For fans of the great horror and sci-fi films of the 80s, like The Howling, An American Werewolf in London, Altered States, Aliens, Re-Animator and John Carpenter’s The Thing, films that utilized practical effects to amazing on-screen magic, recent years have been frustrating due to the overabundance and reliance on CGI to bring the extraordinary to life. When the two effects techniques are combined and compliment each other properly, the results can be brilliant, as the late, great Stan Winston proved in Steven Spielberg’s groundbreaking Jurassic Park (1993). But when filmmakers, or, as often is the case, studio heads, decide that CGI is the only way to go, what ends up on the screen can be lacking in depth and weight. A perfect example of this was the 2011 prequel, The Thing. Some incredible practical effects for the various manifestations of the creature were created (see here), but were ditched in favor of full-on CGI. It left fans cold, because it was the amazing work by Rob Bottin in the Carpenter classic that is a key reason why that film is so revered today.
It was the effects artists behind the unused footage for The Thing prequel, Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr., who, frustrated over this and other experiences, decided to take matters into their own hands, using animatronics, miniatures and prosthetic effects to make their own monster movie. That movie, Harbinger Down, is now finally ready for release in select theaters and VOD platforms on August 7. Using Kickstarter to successfully fund their film (which the Gore 4 happily contributed to), and receiving additional funding to upgrade the film further, Harbinger Down looks to be the kind of monster film fans have been longing for.
Starring genre veteran Lance Henriksen (Aliens, Near Dark, Pumpkinhead), Harbinger Down was written and directed by Gillis and produced by his Amalgamated Dynamics partner, Woodruff, Jr. These two have an impressive resume of genre work, starting early on with Stan Winston on Aliens and The Monster Squad to forming their own company, ADI, and providing spectacular effects work for Death Becomes Her (winning an Oscar), Jumanji, Starship Troopers, Hollow Man and both Alien vs. Predator movies. If anyone has the background, talent and desire to make a monster movie that us fans can get behind, it is certainly these two.
Described as a sort of cross between Alien and The Thing, which sounds like an awesome combination, Harbinger Down concerns a group of grad students who are studying climate change while aboard a fishing trawler. They manage to dredge up something which contains an organism that can mutate into one horrifying creature after another. It is the perfect vehicle for showcasing the variety of practical effects work that Gillis, Woodruff, Jr. and ADI are known for.
Below is a look at the international trailer. Check the official website for what theaters the movie will be playing in, and if it’s not in your area, be sure to catch it On Demand starting August 7, with a home video release to follow (a making of would be fascinating to see). And stay tuned to the Gore 4 for an upcoming review as well.