TV Terror Guide: The Dark Secret of Harvest Home (1978)


A two-part television miniseries is the perfect format for The Dark Secret of Harvest Home (1978.) There’s more time to learn about the characters and why they do what so many other fictional families have done in so many other horror films: move from the big city to a big house in the country. The problem with this particular example, though, is that all the extra build-up ultimately doesn’t lead to anything very exciting.

.

Nick Constantine (David Ackroyd) and his wife, Beth (Joanna Miles), are struggling with their relationship, but when her father dies and leaves them some money, it seems like their problems are over. With their 15-year-old daughter, Kate (Rosanna Arquette), scared to walk home from school through their neighborhood, a fateful drive in the country leads them across Lost Whistle Bridge to a community seemingly lost in time.

.

It's called “Cornwall Coombe” and there’s a vacant home across the yard from Widow Fortune (Bette Davis), who can keep an eye on any new residents, just like she does for the entire rest of the town. She offers to accept less than even the Constantine’s lowball offer for it, with what’s likely an ulterior motive. The family moves just in time for “Planting Day,” the beginning of their annual cycle of growing corn.

.

“The Coombe,” as the locals call it, is steeped in its ways. It’s interesting that these “ways” come not from religion, but tradition, even though they are devout churchgoers. The events unfold from the viewpoint of Nick, who’s in almost every scene. However, he becomes more and more suspicious about things we haven’t necessarily witnessed. By simply taking his word about any creepy goings-on, we could believe he’s the equivalent of an unreliable narrator.

.

Of course, threats of creepy goings-on increase as “Harvest Home,” the final stage of the growing cycle, grows closer. The action does pick up later in the film, but if I say it “snowballs,” the hill isn’t very steep. Since Nick hasn’t been shown to be a very likable guy (he drinks too much and has cheated on his wife), I didn’t much care what happened to him at the end when he’s undoubtedly the one in danger.

.

The first remotely horrific thing that happens comes late in the first part. During the Coombe’s selection of the new “Young Lord,” young Missy Penrose (Tracey Gold) kills a sheep with a sickle, then wipes her bloody hands on the face of the “winner,” Worthy Pettinger (Michael O’Keefe.) Ironically, he’s the one person in town who wants to leave. If he goes against their “ways,” though, his story might not end well.

.

This is supposedly a faithful adaptation of Tom Tryon’s 1973 novel, Harvest Home, but it’s been way too long since I’ve read it to confirm. Any time his name appears, I must remind you that he’s the actor-turned-writer who starred in I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958.) He also wrote The Other, which was made into a much better film than this one in 1972. It’s half the length and hits with twice the impact.

Visit the TV Terror Guide: 70's TV Movies playlist at ClassicHorrors.Club TV on YouTube to watch The Dark Secret of Harvest Home, as well as all the great movies from this series.

20 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All