“Harbinger Down isn’t a bad movie, though it mimics a much better one.”
Alec Gillis, besides being the director of Harbinger Down, runs StudioADI along with Tom Woodruff, so it goes without saying that practical special effects are in his blood.
And indisputably the greatest practical effect-based horror film is John Carpenter’s The Thing, so it’s logical that Gillis would use it as inspiration for his feature debut.
The problem is that Harbinger Down so slavishly mimics Carpenter’s movie that it only serves to show how Gillis would have probably been better served by a more original story, though even that would have not even been too big a hurdle for me to enjoy this movie if it were better written and cast because a lot of the dialog doesn’t ring particularly true, and isn’t helped when many characters pivotal to the plot are almost Asylum-quality (Lance Henriksen is an exception; though at least initially the editor of the movie seemed reluctant to let scenes breathe, which would have went a long way to help flesh characters out. It’s also worth mentioning that the movie plays better the second time around).
And I know that I already mentioned that Harbinger Down apes Carpenter’s movie, though the opening is from Carpenter’s movie, which is a bit much (it’s actually not, but so close that the difference is almost negligible).
Another odd thing is that, despite Alec Gillis’ advocacy of practical special effects, he seemed mighty reluctant to show his monsters off. They’re always doing their thing from shadowy, under-lit spaces, which wasn’t an issue for John Carpenter (then again, not everyone is Rob Bottin), and I wish that it weren’t an issue for Gillis.
And speaking of practical effects, the model of the Harbinger is a particular good one, though it doesn’t seem to quite jibe with the physical space the actors were working in (the model ship is a pretty large, so to speak, trawler while the set the actors were on, especially during scenes that took place outside, seemed a bit small).
I’ve been waiting for Harbinger Down for a long time, and I am glad to have finally caught it. It’s a decent first film by Alec Gillis, though for someone unfamiliar with the movie, I’d wonder why they would watch it over Carpenter’s movie, which is just a better film (which is interesting when you consider that Carpenter’s movie was itself a remake of the Christian Nyby’s 1951 movie, The Thing From Another World).