Sunday, October 30, 2016

MR Harbinger Down

Movie: Harbinger Down
Directed by Alec Gillis
Release date August 2015 
Genre Science-fiction/creature feature/horror indie film
Country USA/Russia

Were you disappointed in The Thing (2011)? You weren't the only one, the film was also a huge let down for the guys who made the special effects, and for good reasons. All the beautiful practical effects they did, the animatronic work, the puppetry, the stop-motion, the miniatures, etc. was quickly covered up by late post-production CGi!

All because some producer didn't like how they looked. I'm guessing the guy was blind because the final product looks like cheap lazy PS2-era 3D graphics...

And it's even more insulting when you think those came from StudioADI, a special effects workshop founded by Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr., two FX legends who worked on every possible cult classics from Alien to Tremors, Demolition Man, Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films and the X-Men series!

So what did they do? They kickstarted their own film to feature their own work properly!

Self-financed independent film or not, let's have an honest look at it.

The story is as simple and straightforward as these type of horror films can go. In fact it could best be summarize as "The Thing... on a boat".

Some university scientists want to study the effect of global warming on whales. Thankfully this grad student's grandfather is a ship captain. They embark on the fishing boat Harbinger on a trip to the Bering Sea.

They uncover a Cold War-era frozen Soviet satellite...

Long story short, the satellite spreads a very strange sentient self-replicating microscopic organism which starts assimilating the crew one by one and killing anyone on its path!

For some reason this artificial virus is smart enough to evolve into various types of mutations and also imitate people! Where did I see this before...?

Let's say it right away, Alec and Tom simply redid The Thing. There was no effort put on the plot, the characters or even the lore behind the monster. And I like some internal logic in my movie monsters!

The film was clearly written and directed by Alec Gillis, and produced by Tom Woodruff Jr., as a stand-in for The Thing. This is a case where the effects were the main focus of the entire project. And even then, the film is kind of lacking.

The cast is mostly led by a bunch of somewhat decent cast of unknowns, which were really trying their best with the little they had. Including Giovonnie Samuels and Matt Winston. But the problem lies in the characters, they were just generic cardboard copies of the likes of the crew in Aliens or The Thing. Only really Lance Henriksen stood out, and not because of his character but his on-screen presence and charisma. Really I feel like if they wouldn't have been able to get Lance Henriksen for this, the rest of the film wouldn't leave any impression to stand out from your other countless generic monster movies...

In a way, the film also suffered from the exact same problem as the Strause Bros.' AVP:R, and Harbinger Down didn't start of as a direct sequel to a bad first movie.

Great special effects guys don't make for good film directors. The direction was lacking. The plot was non-existant. And despite coming in as creature effects guys they couldn't present their monsters any better. If your story and your characters are only pretext for your monster, at least show it in a good light. Here it had these random countless forms for no reason and you could either barely see it or they were drowning it under ugly special effects - that's right they did the same the producers did to The Thing prequel! Which is worse here when you consider they were in control of the entire film process...

Finally Christopher Drake's music is as generic as the rest of the film was. Clumsy and noisy. Forgettable.

Overall, Harbinger Down was a big let down for me.

Some would say you should only judge this film by its creature effects and you can't be too harsh on it, but I really feel like Lance Henriksen's the only saving grace of Harbinger Down. And there are so many much better alternatives to this film not counting The Thing, just watch Leviathan instead!

What I like about this film is that it basically felt like a survival horror video game as a movie. The best thing I can say about it is that it was very reminiscent Deep Fear, Cold Fear and Extermination all mashed together. And watching this film as a best of compilation of these sort of games is the only way to save it in my eyes. It's easier to accept all these problems if you forget any sense of logic and just take this creature as a combination of all those monster boss fights and other mutant enemies.

Bad special effects were just a minor problem of The Thing prequel, that film had a lot more issues with its awful plot, characterization, pacing and direction. And for all the complaints about The Thing, Harbinger Down is no different! It has that same "been there, done that" feeling, paying tribute to better films. They end with the same issue, covering their own practical effects work with ugly neon colors and other CGi additions as well!

Aside from huge hardcore fans, you can Skip It! It's essentially a watered down The Thing... on a boat!

I give it:
1.5 / 3 Necronomicons!

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