Twist endings are often hit and miss. If done correctly, that film transcends a linear story and becomes a point of lamentation, a riddle to go back and try to solve from the beginning. Done poorly, that twist ending can miss its mark and negate everything that comes before it, often undermining its strengths.
The Harrowing works on so many different levels that to see it fail in its third act is nothing short of painless.
Matthew Tompkins plays Ryan Calhoun, a vice detective haunted by the death of his partner. A sting leaves his best friend dead and Ryan having to kill the murderer, another officer, in self-defense. The murdering officer, overcome with a crazed bloodlust, mentions demons in his final moments. Calhoun, hoping to clear his name after being implicated in his friend’s death, goes undercover at the asylum the murdering officer was once committed to; an asylum where the line between personal demons and those of the horned variety have become decidedly blurred.
I dug the concept here and in a world saturated with zombie films and teenagers running from masked stalkers, there is a certain maturity to the storyline that is refreshing. Calhoun quickly learns that within the walls of the asylum sanity is a commodity that’s hard to retain and every minute seemingly makes the grasp on his own ever weaker.
Matthew Topmkins is nothing short of effortless as Calhoun. With a roster including over 45 films his contribution is the lynchpin weaving the various threads of the story together and it is his portrayal that again gives the film a higher sense of purpose than a lot of recent indie fair. Tompkins is joined by genre veterans Arnold Vosloo (the Mummy) and Michael Ironside (Scanners, Total Recall). The rest of the cast is equally adept and there is never a moment where the film, in this sense, doesn’t feel accomplished.
Unfortunately, it is the film’s accomplishments that make the third act all that more disappointing. As the audience descends deeper into rabbit hole alongside Calhoun the gravitas that grounds the picture begins to slip away and we are left with only the destination, which, like too many twist endings can only go one of two ways. With The Harrowing, Director Jon Keeyes unfortunately gives us a reveal that quite frankly, is an overused one when it comes to genre films which only serves to compare it to films that work to diminish its independent accomplishments. If only The Harrowing could have truly given us something we had not seen before in its ending it would have complimented so much of what had come before it.