Practical effects

MOVIE REVIEW: Harbinger Down (2015)

MOVIE REVIEW: Harbinger Down (2015)

By Nick Durham


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 in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments

COMING SOON: Deathgasm (2015)

By Kev B.



In a world overrun with found footage films and remakes full of computer generated special effects, it’s not often I actually look forward to a new release, but I am seriously psyched for the new heavy metal splatter flick Deathgasm. It’s been described as “Brutal as fuck”, and I really hope it lives up to my unusually high expectations.

According to the synopsis in the press kit for Deathgasm at the official site:

High School is Hell! Metal-thrashing Brodie is an outcast in a sea of jocks and cheerleaders until he meets a kindred spirit in fellow metalhead Zakk. After starting their own band, Brodie and Zakk’s resentment of the suburban wasteland leads them to a mysterious piece of sheet music said to grant ultimate power to whoever plays it. But the music also summons an ancient evil entity known as Aeloth the Blind One, who threatens to tear apart existence itself. Their classmates and family become inhabited by demonic forces, tearing out their own eyes and turning into psychotic murderers... And this is only the beginning!

It’s up to Brodie, Zakk, and their group of friends to stop a force of pure evil from devouring all of mankind.

A blood-soaked and hilarious horror comedy, Deathgasm features an amazing original soundtrack of fist-banging metal and practical effects to satisfy metalheads and splatter fans alike. Deathgasm will gush bodily fluids, rain limbs, and tickle your funny bone, before tearing it out and giving you a stiff beating with it.

In an interview with, writer/director Jason Lei Howden was asked to think of one sentence that would get readers excited about seeing Deathgasm. His reply:

If you took a baby, got it really stoned, made it listen to Skinless on repeat while an endless stream of horror movies played on a shitty old VHS player, feeding it only pizza, beer, and disapproval, then after a couple of decades it would end up making Deathgasm (Please don’t do that to an actual baby, you sick bastards).

He sounds like a man after my own heart, and has an impressive list of influences too. Citing fellow New Zealander Peter Jackson's Bad Taste as the first horror film he ever saw and Cannibal Corpse as the first metal band he ever heard, it sounds like his head and heart are in the right place to have created a new midnight movie masterpiece. He worked for Jackson's special effects company WETA Digital for six years but says the effects for Deathgasm are not CGI and the film is soaked in gallons of blood in an homage to gore fests like Dead Alive and Dead By Dawn.

With a sequel (Deathgasm II: Live Undead) already in the works, this semi-auto biographical coming of age story drenched in blood and guts is poised to become an instant splatstick classic. It looks like a good old “save the world and get the girl” kind of flick, dripping with gore, a nice dose of humor, and a soundtrack filled with some serious black and death metal. The countdown has begun. Coming to VOD and select theaters in the US on October 2, 2015.

View the full interview with writer/director Jason Lei Howden and check out the official Deathgasm website.

Posted by Alan Smithee in COMING SOON, HORROR NEWS, 0 comments

INTERVIEW: Daniel Phillips SFX Make-Up

By Machete Von Kill

Daniel beginning the JokerOn July 30, 2015, the small town of Grayling, Michigan, welcomed Hollywood make-up artist and SYFY Face Off season 6 competitor Daniel Phillips as part of the Crawford County Library Summer Reading Program. Phillips entertained and informed the large crowd with a short history of special effects make-up in cinema, complete with slide show, and then a live demonstration in which he transformed his son into The Joker from DC Comics' Batman. After the demonstration, Phillips participated in a meet and greet.

During the meet and greet, he was asked to review a make-up portfolio by 15-year-old Kali Kochiss of nearby Gaylord. I spoke to Kali about her SFX make-up and her conversation with Philips. Remember her name because you will see it in the future.


House of Tortured Souls: How did you get into the world of SFX make-up, and how long have you been learning your craft?

Kali Kochiss: I was 14, and I got into it because I've always loved make-up. I was watching make-up videos, and I came across this girl who made herself into monsters with make-up. So I was like "wow, I can do this", you know? The whole thing was so fascinating to me.


HoTS: Are you totally self-taught? Or have you had any formal training?

KK: Nope. I just started experimenting.


HoTS: Are you planning on formal training after high school?

KK: Yes, I plan on going to cosmetology school and then from there to FX make-up.



HoTS: Tell me a little about your meeting and conversation with Daniel Phillips. Do you feel it gave you a push to continue?

KK: He told me not to doubt myself and to keep pushing forward. He inspired me, but not as much as my pepa, who is an artist. He (Phillips) gave me his personal email address so I can send my work for his critique. He also offers different classes that I plan on attending.


HoTS: Who in the business do you look up to? Any favorite monsters?

KK: I love Frankenstein, the Boris Karloff version, and I really like Rick Baker.

Kali's work can be viewed on her Facebook page Rustic Tulips Make-up and Special Effects.


With the help of a friend from high school (Hollywood sound guy extraordinaire Michael Amman, who worked with Phillips on the 2013 John Rhys-Davies drama Return to the Hiding Place) and social media, your girl, Machete was able to speak to Daniel and ask a few questions.

Daniel Zombie

House of Tortured Souls: Thanks for agreeing to this interview. I was at your presentation for the Crawford County Library, so I have to ask, how did you get involved with the library and had you been to Grayling before? Do you do a lot of appearances?

Daniel Phillips: I got got involved by one of the staff contacting me and asking if I would be interested in coming up for their program, and of course I said yes! I was in Grayling years ago but had not been there in many years. So it was nice to reacquaint myself with the cool little town. Because of the show Face Off I have been asked to do a lot of comic cons and such. It's kinda funny to get asked. I still feel it's weird. Heck, I'm just a little Detroit make-up artist who is very fortunate to be able to do this crazy stuff for a living.


HoTS: Are you very involved in the pop-culture/convention scene?

DP: I am becoming more involved in the scene because of Face Off. If they keep inviting me, I'll keep coming back. Lol, we will see.


HoTS: What are you working on/involved with right now?

DP: Well I am actually working on something outside of the film industry. I hooked up with the folks over at ORR Prosthetics and I'm helping with some actual prosthetic fabrication for amputees. It's been very rewarding so far. I am also in talks to start pre-production on another film. I just can't talk too much about it right now, but it's gonna be great with a lot of very cool character makeups.


HoTS: How did you get into SFX make-up?

DP: I always had a love for horror films. As a kid, they never scared me, I just wondered how'd they do that? So I started researching and trying to figure out on my own...yep before the Internet, I actually had to read books. LOL.


HoTS: Who in the industry do you look up to? Anyone you'd really love to work with?

DP: My influences are many, but a few of the people that I respect are guys like Howard Berger, Rick Baker, Kevin Haney, guys like that. These guys are innovators and will always remain in my mind, the best. I would love to work with Rick Baker someday.

Filling in the shadows and definition lines

HoTS: Do you have a favorite genre of film to work?

DP: I love doing character type movies. Movies without a good story really do not do it for me anymore.


HoTS: Which is your favorite make-up you've done so far? Any favorites from others in the industry?

DP: I really like sculpting old age make-up, so probably an old age makeup I have done..they are very hard to do. Rick Baker's apes from Greystoke remain a favorite of mine and also old age make-up from Dick Smith on David Bowie from The Hunger...just groundbreaking for its time. Plus I'm a little partial because I trained under Dick's guidance.


HoTS: Since House of Tortured Souls is a horror website, I have to ask what's your favorite horror movie make-up?

DP: Dick Smith's work on The Exorcist.


HoTS: Favorite movie monster?

DP: I'm a big fan of werewolves when done right, such as Rick Baker's Wolf-man.


HoTS: Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees?

DP: Pinhead would kick both of their asses!


HoTS: Thanks so much for your time! How can people keep up with your work?

DP: People can keep up with my work via Facebook or my website.

Posted by Alan Smithee in INTERVIEWS, 0 comments