The Harrowing: Hell is happening in this complex horror thriller


The Harrowing is very reminiscent of Jacob’s Ladder if it were directed by Alfred Hitchcock. If you think M. Night Shyamalan is the king of plot twists, think again.

Unlucky Partnerships

The Harrowing is a horror thriller written and directed by Jon Keeyes. It stars Matthew Tompkins, Arnold Vosloo of Bosch and legendary character actor, Michael Ironside. What starts off as a relatively straightforward police procedural drama quickly turns into something else courtesy of some trippy camera techniques.

When we are introduced to Detective Ryan Calhoun (Tompkins) he is in the middle of an uncomfortable sting operation with his partner. Apparently, they are after a white slavery ring leader who specializes in under age trafficking. When Calhoun exits the scene on a trip to the bathroom to make a call to the Ops leader, he hears a cacophony of gunplay.

Dashing into the living room, firing his gun, he notices his partner is down and barely clinging to life. Before he can do anything, he is attacked out of nowhere by one of the kingpin’s bodyguards and stabbed. However, he manages to fire a round into the guy’s face thus ending that potential threat.

He sees his partner’s lifeless body before passing out. When we next see him, he is awaking from a dream about that very incident. We learn that as a result of this unfortunate tragedy, his boss, Lt. Logan (Ironside) hates his guts and wants him banished from the department.

The Harrowing (2) – Courtesy of Wolfclan Productions and October Coast

After receiving information from Bethany (Erin Marie Garrett) who is part of his next sting, Calhoun and his partner and childhood best friend, Jack Myers (Damon Carney) along with another associate, Roy Greenbaum (James Cable) set off for their headquarters.

This Is Not Business as Usual

The Harrowing – Unlucky Partnerships – Courtesy of Wolfclan Productions and October Coast

Once they are there, everything is routine. Bethany is working her “John” who happens to be a prominent Congressman named Dunning (Steven Markel). In need of caffeine for the long night ahead, Greenbaum shirks his duty as the newbie and coerces Calhoun into making the coffee run.

Upon returning with java in hand, everything is eerily quiet. At least until he hears massive chaos erupting and Bethany screaming in the sting room. Rushing into the apartment, Calhoun quickly sees a gore fest of the highest order.

Congressman Dunning is a torso with his meat stripped off. Bethany is a bloody mess and he finds Greenbaum perched over the lifeless body of Jack eating his entrails like a George Romero zombie.

After Greenbaum charges him and calls him a demon, Calhoun kills him dead on the spot. Enter Lt. Logan (Ironside) who looks as if he is about to throw up. The two have words because Logan feels that he abandoned his partners which resulted in their deaths.

Asked to give up his gun and badge pending an internal investigation into the shooting, Calhoun exits the scene to begin his own inquiry into why the massacre occurred.

The Demons within Us

The Harrowing – The Demons within Us – Courtesy of Wolfclan Productions and October Coast

Convinced that Greenbaum was the killer and intrigued by the demon reference, Calhoun starts delving into his old colleague’s background. He finds out during the course of his research that Greenbaum was a paranoid schizophrenic and was treated at the Auburn Forensic Hospital.

Dr. Franklin Whitney (Vosloo) is the chief of staff and seems to have weird thoughts on rehabilitation. He believes that everyone has demons inside of them and that they are repressed due to the moral values of society. Whenever a person becomes disturbed mentally it is because those factions are at war.

His brand of therapy is to have a “dialogue” with those entities bringing them to life. Calhoun also finds out that Whitney discharges threatening individuals who might possibly commit violent crimes. He compiles his research and requests a meeting with Lt. Logan to go undercover at the hospital.

After reviewing the evidence, Logan reluctantly agrees to participate in an investigation. He gets Calhoun admitted to Auburn and this is where the fun begins.

Jacob’s Ladder on Acid

The Harrowing – Jacob’s Ladder on Acid – Courtesy of Wolfclan Productions and October Coast

While Calhoun is doing his stint at the hospital, he is attending therapy sessions with Dr. Whitney who has his suspicions on why the former detective was admitted. They start diving into his past and the harrowing circumstances of his partners’ deaths.

At night, Calhoun roams the hospital in search of more clues about Greenbaum and the mysterious treatments that go on at Auburn. He happens to see a patient get wheeled down the hall by some very odd-looking orderlies and into the elevator never to return.

Meanwhile, he is befriended by local nympho and Shakespeare conspiracy theorist Ella (Hayden Tweedie) and her bestie, Karl (John Walpole). They tell Calhoun that he should never speak of “down below” where the others are taken never to return.

He finds out that odd procedures are being done on the patients and then one night he finds himself on the gurney being wheeled into the elevator. Every time he wakes up, he is left with the vague flashbacks of an operating theater.

The deeper Calhoun dives the more frightening the situation becomes and he begins to see that Whitney may be creating the demons rather than unleashing them. Teetering on the brink of insanity he loses his sense of reality. After a night in solitary pumped full of drugs after attempting to kill Ella, he has a breakdown and Whitney can get inside his head.

Without giving anything away, the ending to The Harrowing employs one of the most twisted plot conventions ever. Leaving you with a feeling of whether or not you are sane. Things are clearly not what they seem and you will be thinking about this film long after you view it.

The Verdict

Jon Keeyes has written a script with more bends and curves than Mulholland Drive in Hollywood. You really have to pay attention when you are watching The Harrowing or you will get lost. This film like I have noted before at the beginning of this review is Jacob’s Ladder as envisioned by David Lynch from storyboards and plot concepts from Alfred Hitchcock.

Yes, the story is a little slow to start but once it kicks in you are riveted to the screen. Matthew Tompkins as Ryan Calhoun is convincing as the beleaguered detective whose obsession with demons might prove to be his ultimate undoing.

Michael Ironside is always a joy to watch in every role he plays. Although Lt. Logan is not a main character his acting is solid. You get the sense that his disdain for Calhoun runs deep. He excels at playing gruff authority figures and commands every scene he is in.

Arnold Vosloo has come a long way since 1999’s The Mummy. Now in his 50’s, he channels a malevolent Christopher Lee in his role as Dr. Franklin Whitney.

While outwardly he appears to have noble intentions albeit intertwined with archaic ideas on the causes of mental imbalances, you get the distinct impression that he is hiding more than he is revealing. This fact makes his character even more terrifying like Laurence Olivier’s calm dentist in The Marathon Man who delights in torturing Dustin Hoffman.

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The Harrowing is a smart, unique horror film from Wolfclan Productions. Look for it to be released on Dec. 25.

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