Uncanny Harbor (2020) review

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In a New England fishing village, a fisherman suffers from visions of his wife who went missing 25 years earlier. With her disappearance remaining a mystery, law enforcement tries to work with the few clues that they have left in Uncanny Harbor.

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Uncanny Harbor is a foreboding and ominous film that combines mystery, horror, and science fiction. The story begins in darkness, literally and visually, as we meet Arthur Dunn, a fisherman whose wife disappeared many years ago. He carries a large flashlight and shines it upwards towards the sky, why is he doing it? And what is he looking for? Answers to these questions will be given later, towards the end of this 103-minute feature film. We learn that Arthur is having constant bad dreams and visions that to him seem completely real. As a result, he regularly visits a psychiatrist for help; one who not only tries to talk him through his problems but also uses hypnotism and regression therapy to get to the bottom of what is haunting him.

Meanwhile, a second plot takes place involving two law enforcement officers, the town’s local deputy, and an FBI/Man In Black-type detective, due to brand new evidence regarding the disappearance of Arthur’s wife Emily is found. This is significant because Emily went missing 25 years ago and this is the most important evidence they have discovered in two decades. The two police officers begin to question everyone in the town and this is a great piece of direction and writing as it gives the audience time to discover the small town and most of its inhabitants. We meet different families with different problems, different people of a different class, and this all helps to give us a well-rounded picture of the small town they all inhabit.

Despite its genre roots and what the film is actually about, in these moments, Uncanny Harbor comes across as a love letter towards America’s working class. Director Nicholas Valaskatgis manages to give us a peek inside the struggling lives of America’s white-collar workers; painting a portrait of a tight nit community and the town in which they ply their trade. Uncanny Harbor manages to be both a sci-fi film and a social commentary, which is no easy achievement.

Of course, throughout this new investigation, Arthur becomes the main suspect and while it’s abundantly obvious that he is a devastated man still picking through the wreckage of a past life, the film takes an awful lot of time to reveal the nature of what actually happened and how it came to be. When we finally discover what it is that has befallen Emily, we recoil at the realization that it’s worse than we ever thought it could have been and completely understand why Arthur cannot sleep and is unlikely to ever forget without help.UH_Poster_2.0_fisherman_NEW

The performances across the board are very strong with Corey Wells outstanding as the desperate but misunderstood Arthur. While William Cheverie’s Detective Murray is also a standout, his gruff-yet-kindly demeanor when questioning the townsfolk is masking a far more dangerous and chilling character. Uncanny Harbor carries itself like an old fashioned drama set in the real world but manages to sell the fantastical elements well. This is helped by the excellent special effects – we only see them for a short time but they are well worth the wait and outshine some major Hollywood productions.

Many of the scenes are quite short, in particular Murray’s questioning of the locals. Valaskatgis, who also acts as editor, stitches them together with a natural grace that gives the film some warmth underneath all of the sorrow and darkness. Not every editing choice, cut, or transition works but the ones that don’t quite fit are few and far between, and you are always far more interested in finding out what is around the corner than judging the effectiveness of whatever has just happened.

Uncanny Harbor is the kind of movie you’ll want to see a second time with someone who hasn’t seen it before, just so you can ask them if it really was as good as you first thought. I loved it.

5 / 5 stars     

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