Harbinger Down Movie Review
Written by Steven Wood
Released by Vertical Entertainment
Written and directed by Alec Gillis
2015, 82 minutes, Rated R
Theatrical and VOD release on Augsut 7th, 2015 | DVD released on September 1st, 2015
Lance Henriksen as Graff
Camille Balsamo as Sadie
Matt Winston as Stephen
Winston James Francis as Big G
Milla Bjorn as Svet
While hitching a ride on a crabbing boat named Harbinger, a group of college students attempt a study on the effects of global warming on Beluga whales. During an outing they discover an old piece of Soviet space junk with its frozen pilots still on board; but it seems some other living thing was frozen on board with them.
About 30 minutes into Harbinger Down I was hit with a strong sense of familiarity; that might be due to seeing Lance Henriksen in another sci-fi movie, but that wasn’t it. I kept thinking that I’ve seen this before, so much so that I decided to look at the trivia section of IMDB; then I saw what I suspected. This is what the 2011 prequel to The Thing was supposed to be, at least the visual effects aspects anyway. The reason for this is due to the effects company, Amalgamated Dynamics (ADI), decided to start a Kickstarter campaign and create something using the effects which were wasted on 2011’s The Thing. Some of the effects used in that movie were heavily modified using CGI instead of the already constructed practical props/costumes. Other effects were simply thrown out and replaced with CGI altogether.
With a top-notch team of makeup artists, animatronic operators, creature creators, and directed by a VFX guru himself, Harbinger Down is a testament to the days of practical effects. The resume of Alec Gillis includes Aliens, Alien 3, Death Becomes Her, Starship Troopers and my personal favorite, the Tremors franchise. There are many more movies he’s worked on, but these are my favorites. The amount of experience and care involved with Harbinger Down led to effects that are grotesque yet beautiful.
Effects aside, there is a good movie here, though the obvious similarities to The Thing are very apparent, which isn’t a bad thing, just noticeable. Not only that, we’ve seen this plot many times before, almost to the point of becoming formulaic; so much so, you’ll figure out where the story is going, how it will get there, and who will survive in the end. One of the characters has an ulterior motive which could have led to some interesting ideas, but sadly that person didn’t last long enough for their plan to come to fruition.
I can’t give enough praise to Alec Gillis and ADI, who on top of the Kickstarter funding, put up their own cash to ensure the VFX will be up to their standard. Since Harbinger Down isn’t really original in sense of plot, I hope it wasn’t created in spite over the relationship between ADI and the creative team behind 2011’s The Thing.