Harbinger Down (2015)

Harbinger Down posterLast week I watched DARK WAS THE NIGHT and last night I watched HARBINGER DOWN. I am on a roll with creature flicks!! HARBINGER DOWN is a hugely entertaining film that will remind you of John Carpenter’s classic film, THE THING. HARBINGER DOWN isn’t a homage to Carpenter’s THE THING, though, but is pretty much a straight up remake of it–and is better than the official 2011 remake.

Back in 2010, Amalgamated Dynamics was hired to create the practical monster effects for the 2011 remake of THE THING. But as things turned out, the studio making the remake decided to have the practical creature effects digitally replaced with CGI for the final cut of the film. We all know how that turned out!! As a result, Amalgamated Dynamics had a bunch of bad ass practical effects sitting around a studio not being used. So they turned to Kickstarter and funded the film that eventually became HARBINGER DOWN. The end result is that HARBINGER DOWN uses zero computer animated monsters. Ever creature you see in the film is done entirely through practical effects through the use of animatronics, prosthetic makeup, stop motion, and miniature effects. This is a total throwback to the 1980s and even though not all the effects are home runs, there’s more hits than misses.

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HARBINGER DOWN is about a team of scientists being funded by the local university to study the migration patterns of a particular whale. The scientists include Stephen (Matt Winston), Sadie (Camille Balsamo), and Ronelle (Giovonnie Samuels). They are using the crabbing ship, Harbinger, as the base for their studies. The Harbinger is captained by Graff (Lance Henriksen), who also happens to be Sadie’s grandfather. The crew of the Harbinger crabs at night in the dangerous waters of the Bering Sea, and the scientists do their thing during the day. Other members of the crew include Big G (Winston James Francis) and Bowman (Reid Collums)–Graff’s two right hand men. Svet (Milla Bjorn), is a pretty intense Russian woman and is a new crew member who doesn’t take shit from anyone and can drink any of the men under the table. There are more crew members, but they are the equivalent of the red shirts in STAR TREK.

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Sadie picks up a homing beacon after she notices that several of the whales they are studying have become disoriented. They salvage something frozen in the ice and, long story short, it isn’t friendly. The film closely follows the plot of Carpenter’s THE THING while putting its own twist on that familiar story. Instead of the creature being extraterrestrial in origin, the threat here is from mutated tardigrades (real life, water-dwelling, segmented micro-animals that can withstand extreme conditions), that the Russians were experimenting on in space back in the 1970s and early-80s. Apparently the Russian experiments were successful, but the mutations were deadly.

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There’s a lot to like here in HARBINGER DOWN. The crew of the Harbinger ship are tough as nails, yet aren’t assholes and jerks like in so many other films. Bowman has an inquisitive mind and appoints himself the unofficial protector and helper of Sadie, as she tries to figure out what the hell is happening. Stephen, the head of the science team, is a complete asshole and will remind you of the character of Carter Burke (Paul Reiser), the douchebag corporate meatbag from ALIENS. But by far the best performance was from the man himself, Lance Henriksen. I can’t think of another actor that dominates, in a good way, every scene he is in. The camera loves him, and Henriksen brings such intensity to every role he plays. His Captain Graff is a grizzled old salt who loves his ship and his crew, but who also doesn’t like being lied to about certain hidden motivations. 

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I don’t want to give too much away, but I think you’re going to really like HARBINGER DOWN. It is fast-paced, has some great practical creature effects, and is full of both likable and despicable characters. My biggest complaint here, which is the same complaint I had about DARK WAS THE NIGHT, is that towards the end when the creature is rampaging, some of the scenes are underlit and it is difficult to see what’s going on. The majority of the creature effects are so well done that it is a shame to hide them in the dark. But this criticism aside, HARBINGER DOWN is a huge winner that I highly recommend, and as you watch it you’ll soon realize that this film is the true remake of THE THING–hell, the Chess Wizard computer that Kurt Russell played in Carpenter’s THE THING even makes a cameo in a few scenes!! This is a fun, throw-back to the 80’s creature flick.

My Summary:

Director: Alec Gillis (& writer)

Plot: 4 out of 5 stars

Gore: 8 out of 10 skulls (for great creature effects)

Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Scott Shoyer

Stay Bloody!!!

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2 Responses to “Harbinger Down (2015)”
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  1. […] Harbinger Down (2015). […]


  2. […] HARBINGER DOWN: A good old fashioned creature flick starring one of our absolute favourites, Lance Henriksen, as a grizzled sea captain who finds a piece of Soviet space debris from the Eighties containing frozen experimental creatures that are long dead and harmless- just kidding, they revive, grow and attack him, his crew and some grad students majoring in Monster Fodder. In 2010 Amalgamated Dynamics (ADI) was hired to create the practical monster effects for the film THE THING (2011). However much to ADI’s dismay, the studio had the majority of their work digitally replaced with CGI for the final cut of the film. In response to this, ADI used Kickstarter to fund this film, which features entirely practical creature effects created through the use of animatronics, prosthetic makeup, stop motion and miniature effects. There are zero computer animated monsters in this film – and that is such a pleasure for this jaded reviewer! […]


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