towards her character and down right annoyed by her actions. Jill seems to have so little care about her missing parents that she can’t be bothered to search the entire property for them, either – which, by the way, their bodies end up being right in the entrance of a barn which is a stone throw away from the home’s front door.


Before writing this review, I attempted to find interviews with Tiny Tim in regards to this film and ended up reading a few thoughts of other reviewers. Some of which pointed out how annoyingly rude and useless the Sheriff is, and while people are right to criticize how useless he is, I feel much more forgiving towards the Sheriff than I do Jill. The Sheriff is one of those cops that want to do everything except their job and he finds things such as softball and poker to be more important than a desperate call for help. As annoying and unlikeable as the Sheriff is, I do believe his behaviors can be justified within the context of the film. Again, the entire town hates Jill’s father for the foreclosures, and as an active member of the community why would the Sheriff not also hate the father? The Sheriff even makes reference to being tired about receiving calls that have to do with Jill’s dad. Professionally, this isn’t an excuse but within the film I believe it’s reason enough to explain the Sheriff not doing his job properly.

Tiny Tim ends up not only playing the most likable character in the film but he also ends up being the best actor. Although with Tiny Tim having the most performance experience of the entire cast at the time of production I don’t feel as if this is surprising. My favorite part of this film ended up being the character parallel between Tiny Tim and his character the Marvelous Mervo. Within Blood Harvest, Merv is a grown man in a clown outfit he hardly ever takes off with the goal to make others laugh and to entertain. He’s also perceived as someone who isn’t all “there” and as such is often viewed as weird, strange, or a potential threat. However by the end of the film audiences find that while Merv is strange, he’s not the antagonist. In fact, Merv becomes the hero and saves Jill from his brother Gary. To compare, the performer Tiny Tim is often viewed by the general public as strange, scary, and as if he’s not entirely “there”. However, just one glimpse into any Tiny Tim interview shows that he is the opposite of whatever sinister emotion his music can sometimes invoke. Like Merv, Tiny Tim himself is just a simple and kindhearted man following his passion and gets misjudged for it. Whoever made the decision to place Tiny Tim in a horror movie, advertise him as a killer clown, and then completely subvert expectations is probably the only genius working on the film. I loved this aspect a lot, however I don’t think it’s enough to carry the entire film. I also would not be surprised if the only reason this film was ever made was to put Tiny Tim in it and none other. Blood Harvest came across this way during my viewing as I stated several times in my notes that it feels like a film based entirely on Tiny Tim being present and not much else.


I give Blood Harvest 2 out of 5 coffins.


The only aspect of this film that I found any enjoyment in was the presence of Tiny Tim. Everything else was not only lackluster, but much of the film is heavily focused on violently forced nudity that holds no impact on the plot. While something such as forced nudity isn’t typically a large complaint I have, especially because I cover disturbing cinema that can’t seem to get away from rape, the forced nudity in this film was out of place. In disturbing cinema it’s expected, but in a generic slasher with Tiny Tim it felt not only like it was too much but that it was completely needless. I'm a person who can enjoy a terrible movie for how terrible it is, but this movie only has one thing going for it and that's TT.

If Tiny Tim were taken out of this film and replaced with a less known actor no one would even know this film exists. Tiny Tim being a cast member is the entire gimmick of Blood Harvest. However, I do think Tiny Tim is reason enough to watch the film at least once in one’s lifetime as his performance is entertaining and it’s satisfying to see him in a horror movie. I think if there were someone who cared enough about this movie, I do believe it could be redone in a structurally better way. However, since Tiny Tim has been dead since 1996 I ask: Would there ever be a point to reboot/remake? He was literally the main draw to the film. This film was the one shot at making a good slasher with Tiny Tim starring in it and they blew it.

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