With John Carpenter’s The Thing–based on Christian Nyby’s 1951 movie The Thing From Another World and the original John Campbell short novel, Who Goes There?–we got to see a director at the peak of his powers. Carpenter was able to combine Rob Bottin’s extraordinary creature effects with a taut story of an otherworldly threat that had the ability to mimic whomever it killed.
So you can imagine that when Universal Pictures decided to do a sequel in 2011–without Carpenter’s input–that fans would probably not be too keen on it.
And that’s a bit of an understatement, with many–myself included–hating the movie on general principal.
Having recently re-watched Matthijs van Heijningen’s prequel, it’s actually pretty good. And while I wished that it had more in the way of practical effects–though as far as I can tell the CGI is based on designs from Alec Gillis and Bob Woodruff (who are credited) and while it’s not as innovative as the practical special effects of Rob Bottin, They’re okay.
“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).