The crew of the crabbing ship, Harbinger, have to fight for their lives after salvaging a frozen Russian space craft containing a deadly secret from the icy sea waters.
Harbinger Down (2015)
As many of you readers may be aware I’m a big fan of films and especially the business of special effects. I’ve long been fascinated with the practical side of visual effects and love poring over pictures of the beautiful models and creatures that have been built for some of my favorite films.
So when I discovered one of my favorite creature effects companies, Amalgamated Dynamics Incorporated, had a YouTube channel I was pleased that they were not only sharing some of their behind the scenes secrets but also effects work that has never seen the light of day.
In many of their videos they explain how CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) work has been slowly replacing miniatures and practically built creatures. They wanted to produce their own film that relied on 100% practical work and features very little to none CGI effects.
They started a Kickstarter fund to create a film that had been entitled ‘Harbinger Down’. The film was successfully funded and the film was released earlier this year.
“Thawed from ice after three decades, mutated creatures recovered from a piece of Soviet space wreckage terrorize a group of graduate students on a fishing trawler.”
My first initial thoughts after viewing the film was that this film is paying homage (or borrowing heavily) from the classic 1983 film by John Carpenter, ‘The Thing’.
Whereas in the film ‘The Thing’ we have a scientific team stuck at an antarctic research base, in ‘Harbinger Down’ the ships crew, university students and their tutor are stuck out in the frozen waters of the Bering sea.
The university students are researching the effects of global warming on whales when they discover a crashed space craft frozen into the ice. Unlike ’The Thing’ though, the craft is Russian in origin and not alien. However much like the aforementioned film, they thaw out the Russian craft and in doing so release an a strange new form of mutated life form.
If you hadn’t of guessed by now, in the classic horror film tradition, the crew will be picked off one by one and a variety of gruesome ways. Who will survive?
For a low budget film the cast perform very well. There’s no bad acting per se and the cast is led by Lance Henrikson, a once staple regular of James Cameron’s films. If you don’t know the name you’ll certainly recognize his appearances from Aliens, The Terminator or his lead role in the 1990’s television show, ‘Millennium’.
But what about the real reason I watched this film? Practical effects.
I’m happy to say they the film felt like a classic science fiction film from the 1980’s and I mean that in a positive sense. The creature was significantly gross enough to make the film enjoyable. For those of you with a keen eye you’ll also spot the classic techniques used to fool the viewer and to give the creature a weird unearthly look. For example the scene may have been shot upside down or the footage is played in reverse.
The qualities of the effects are even throughout but there are a few shots in the film that reveal their limited budget. Also if where going to pick nits, every time a steel door is opened on the ship, the same sound effect is used and it gets old very fast.
Harbinger Down is proof that old school practical effects still have a place in the film industry. It’s just a shame the rest of the film is so average.