Monday , 6 February 2023

Monster movie Harbinger Down ready to surface!

Harbinger Down horiz poster
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.

HD Gillis and Woodruff

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.

HD Lance Henriksen

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.


  1. Firstly, anything with Lance Henriksen is well worth watching. He’s a first-class talent who elevates every genre effort he’s in, and who is criminally underrepresented in mainstream cinema.

    Secondly, anyone who cares about the artistry of special effects should support this effort. Tragically, CGI frequently facilitates the worst tendencies in directors these days — like endless 360 degree camera movements coupled with moving CGI backdrops that destroy all sense of logistical placement within the frame such that the viewer has difficulty keeping track of different elements.

    Gillis and Woodruff, Jr. have always demonstrated a tremendous respect for their audience — and that audience should reciprocate by patronizing Harbinger Down.

    • Hopefully, this movie will be enough of a success that it will lead to other practical effects driven films getting made. Of course, Harbinger Down can already be deemed a success in that it got made the way the filmmakers wanted, without studio interference, and it’s getting a release platform, both theatrical and via VOD. Shows like SyFy’s Face Off shows that there is an abundance of talent out there – they just need the vehicles to showcase that talent. There certainly are enough genre offerings on television.

  2. Can’t wait to see this movie!!! Love movies with real effects. It reminds me of my favorite flicks from the 80’s. Plus Lance henriksen is the man!!!

    • You’re right about the 80s being the heyday for practical F/X driven films. Special makeup effects artists like Rick Baker, Rob Bottin, Stan Winston, Tom Savini, and the legendary Dick Smith, were rock stars within the industry and in the pages of Famous Monsters and Fangoria. It would be great if that sort of thing came back. (Again, watch SyFy’s Face Off.) And, of course, Lance Henriksen rules!

  3. The genre(s) represented by the Gore4 have survived through numerous changes. From the early stage, through the pulps, into the cinema, on late-night t.v., onto VHS, laserdisc, DVD, Blu-Ray, and now streaming into a living room near you. Current technology is fertile soil for the next Lovecraft or Poe. The very existence of Harbinger Down harkens back to a rich history and looks ahead toward a new horizon, one filled with new genre efforts made by those who firmly appreciate its legacy.

  4. “Harbinger Down” is welcomed food for a starving fan. I’ve been following ADI’s making-of bits on YouTube on and off for some time now and couldn’t wait for the finished product! Now it’s FINALLY here! The visceral 80’s films are back, with what looks to be quite a vengeance. I only hope that this film starts a resurgence of the genre. After all, what better way to make movies than to do them WITHOUT the all-powerful studio heads – or SUITS – sticking their two cents into everything having to do with a production, as if they’re the ones who are so in touch with the audience, when actually they couldn’t be further from the fans, sitting in their lofty ivory towers. “Harbinger Down” is not only made by the artisans of the practical effects, but these artisans are fans themselves, making this film a labor of love for all involved. This, to me, should produce a fine and exciting product – and from the looks of it, every bit as professional as what the “big boys” produce. I am hoping that this way of filmmaking, with this type of platform off of which to launch – namely, the fans helping to contribute to getting these projects off the ground – will become the wave of filmmaking in the future. The art itself should flourish in this environment. No more “Big Brother-Producers” and executives calling the shots because THEY are poring the bucks into a production. Let’s see the artists themselves do the job, hand in hand with the fans. A novel idea? Not really. It harkens back to the days when moving pictures began… with people like Georges Méliès and Thomas Edison. They, in their time, wowed audiences with their craft. Why not now, with the artists of today, unencumbered by “talking heads”, doing what these craftsmen do best. ADI is doing what THEY want to do – and we, the fans, want them to do it! The fans are taking over… LET LOOSE THE DOGS OF WAR and see where the latex and silicone flesh falls! Hopefully, right in OUR laps.

    • I’m sure the freedom to make this movie without the usual studio interference was extremely welcomed by the filmmakers. While you can’t blame studio heads for wanting to make money on their investments, it is often that their meddling, and greater concern for profit over artistry, is what ends up hurting the movie and, ultimately, their profits as well.

  5. For all you Harbies out there, Alec Gillis has announced that Harbinger Down will be streaming on Netflix in the U.S. and Canada beginning Nov. 1. So if you haven’t seen this cool monster movie yet, now’s your chance.