At its creepiest, "The Harvest" plays like something ripped from the section of a community newspaper devoted to all things rural and weird.
The first feature from John McNaughton ("Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer") in more than a decade, it stars Samantha Morton and Michael Shannon as parents, which right away tips the scales toward the unhinged. (She's a surgeon, he's a nurse.)
Sweetness, however, mark the first brushstrokes in Stephen Lancellotti's screenplay, as the pair's sick, bedridden and home-schooled teenage son Andy (Charlie Tahan) finds a friend in across-the-creek neighbor girl Maryann (Natasha Calis), who comes in through Andy's bedroom window to play video games and cheer him up.
Mom doesn't like Maryann's attentions, and when we find out why — it's a big house, there's a basement, she's Samantha Morton — a Lifetime movie scenario takes on Stephen King dimensions.
McNaughton shows some signs of directing rust in pacing and tone, but in much the way "Henry" played out, he keeps sensationalism at bay and twisted character drama in his sights, which makes for a more pleasurably icky suspense. He's aided greatly by his sympathetic young actors, and a study in compartmentalized devotion and madness by Morton that recalls Piper Laurie's hair-raising turn in "Carrie."
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes.
Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood.