As we all know, trying to survive a seemingly never-ending global pandemic is pretty damn scary, but what if dying from it completely erased you and it was as if you had never existed? Since we started dealing with COVID-19 in real life in 2020, there have been a slew of pandemic-based movies, but Writer/director Andy Mitton, who is responsible for films like We Go On (2016) and The Witch in the Window (2018), has come up with a unique and frightening twist on pandemic horror. His new film The Harbinger had its World Premiere at this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival and uses the fear of contracting coronavirus, combined with a demonic entity which invades your dreams and feeds on fear, to effectively tell a horrifying and profound story of survival and our need to be remembered.
The Harbinger tells the story of Monique, played by Gabby Beans (House of Cards, Ray Donovan), a woman who is quarantining with her father and brother Ronald (Raymond Anthony Thomas) during the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve been diligent about masking and trying not to get sick, but when Monique’s friend Mavis, played by Emily Davis (American Rust), calls her in a state of panic and almost suicidal, Monique makes the difficult decision to travel to New York city to help her friend. When she arrives at Mavis’ apartment in Queens, Monique is stunned to learn that not only are people in the building not masking and taking precautions against Covid, but Mavis tells Monique that she has been having nightmares she is unable to wake up from and she thinks the only way to make the dreams stop is to die. Mavis also tells Monique that she is being visited by what looks like a large bird wearing a plague doctor mask and the being is trapping her in her dreams for days. Monique is terrified to learn that the dreams tormenting her friend are contagious and the entity that is stalking her is a demon that feeds on the dark energy generated by the pandemic and fear experienced by people in isolation. After talking to a demonologist online, Monique is determined to try and save her friend and stop the demon from infecting any more people.
Since some people continue to act like the pandemic is over, the current surge being caused by a subvariant of COVID-19 in real life won’t be the last, so The Harbinger feels especially timely and distressing. The idea of a pandemic within a pandemic, because the dreams and the demon are contagious, gives an added layer of terror to the film and the gloomy atmosphere lends a sense of hopelessness to the story. The Harbinger features some well-planned scares and the demon dressed as a giant bird wearing a plague doctor mask is a highly disturbing visual. The demon invading people’s dreams and then stalking them is cleverly reminiscent of A Nightmare on Elm Street and the fear of getting sick and also possibly having your existence erased gives a visceral feeling of dread to the film. Beans’ portrayal of Monique as a woman who is trying to make sure her family doesn’t get sick while attempting to save her friend’s life is fantastic and her desperation feels genuine.
The Harbinger effectively presents a chilling concept involving dreams, comparable to A Nightmare on Elm Street, to address the horrors of isolation and the ongoing pandemic, as well as the importance of acknowledging our existence. This is not a film to watch alone late at night. Dealing with the pandemic while also trying not to get infected with a demon determined to erase your existence is way too relatable in 2022.
Movie Score: 4/5