• Dark Harvest / Escapes

    Released by: Intervision Picture Corp.
    Released on: May 30th, 2017.
    Director: James I. Nicholson/David Steensland
    Cast: Cooper Anderson, Patti Negri, David Zyler, Jamee Natella, Debbie O'Der, Vincent Price
    Year: 1992/1986
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    The Movies:

    Intervision Picture Corp. offers up another double dose of shot on video insanity with this latest offering of Dark Harvest and Escapes.

    Dark Harvest:

    The first film starts off with a scene where a man and a woman drive their convertible through the desert. They stop near a rundown old house, it’s clear that they’re lost. As he checks the map, she changes her top – nudity! – and he gets grumpy with her for some reason. He gets out of the car to look around, sees a decapitated rotting head and is then promptly attacked by a killer scarecrow. And we’re off!

    From there, we meet a group of people about to head off to a desert camping retreat. The guy in charge is named Alex (Cooper Anderson) and he wears a swell hat. Accompany Alex are a couple about to be engaged, a guy and his mistress, and two female roommates, one of whom wears a yellow jumper and appears to be perpetually horny. At one point she’s accused of staring so hard at Alex’s buns she’s going to melt the back of his pants. They all pile into a really shitty van and head off into the middle of nowhere but SHOCKINGLY the really shitty van breaks down on a remote desert road that the guy at the gas station warned them in no uncertain terms not to take. Even though they just left that rest stop a few minutes ago, wisdom prevails and they decide to walk “6 to 8 hours” through the desert to the campground. Never mind the fact that nobody seems to have any water, because Alex brought a bottle of Jack Daniels with him. It’s all good. He’s also got a pistol, just in case there’s any trouble.

    Soon enough, they too come across a rundown old house in the middle of the desert. They decide to stop and take a rest for a bit. The guy and his mistress head to a nearby barn and get it on while the girl I yellow hits on Alex. Then a crummy looking guy with a shotgun shows up, he wants to know what they’re doing. Turns out this is his family’s land and it used to be a wheat farm but two years ago the wheat dried up. Also his dog is dead, but it’s not entirely clear if he realizes that or not. He lets them go, they head further into the desert and then camp for the night when the horny girl encourages everyone to confess their fantasies. Married guy wishes he had ‘three bikini babes’ and this upsets his fiancé. Everyone else’s fantasy is dumb except for one girl who wants to end world hunger. She’s alright. Anyway, somehow this leads into people’s confessed fantasies manifesting and scarecrows showing up and killing people.

    Dark Harvest is pretty great but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Things happen for no reason, people say dumb things that don’t have anything to do with what’s going on around them and the scarecrows just sort of show up and kill things at random. Having said that, if low budget camcorder epics are your thing, you’ll find a lot to like hear. Underneath the dialogue that you can’t quite understand is a pretty cool homemade score and the movie offers up lots of quality boobs and cheapjack gore. The killer scarecrows themselves are pretty rubbery looking but atmospheric and creepy in their own low budget way. Filmmaker James I. Nicholson definitely gets points for trying. Despite the fact that this was made on consumer grade gear with obviously very little money the locations are great and the movie goes at a good pace. By the time we get to the end it’s about ten minutes longer than it needs to be and the ending is just plain wonky but otherwise, this is a really fun watch.


    Up next, another low budget shot on video picture – but this time, one that Vincent Price somehow got roped into working on! The film opens with a mailman (Price) delivering a package to a guy’s house. Said guy comes home and opens it up and finds inside a VHS tape with some funky cover art titled ESCAPES. With nothing else going on, the guy pops in the tape and, voila, we have ourselves an anthology film introduced by Price himself.

    First up is Hobgoblin Bridge, where a kid who lives in the desert just can’t seem to befriend his jerk classmates and indulge in any of their summertime fun… until they dare him to cross an old wooden bridge underneath which a hobgoblin supposedly resides. From there, it’s A Little Fishy, a story about a crass jerk of a fisherman who winds up flying solo and landing himself in some hot water thanks to his behavior. In Harmony a jerk of a delivery man winds up in the teeny tiny town of Harmony where they locals don’t take too kindly to him, and in Who’s There a heavyset gentleman tries to lose some weight while jogging only to come across as scary thing in the woods. Moving right along, Jonah’s Dream tells the tale of an old lady who recently lost her husband who is obsessed with finding gold and striking it rich until some aliens show up! Last but not least, in Think Twice an old wino finds a weird glowing red diamond only to lose it to a mugger with some predictably dire results. It all closes out with another segment involving Price that kinda-sorta ties everything together.

    Despite the presence of Price, who could class up pretty much anything he was involved with, Escapes isn’t nearly as quirky or as interesting as the first feature. It plays out like something you might see on a Twilight Zone inspired eighties anthology show, think Amazing Stories or maybe a lighter episodes of Tales From The Darkside, though this feels far more like sci-fi than like horror. It’s not bad – it’ll hold your attention and it’s fun seeing Price show up here, but most of the stories are pretty predictable. Still, the nostalgia vibe in this one is strong and for those raised during the VHS boom years, that’ll count for something.


    Both movies were shot on tape and they look it. Presented in their proper 1.33.1 fullframe aspect ratio expect detail to be soft, fuzzy and unimpressive. Colors can sometimes look faded or even seem to bleed a bit. Black levels tend to vary depending on the lighting in any given scene. Let’s be honest, the transfers here are not great – but if you’re accustomed to the look of old SOV no budget pictures, you’ll likely be just fine with the presentation. It’s all quite watchable, you just need to keep your expectations in check.

    Audio chores for each feature are handled by an English language Dolby Digital 2.0 mix. Thankfully there are optional English subtitles provided for both films, because they come in pretty handy, especially on Dark Harvest where the audio is almost entirely indiscernible. Escapes sounds a fair bit better and is easier to understand. Again, the limitations of the original source material mean this stuff is only ever going to look and sound so good.

    Extras on the disc start off with a ten minute piece called Patti Negri Remembers Dark Harvest in which the actress talking about having to do nudity in the movie, shooting on location in some fairly harsh desert conditions and what she’s gone on to do since working on this particular movie as well as her own experiences with some odd and creepy supernatural stuff in her personal life. In Dan Weiss Remembers Dark Harvest Via Video Skype the actor spends nine minutes talking about how and why he wound up cast in the film, how he got along with some of his co-stars and how the cast and crew sort of made a lot of stuff up as they went along on the shoot.

    Covering the second feature is a piece called Distributor Tom Naygrow On David Steensland, Writer/Director Of Escapes. This five minute featurette sees the producer talk about the director’s string of bad luck and how after making Escapes he was never really able to get much else off the ground.

    Menus and chapter selections are also included.

    The Final Word:

    The Intervision Picture Corp. DVD release of Dark Harvest / Escapes presents two shot on video pictures in about as decent a condition as we can hope for with a few extras documenting the history of the films. The first feature is the most fun, a screwy and fairly trashy killer scarecrow movie, but the second picture has its merits too – and hey, Vincent Price.

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. cmeffa's Avatar
      cmeffa -
      Thanks for the post. I have got to see these.
    1. Darcy Parker's Avatar
      Darcy Parker -
      Heads are severed, bodies are decapitated.