Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Harbinger Down Feature Film Review

Nearly thirty years ago a ship crashed somewhere in the arctic. Now the crew of the a crab fishing ship Harbinger has discovered the remains without realizing the deadly organism that is aboard. Harbinger Down is a science fiction horror film directed by Alec Gillis as an homage to classics of the cinematic sub genre such as Alien and John Carpenter's The Thing. The film also calls to mind some lesser films in the sub genre like Leviathan and Virus.
In 2012 Oscar winning Character FX studio Amalgamated Dynamics, Inc., posted a video of their animatronic effects that were cut from the film The Thing 2011. Their incredible work had been replaced with CGI. ADI co-owner and writer/director of Harbinger Down took note of the fan outrage. Through Kickstarter the film became the highest publicly funded science fiction and horror picture in the history of Kickstarter. The film as cast well with Lance Henriksen, leading the ensemble, which also includes Camille Balasamo, Matt Winston, Reid Collums, Milla Bjorn, Winston James Francis, Mike Esteem, Giovannie Samuels and Edwin H. Bravo. Tom Woodruff Jr. serves as a Producer.
While the cast tries their best to engage the viewer, the majority are little more than flat "Red Shirts" and the monster is a disappointment because in trying to make a film that celebrates practical effects, what they deliver is a largely generic looking mess and forget that monsters don't have to be beautiful, but in addition to being scary, they should look cool and spark the audience's imagination such as the Yautja in Predator, the Xenomorphs in the Alien franchise and chameleon like monstrosity of John Carpenter's The Thing. The creature isn't really scary and since the characters are flat, one doesn't feel heavily invested in them aside from the faces one recognizes, but when one thinks back to the characters in the films this motion picture pays homage too, we only saw glimpses of the monster and each glimpse made the audience want to see more until the final terrifying reveal. The characters in the films even if they were not always three dimensional, they had a distinct quality to them and each character had a certain look that added personality and thus even if we don't know who it is that is being devoured, we at least can remember who they were by face and it did not matter if the cast had one or two recognizable stars and the rest were largely unknowns.
The monster should have been interesting. The characters should have been more distinctive and the story should have been scary. Considering Amalgamated Dynamics is one of the best practical effects producers in the world, I expect a lot better than what was presented here. Writing a story and developing distinctive characters does not cost anything except time. So despite the best intentions, I am afraid what should have been a showcase for practical effects relevancy in modern cinema ends up being a squandered opportunity that should have been thought out more.
Harbinger Down opens in theaters and VOD on Friday, August 7, 2015 and will be followed with a DVD release on September 1, 2015.
(C) Copyright 2015 By Mark A. Rivera
All Rights Reserved.