Harpoon: Whale-Watching Massacre (2009)

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A group of foreigners on a trip find themselves terrorized in this Icelandic horror film that pays homage to one of the all-time classic films in terror.

In Reykjavik, Iceland, a group of foreigners and locals are set to head to a whale-watching excursion on the ship Poseidon. They include Annett, a young punk rock type; Leon and Marie-Ann, two Americans; Japanese couple Yuko and Nobuyoshi and their caregiver Endo; drunk Frenchman Jean-Francois, and three ladies, Helga, Signy, and Asa. Led by Captain Petur and his assistant Bjorn, the group heads to the sea and find themselves unable to find any whales.

When a completely drunk Jean-Francois is found jumping on the mast of the ship, Petur warns him to come down or he will contact the authorities. When Jean-Francois slips and falls, a spear impales Petur and the group freaks out. Trapped in the sea, a shocked and sad Annett, who was nearly raped by Bjorn, sings on the radio after Bjorn ditches the group. Tryggvi, a fisherman who is on board the nearby Hvalur9, picks the group up and unbeknownst to them, has plans to have them all killed with help from his disabled brother Siggi and their mother. The group quickly learns upon boarding the Hvalur9 that they will have to try to survive this menacing trio.

This Icelandic horror thriller (co-produced with the UK and Finland) is meant to pay homage to the great Texas Chain Saw Massacre (the original title for this film being The Reykjavik Whale-Watching Massacre) only replace a chainsaw with harpoons. However, there are a few striking similarities between the two films that the mononymous Sjon used in his script. Let’s start with those.

Where Chain Saw involved a crazy family who lost their jobs at the local slaughterhouse, the trio of familial killers here are ticked off at the foreigners because of foreigners’ influence on Greenpeace, which put an end to whale-hunting, as seen in the film’s opening credits and it was hunting that helped this family survive. There are technically three killers (and an undead grandpa) in Chain Saw. In this film, there are two brothers and their mother, but it is the older brother who serves as the leader rather than the mother. And one more thing. Both films have the late horror legendary actor Gunnar Hansen. In Chain Saw, he originated Leatherface. In this film, Hansen has more of an extended cameo as Poseidon captain Petur (with his voice dubbed in post).

The cast of potential victims are a very diverse cast in terms of their origins. They are led by Finnish actress Pihla Viitala, who plays the punkish Annett, who for the most part is likable only to find her nice girl persona taken advantage of at first by assistant captain Bjorn and then one can guess she is most likely going to be the final girl when she is kidnapped by our killer trio. American actor Terence Anderson and British actress Miranda Hennessy are quite good as Leon and Marie-Anne, the latter who has a bit of a backstory as the trip was to have been her honeymoon but was met with a tragic end. Nae Yuuki’s Endo is a very mysterious character who is sort of a housekeeper/caregiver type when it comes to couple Nobuyoshi and Yuko. Aymen Hamdouchi’s Jean-Francois is more of the annoying character that one just wishes just gets his, even with the stereotypical behavior.

Now onto the killers. Helgi Bjornsson is great as the leader of the group, Tryggvi. He’s the Drayton Sawyer of the film, even with his character being more of the elderly brother, where it’s implied that Drayton is the patriarch of the group rather than an elderly brother. Stefan Jonsson’s Siggi is somewhat like well, Leatherface. It sounds weird, but it’s true because it is Siggi’s action out of fear that triggers the body count and we see him in a situation where he must find himself close to the family in fear and een spouts off biblical references on numerous occasions. Gudrun Gisladottir’s Mama seems somewhat nice in the scene where she talks to her two sons over dinner, but then her true colors are shown, and she is clearly what Grandpa Sawyer would be if he was more active with vigor. However, one of the film’s twists reveal another shocking character who can be a combination of both the Hitchhiker and Chop-Top.

Now, onto the kills and while there will not be spoilers as to who dies, the practical FX truly did a great job. There are two amazing kills that have to be mentioned. One such kill involves the use of a victim swimming to sea and Tryggvi uses the ship’s harpoon gun to reel them in. Even before the kill, as our killer leader aims, he even mutters “let’s see if I still got it”. The other involves an amazing kill scene that starts out with a stagger due to a knife in their side and the killer then throwing an axe to decapitate the victim. This particular scene made this reviewer go wild as well as a death scene that would make Tom Savini proud.

Harpoon: Whale-Watching Massacre is a wild Scandinavian homage to the great Texas Chain Saw Massacre replacing chainsaws with harpoon, the late Gunnar Hansen making the most of his screen time, and a rip-roaring good time with some pretty intense kill scenes.

WFG RATING: B

A production of the Icelandic Film Company in association with Film and Music Company and Solar Films. Director: Julius Kemp. Producers: Julius Kemp, Gisla Gislason, and Ingvar Þórðarson. Writers: Sjon and Torsten Metalstein Hvas. Cinematography: Jean-Noel Mustonen. Editing: Sigurbjorg Jonsdottir.

Cast: Pihla Viitala, Nae Yuuki, Terence Anderson, Miranda Hennessy, Helgi Bjornsson, Gudrun Gisladottir, Stefan Jonsson, Aymen Hamdouchi, Snorri Engilbertsson, Gunnar Hansen, Thor Kristjansson, Carlos Takeshi, Miwa Yanagisawa, Halldora Geirhardsdottir, Hanna Maria Karlsdottir, Gudlaug Olafsdottir.

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