MOVIE REVIEW: Harbinger Down (2015)

By Nick Durham

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Want to see something that looks promising at first glance but doesn't take long to go spiraling down the shitter? Look no further than Harbinger Down: a creature feature that would otherwise be ignored by one and all were it not for the pedigree that it manages to boast in terms of just how the film is made up. Directed by Alec Gillis and produced by Tom Woodruff (aka the guys who have worked on previous films in the Alien franchise) and proudly boasting that it features all practical effects work, Harbinger Down is a glorious failure indeed.

The story revolves around some asshole grad students that take a trip on a commercial fish trawler piloted by the grandfather (Lance Henriksen) of one of them, in an effort to study the effects of global warming on whales or some shit. They discover a crashed Soviet spacecraft in the ocean, which still contains the dead pilot as well as the experiment contained wherein that soon grows, infects, and kills off the crew. Yes, it sounds like a much less imaginative take on The Thing, and that's because it really is. The acting is lame, the characters are lame, the whole affair is super predictable, and it really is for the most part just a plain old bore.

Now, let's talk about the effects of Harbinger Down, which as I said before, proudly boasts about the fact that they are practical. Well, I really can't confirm if EVERY part of the creature effects are practical, but what I can say is that it is refreshing to see practical effects take center stage for the first time in a long time...or that is what I would say if said effects actually looked as great as I wished they did. I don't want to shit on the work done here, because I know how hard it is to do this kind of thing, but the creature looks just aren't convincing one bit. There is good use made of stop-motion effects, miniatures, and animatronics in addition to some of the prosthetic effects, but the full-on body shots of the film's monsters are laughable at first glance. The effects were done by ADI, who also did the practical effects for the 2011 take on The Thing, which chances are you never saw because their work was discarded in favor of the shitty CGI that was seen in the final cut of the movie. ADI ended up funding this film on Kickstarter, out of the desire to bring practical effects back to the forefront. While I may not have enjoyed this film, I will gladly say that those guys have my respect for that alone. Practical effects work is a dying thing, and the film world is a worse place without it.

All in all, Harbinger Down is a brisk but sadly disappointing creature feature that ends up coming off as a just plain stupid version of The Thing. The practical effects that it boasts about having are a mixed bag, but at the same time, it's just so good and refreshing to see them take the forefront in a horror film again. It's not god-awful and you can certainly do worse with this kind of thing to kill an afternoon, so give it a shot at your own risk.

Rating: 2/5/5

Posted by Alan Smithee

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