Director – Julius Kemp
Cast – Pihla Viitala, Terence Anderson, Nae, Miranda Hennessy, Aymen Hamdouchi, Carlos Takeshi, Miwa Yanagizawa, Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir, Guðlaug Ólafsdóttir, Snorri Engilbertsson, Gunnar Hansen
Release Year – 2009
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I came across this film and immediately wanted to see it mostly due to its awesome title, and the fact that I had yet to see a slasher film involving Icelandic whale watching. While most of the reviews I came across were negative, I had high hopes for this one and hoped it was just underrated, but that was not the case. While the title is awesome and the overall storyline is interesting, Harpoon: Whale Watching Massacre suffers many ridiculous pot problems that kept it from being as awesome as I wanted it to be.
A group of whale watchers from all walks of life set sail early one morning for a day of close encounters with Iceland’s mike whales. When a drunken buffoon incidentally causes the death of the ship’s captain(Gunnar Hansen; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), the passengers are elated when a nearby whaling vessel picks them up and promises to being them to safety. However, soon after boarding the eerie vessel they learn the evil intentions of the family on the vessel, who now use the defunct ship as their own human killing ground.
I had never seen an Icelandic horror film before, especially one with a plot involving Iceland’s popular whale watching and massacring, so this was a unique film for me regardless of its end results. If you know me then you know that I love nowhere-to-run scenarios, and that is about all that we are given in this story given the vast majority of the setting is on a ship at sea. Things start off smoothly with our protagonists, all of different races and backgrounds, excitedly joining Captain Petur(Gunnar Hansen)’s whale watching expedition. It does not take long before he is killed off, and we are soon exposed to the sadistic whaling family “saving” the stranded tourists. I loved the idea of the ship serving pretty much as a large mobile torture chamber, and our antagonists, two brothers and their mother, did well in providing some good kills and murderous antics. The setting was used to full potential, providing many dark hallways and numerous hiding spots for our protagonists to hide in fear of their lives, however that is about the only element that was used to full potential. The film’s plot problems are pretty much mind-boggling as due to how big of a mess things became as a result of these faults. From the point where Captain Petur is killed we are introduced to this hack writing job when one of the characters quietly sings Bjork’s “It’s Oh So Quiet” over the loudspeaker, including many other ridiculous scenes that really made no sense to me. At times I felt like maybe writer Sjon Sigurdsoon was trying to take the film in a comical route, which I would have appreciated if done right, but I never felt any of these scenes to be comical, which instead came off as poorly written(and possibly poorly directed) content. To make matters worse, the final act of the film was devastated by poor and unsatisfying writing as well, sabotaging the positive second act that had me thinking that this could indeed be a positive film, but of course I was wrong.
Director Julius Kemp did an OK job with this film, employing awesome sets and using them to full potential. The whaling boat used as a mobile house of torture was awesome and provided great atmosphere, and the kills in the film were brutal and came with positive gore as well. The acting performances were so-so, and some of the film’s plot-related faults, such as the silly scenes in the film, could have potentially been better had there been better direction, but with Sigurdsoon’s screenplay I feel Kemp’s job was doomed from the start, but he at least made it bearable for the most part.
Overall, Harpoon: Whale Watching Massacre could have been a great watch and an awesome slasher film, but too many silly writing faults kept this from being anything other than mediocre at the very best. The direction aids the poor screenplay with good kills and great atmosphere, but that is the most this Icelandic film has to offer.