Harbinger Down (2015) Poster

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Came for the effects, left because everything else
cheighlee4 November 2015
It's hard to bash bad indie movies generally and Harbinger Down is no exception. So I'll try to keep this short and more critically factual.

This movie was kick-started by The Thing (2011) prequel's SFX leftovers that didn't pan out in the final cut of the movie so this thing got birthed on the actual Kickstarter. Inspired by the above mentioned - The Thing, and a bit of Alien, Harbinger Down storyline follows a group of people that for various reasons end up aboard the Harbinger - crab boat. After a short while, they stumble onto something frozen in ice, shenanigans ensue.

It's almost a classic-legacy horror/scifi setup these days, and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Here it doesn't and the reasons why that is are numerous. I'll mention just a few of those reasons.

Right of the bat, the movie logo itself contains suspiciously similar fonts to ALIEN (HARBINGER part) and PREDATOR (DOWN part). Not a good sign.

Then there are POV found footage moments that are just random and makes you wonder why's this here? And the rest of the photography is similarly bad. Weird, too close and generally bad camera angles don't make this a pleasant viewing at all.

Characters are blank and the acting is bad most of the time. Lance Henriksen being the exception, everyone else was just not good. Leading lady was boring with some forgettable flat performances. The token white guy with beard and the token black guy were also bad as was the Russian lady.

Ah, the Russian lady. She had some truly brilliant script pieces in this. Moments like "Do you make-up, sis?", or something like that, were the moments where you question yourself why are you watching this in the first place? Also the thing that she looks kinda botoxed and nip-tucked with some super-fake contact lenses and you can see that she is actually wearing some makeup, makes this particular question even more stupid.

So, the story is bleh, script is dumb, acting is the same, are the effects any good? No. I mean, they sold this movie most on that part - the practical special effects, but they are wildly uneven and mostly cheap. Which is kinda the most disappointing, because there are some SFX veteran names in this movie.

If this movie was shot (way) better with better SFX, bad acting and dumb story would be forgiven. But it wasn't and it lacks in almost all the major parts that make a movie. Script is dumb, acting is not that good, story is recycled billion times by now, effects are not that good and as a bonus there are some just cringe, face-palm inducing moments.

It's watchable, but I see no reason why you should do that. Maybe for Lance, but he just sorta breezed through this and didn't make this movie that much better by appearing in it.
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Doesn't achieve what it set out to do
progenitor338 August 2015
I've been following the progress of Harbinger Down for over a year now, eagerly awaiting each update. Films like John Carpenter's The Thing and David Cronenberg's The Fly are some of my favourite films ever, and Harbinger Down looked to bring this classic 80s practical monster effects goodness to the present day.

The reality? For a movie that's whole purpose is to showcase practical effects (PFX), it doesn't do this nearly enough, nor does it feature Studio ADI's expected level of quality for these effects.

Almost all the scenes that feature the monster are poorly lit (often only by a flashlight). This is to be expected to a certain extent, being a horror film, however if you watch The Thing/The Fly, you'll notice the creature is always at the forefront, in all it's grisly detail. In Harbinger Down you never truly get a good look at the creature, which I'm sure will be disappointing to many, as the whole point of the movie was to show off an awesome looking creature. What's more, there is a distinct lack of quality for some of the monster effects, something that is unheard of in Studio ADI's other work. Presumably this is why the effects are often obscured by shadow and low light. The few scenes that are well lit are either far too brief or garishly poor quality (the first appearance of the monster comes to mind). There is also a distinct lack of blood/gore in the film, which is a major shortfall. John Carpenter's The Thing is a hideously gruesome film, and that plays a big part in why the film is so loved. This film features barely any blood and gore, and the few scenes that do are often brief and very conservative on the bloodiness. I don't believe I'm wrong in assuming most people interested in these kind of films want to see gruesome practical creature effects and all the bloody mess that goes with that. Harbinger Down completely fails on this.

It feels below Studio ADI, as I know what incredible work they can do. I appreciate the budget was low for this movie, but the movie's whole purpose was to show off PFX and prove to the industry that CGI isn't always the best option. It feels like they have shot themselves in the foot, as this film is a poor effort at showcasing the power of PFX. A little more time and money could have refined the effects and really made a statement about PFX (which, ultimately, could lead to much more work for Studio ADI).

Unfortunately there's nothing outside the creature effects that is even remotely noteworthy. There's a lot of inexperience here, with directing, writing, movie pacing and acting, and it shows. But this is something that is hardly surprising, or overly important. All I was expecting was some gorgeously gruesome creature effects. I was happy to settle down for a hammy, poorly acted film - but in a "so bad it's good" way - where the monster would take centre stage and wreck up the place. The monster instead cowers in a dark corner, ashamed to show it's ugly face, while unlikeable characters and a largely un-engaging plot take the centre stage.

I'm a huge fan of Studio ADI's work and I adore practical creature effects. But this doesn't cut it. This is a poor movie. A poor movie that could have redeemed all it's shortcomings in acting, filmwork, writing, etc by just having regular, explicit monster appearances showcasing ADI work at it's best. This is, sadly, not what Harbinger Down is.
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Disappointing, but watchable
room10214 September 2015
This is a very uneven movie.

On the one hand, it's not bad for an independent movie with a tiny budget. The settings is pretty nice and the actors are OK.

The movie is an obvious reference to "The Thing" and it uses practical effects and no CGI. And here lies the first problem: The effects aren't impressive. From a company that deals with practical effects, which has some veteran effects guys and lots of experience, I expected more. A lot more. The effects here only show how amazing Rob Bottin's work was over 30 years ago. I also expected the effects to be a lot more explicit, yet I always got the feeling they try to hide them by shaking the camera, cutting, putting something in front, etc.

The last problem has to do with direction: It's pretty obvious that this is the work of a first time director/writer - The movie is very uneven, there are good scenes and bad scenes, there are continuity problems, coverage problems, editing problems, things that simply don't connect and hard to understand what the director meant to do and also many scenes that seem to be missing a dialog.

All in all, this is a so-so movie for something independent without a budget. I expected more and I'm a bit disappointed, but I'd still think it's worth a watch, at least for the effort.
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I was really pulling for this one, but it's a real dud...very disappointing.
ariboylandrangerblue24 September 2015
I started hearing about this movie a while ago and was really keen to check it out because of its' interesting Kickstarter origins and because of its' rather refreshing commitment (at least in this day and age) to avoid using any CGI in favor of employing entirely practical on-screen monster effects. It seemed to be, at least philosophically, an attempt to do a throwback to movies like ALIENS and John Carpenter's THE THING (two of my favorite movies), so I was very eager to support the project and primed and ready to go along for the ride.

Unfortunately, this movie only ended up reminding me of the very first and most important rule about visual effects in movies--they only ever matter when they are being used as a tool to serve something that is far more important--a great story and interesting characters. ALIENS and THE THING had great effects that definitely served important roles in those movies, but they're not what made those movies great. It was the incredibly tight writing and story-telling, the engaging characters and actors who brought them to life, and some masterful direction.

As much as I was routing for it, HARBINGER DOWN fails miserably because it uses its story and characters to prop up and serve the visual effects instead of the other way around. The story borrowed so much from THE THING and ALIENS that it brought absolutely nothing new or interesting to the table. The characters were completely forgettable and you didn't really care what happened to any of them.

And the effects? Well, they're definitely solid and it was nice to see a return to the use of practical monsters--but they honestly weren't good enough to live up to the hype that this movie promised. Given how much the filmmakers were trumpeting this movie as a triumphant return to all practical effects, they needed to raise the bar and bring out some mind-blowing, next-level practical on-screen visual magic and it falls well short of that.

Bottom line (and important lesson of the day)--no amount of visual effects wizardry, whether CGI or practical, can save a movie that is lacking good storytelling and characters.

Here's the thing--at the end of the day, real movie magic doesn't come from creating creatures and effects that seem real. Movie magic comes from creating characters that seem real and putting them in a story/situation that we genuinely care about. Here endeth the lesson.
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"We're gonna need a bigger bucket." Sorry they made you deliver that line, Lance.
thisseatofmars5 September 2015
Harbinger Down meant well. Its setting, characters, and creature (and creature FX!) are inspired by John Carpenter's "The Thing," a cult classic so popular it breaches its "cult" status. However, "Harbinger" doesn't break new ground, try anything new or clever, or establish its own personality. It's as if "Harbinger" was so in awe of John Carpenter's "The Thing" (or afraid of it, perhaps, as much of "Harbinger's" backing came from nerdy fans) that it's afraid of entering holy ground.

What this film has got going for it (apart from aping "The Thing") is its practical monster effects. Stop motion, animatronics, and distractingly obvious blue contact lenses for the woman playing "Svet" are all in use here. As most movies today overuse CGI (an error the 2011 prequel "Thing" so grievously commits) seeing animatronics in use is a CPR breath of nostalgia. And what's more, the creature effects (usually) look great.

There were parts during Harbinger where the twelve-year-old in me who still loves monsters and giant robots (thanks, Pacific Rim!) smiled, watching the plot unfold. But it was a wistful sort of smile. I was recalling the dread and pleasure felt from the heavy atmosphere and creature effects from John Carpenter's "The Thing." Harbinger Down is vastly inferior, and just makes me feel like watching that film instead.

So, what's so wrong with Harbinger Down? Try watching our female lead. It's like she's trying to juggle the task of acting while remembering a list of groceries or something. And I'm not picking on her; the rest of the cast is no better. The comic black guy (called "Dock" coz he used to sleep under one, yo) is meant to be sassy and defiant, but instead he comes off as a bad stereotype. The woman playing "Svet" is playing a stereotype as well, with her Hollywood movie Russian accent that falters from scene to scene (and here's a newsflash, filmmakers—no one from Russia actually talks like Ivan Drago from Rocky IV.) The only worthwhile actor Harbinger has is horror movie veteran Lance Henriksen, and the movie has him delivering lines like "we're gonna need a bigger bucket." Yeah. Again, Lance: apologies. Why the filmmakers would have you parrot classic lines from Jaws is beyond me. Is it because many of the nostalgia-fueled backers from Harbinger's crowd funding campaign were also fans of Jaws? Or maybe the screenwriter/director was just (gasp) incompetent. Who knows.

Another of Harbinger's flaws is its music. Guys, the key to any good horror movie isn't shadows, or drunk teens shouting "Let's guh-get outta here!" It's sound. Sound and music build atmosphere, and atmosphere is why we watch horror films. Example: the Silent Hill movie used music and sound cues from the original game, recognizing its effect and character. John Carpenter, the old master himself, conducted his own music for many of his films ("The Thing" included.) The music in Harbinger could not get anymore stock. It sounds like the faux-tension music used in parody scenes in episodes of South Park. An eerie soundtrack would've blessed this dumb, ugly, golem of a movie what it needed most: a soul.

But when we aren't cringing at our actors or wincing at the music, the film's direction/cinematography robs the film's monster of much of its grandeur (even though it really is just a copy of "The Thing's" monster.) When Lance and the Asian bearded mystic (yet another of the film's stereotypes not worth mentioning) descend to the ship's bunker and first encounter the creature, the lighting and direction couldn't have made it look more like a puppet.

Which it is.

But Leatherback in Pacific Rim was all CGI, yet it was done so well that I forgot I was looking at a big pile of zeroes and ones while I was watching it. Perhaps that's Harbinger's greatest sin— it yanks the viewer out of the moment. Atmosphere is why we watch horror.

It's not all bad, however. The setting— an old trawler in the middle of a night snow storm in the Bering Sea— allows for plenty of shots of dark cabins, cramped corridors, and slippery, uncomfortable surfaces made perilous by the snow and rain. The sound of the Bering Sea continually slapping up against the Harbinger (God, "Harbinger Down" sounds like the name of a war movie— does this production's incompetence know no bounds?) helps draw the viewer in. And again, it's so great to see practical effects in a modern movie.

But if you want to see practical effects done right in a *competently* made movie, see Mad Max: Fury Road. That, and "The Thing," are examples of love, genius, and perseverance. Harbinger Down is a crowd funded, loveless mess made on a thin budget—and its strains of stress show through on every botched transition, poorly delivered/written line, and overlit scene.
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A very decent homage to The Thing
siderite8 August 2015
In the sunken nightmare ship of Harbinger, Russian water-bears sleep waiting. Before I go and tell you about the movie experience, you should know that this film is a Kickstarter movie, with more than 350 thousand dollars coming from that campaign, and made by people with vast experience with practical effects. You see, Hollywood uses CGI nowadays because it is cheaper and it has become a hallmark of fancy directors to use practical effects, all other movies relying on the cheapest alternative around. Cherish it, like you did fat and ugly radio stars before MTV came around.

The plot is pretty much a rip-off of The Thing. That is not accidental, because it is the same team that worked on the recent remake before the studios decided to go with CGI instead. The characters are archetypal, like in most films of the genre, with pretty decent acting all around. Lance Henriksen is great, of course, but even the rest of the actors give professional performances. What I liked also is that the characters themselves were borderline interesting making the entire feel more engaging when adding a little depth to them.

The special effects were just great for the budget they had and in conclusion I would go as far as say they accomplished their mission of creating a movie fans would enjoy and a nice homage to the great horror movies of the late 70s and early 80s.

Was the science accurate? Hell no. Was there a larger than life moral that one can leave the theater with and become a better person? Unless you count "do not join academia if you don't have the stomach for pompous self-absorbed a-wipes", then no. Was it fun? Oh, yeah!
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The only thing remarkable about this film is that it got made at all!
shanekolacz26 March 2018
Poor script, poor characters, poor acting, poor direction, poor special effects...need I go on? It really is sad to see Lance Henrikson ending his career making these stinkers. Do not be fooled (as I was) by some of the reviewers here saying this stands up next to Carpenters 'The Thing'....it is nowhere near it. I only granted it 3 stars because there are actually films around that are even worse. Please don't bother. Just watch 'The Thing' again instead.
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I really liked this movie...
renegadenorth7 August 2015
I think it would be easy to criticize this movie in the context of the current climate of cinema movies being released as it doesn't fit in to this era at all. That said I think it will hold up over time like many titles you didn't expect to do so. It works as a homage to the great creature horror movies of previous decades like Alien/s and The Thing and has that magic ingredient of keeping me 'in' for the duration of what would otherwise be a schlocky genre. The special effects, which were all practical effects I found very enjoyable to watch. In some scenes they aren't as sleek as I would have liked but mostly they had that creepy-artistic effect that I haven't seen in a while. The characters were a little stereotyped but that is fine in this kind of film, and they all seemed to be having a fun time on set which again isn't a common commodity in Hollywood anymore. It would hold up very nicely as part of a retro horror night of films alongside the likes of The Thing, but more in the arena of the home cinema; a movie to watch with a beer, and since this is where all movies end up maybe it is the true yardstick.
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No excuses required.
phil_rhodes25 December 2015
In one sense, this is a special case. In another, it deserves the same critical treatment as everything else. Low-budget, independently- produced movies need to compete on the same playing field as the big stuff. We don't want Kickstarter funding to become an excuse. On the other hand, some of the crueler reviews have, I think, a rather rose- tinted view of what 80s creature features were really like. They weren't all Aliens. That's magic in a bottle, and it isn't available to order for any amount of money - or Hollywood would be able to buy it, which it's becoming increasingly clear they can't.

So, with these mixed views in mind, I rather liked Harbinger Down. If it sets out to avoid becoming saturated in embarrassing CGI, it succeeds, but naturally more is required than that. The performances are fine, given the painfully thin script - people knocking the actors need to consider the writing they've been given. The script is perhaps most kindly described as functional, and barely so. Henriksen is, of course, a massively experienced guy, and always a pleasure. The cinematography is absolutely rock-solid and a great advertisement for both Benjamin L. Brown and the staggeringly low-cost camera it was shot on. Both the pictures and Christopher Drake's score, and of course the creature effects, elevate the film way, way above the depths to which many low- budget sci-fi movies fall.

So let's not be too harsh on Harbinger Down. Behind-the-scenes shots suggest that the creature effects could have been made more of on screen, a fair criticism that's been raised before, and the script is a letdown. But again, it's a genre creature feature. For a bit more creature and a bit more story and characterization it could have been better, but on the off-chance that some sort of renaissance of the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy filmmaking can be launched from this movie, or movies like it, I'm enthusiastic. If Blomkamp does get to do Alien 5, he'd be an idiot not to involve Woodruff and Gillis.
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Moderately Entertaining Creature Feature
+1 Star for having Lance Henriksen

This movie has fairly solid acting performances. The Creature involved reminiscent of The Thing. I could do an indepth rundown of the story but it's just a 4 to 5 star movie and doesn't really need a long rant about it.

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Not for sophisticated horror taste
Dusan_Indjic-Luigi8 August 2015
The movie has not too original storyline and already visited idea behind. Well casting interacts with interesting characters that fit well into chilly marine claustrophobic environment. Authentic latter-one goes good with nerve thrilling and simple dramatic (also visual) moments. Having a techno-thriller style, it approaches a lot interdisciplinary fields (eg. biology, physiology, astronomy, electronics, engineering, etc.) not deeply, but correctly. Main problem of the movie is that the idea and even storyline is far from original. It's all quite a bit already visited and recognizable from the good old days of Carpenter and Cronenberg claustrophobic sci-fi body-horror. I'm not going to name the titles – for many of us all-time favorites. From which are some things copied (insultingly obvious!) All in all, honestly: the movie has it's moments and the claustrophobic atmosphere in authentic space is also OK. BUT almost all other aspects are all but already seen and well known. Even score! You will hardly be surprised by anything (except several nerve-wrecking thrilling scenes - and those are just horror cliché). Because of the good aspects I didn't give it less then 4.
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It has its heart in the right place.
Hey_Sweden5 October 2015
The Harbinger is a crab fishing ship sailing in the Bering sea. The captain is Bill Graff (ever reliable Lance Henriksen), and on board are students looking to study the effects of climate change on the lives of beluga whales. One of the students is Bills' own granddaughter, Sadie (Camille Balsamo). Soon they discover something interesting inside an ice floe: the long missing remains of a Soviet space capsule, a perfectly preserved cosmonaut...and something else, a malevolent life form that can change forms and liquify at will. Trapped on this ship with nowhere to go, Bill, Sadie, and others realize that they all could have been infected by this thing.

"Harbinger Down" was made by veteran makeup and creature effects creators Alec Gillis (making his writing / directing debut) and Tom Woodruff Jr. as a response to seeing all their hard work for the prequel to John Carpenters' "The Thing" replaced with CGI. That frustration is understandable, but the result is a pretty routine genre entry. Gillis's script is under developed and populated with lame characters, especially the idiotic, jealous professor played by Matt Winston (son of the late, great effects maestro Stan Winston). The character stuff in this movie, in general, is of the eye rolling variety, and Gillis fares a little better with the technical aspects of filmmaking.

He's able to generate some decent suspense, and the atmosphere is pretty impressive for the budget. Obviously, this was made as a direct tribute to "The Thing" (it even begins on June 25, 1982, the date that Carpenters' classic debuted in theatres), and it can't quite exploit the element of paranoia that the earlier film did so well. Some fans may appreciate that it's a quickly paced story that runs a mere 82 minutes, but others will likely wish that it had been fleshed out more.

As a showcase for creature effects that were *supposedly* 100% practical, it does a passable job, but the effects are often under lit, and none of them are really going to blow the audience away.

Chalk this one up as a well intentioned miss.

Five out of 10.
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Slightly chilling but ultimately messy and flawed.
quincytheodore7 August 2015
With admittedly sharp visual and commitment to practical effect, Harbinger Down has heavy resemblance to The Thing. It will also be appreciated more for fans of old school sci-fi mystery, but unfortunately the effects are not effective. Often done in shaky motion or poorly lit sequences, the organism is a concept better hidden than shown in plain sight and the script is clearly not capable of delivering "feat what you cannot see" horror theme.

The crew of Harbinger finds a peculiar object near the Bering Sea. After hefty debate they decide to poke what seems to be Soviet satellite, a poorly made decision. Most of the screenplay is marred with needless arguments. The characters argue almost in every turn, from feeble matter and even down to crucial life preservation decision.

These are not the people one would want to be with in high stake situation. Cue the combative professor, finicky brunette protagonist and loud ship crews, then you'll have a story too similar to 2011 The Thing. Just like the creature it grows even more muddled the more it progresses.

Visual keeps a good direction for first half. It's clear, very vibrant and camera angle fits the claustrophobic location. However, it mindlessly turns into the dreaded shaky cam, even with found footage touch. There are a couple of good scenes in the making, but these lose thrill when exposed too many times, hence the shaky cam. The latter half uses blur cinematography and ends up contradicting its crisp build-up.

Despite the effect used, CGI or practical, the movie has to be engaging. Harbinger Down has a few glimpses of terror, but neither its effect nor story has adequate quality to keep the movie afloat.
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Are people getting dumber?
john-monne5 November 2015
What a shame.. what a waste.

More and more movies with decent budgets are released with bad stuff, ruining stuff in them that wouldn't have cost more money to resolve. So why is it happening you may ask yourself? I really don't know but I start to wonder if the movie makers think people are getting dumber with each generation. Perhaps they are right..

Anyhow, it could actually have been a decent, proper "The Thing" spin off. Most of the actors are actually decent with a couple of good ones. The camera work is solid. The effect that I have seen are acceptable to decent.. but they had to go an ruin it with idiocy written into or allowed to exist with the story itself.. Something that could have been eliminated.

Does it really take idiocy in a story (e.g. stupid mistakes, idiotic reasoning etc) to create a horror setting? I mean come on people.. A story can be anything the writers can come up with and yet they choose to write in ruining idiocy to start the horror and keep it going.

I don't want to write any spoilers for people, so go out and see it yourself and see if you feel the same. But it completely RUINED the movie for me and I couldn't continue watching it past 1/3 because of it. The lead female character had an ignorant, spoiled, clueless annoying look on her face from the opening scene on, but soon after I just couldn't look at her anymore because of this poor ruining story writing. I guess she became the focus point of my annoyance of this film being ruined by the writers.
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Badly made B-grade version of The Thing
s327616910 August 2015
Harbinger Down is a badly made B-grade version of The Thing. Much as its nice to see Lance Hendrickson on the screen again, its a shame to see him take part in this travesty of a monster flick.

Almost everything about Harbinger Down is bad. The story's timing is off, there's really no suspenseful build up and the so called monster is more silly than genuinely scary. Indeed, this film almost succeeds as a comedy where it fails abysmally as a horror.

The special effects like the rest of this film are second rate too and the acting, on the whole, is only passable.

My advice stay well away from Harbinger Down, its a real stinker. One out of ten from me.
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The first movie filmed entirely in pore-o-vision
RogerBorg27 May 2018
An almost unwatchable mess, simply awful in every way.

Every scene - EVERY scene - is show in super close up, presumably to hide the fact that they have no sets and no budget. Nearly every shot features one, or at most two faces, totally filling or overspilling the screen.

Worse, they are often filmed with a shaking or panning hand held camera, giving the distinct feeling that either the cameraman or the audience is drunk.

The sound balance is all over the place. Despite the camera being shoved into the actors' faces, the microphone seems to have been placed in a different time zone. Crank the sound up, and your earballs will be blown off by the foley from a budget SFX CD from the 1990s. Urgh, that metal door creak, when will we stop hearing it.

The cast and characters are a random boatload of nobodies and nothings, scraped off the floor of a Scriptwriting 101 remedial class. Slimy White Guy, Sassy Black Girl, Chippy Black Guy, Chubby Asian, Big Guy, Stud McBeardly, Milfy Madeyes, and some blank faced eye candy who doesn't really have any character or personality. Oh, and Lance Henriksen is there, doing his contracted number of scenes, but he can't save it.

Script, I guess there is one. Climate change, white man's welfare, save the whales, climate change, ooh, creature. It truly doesn't matter, you're only here to see the non-CGI effects.

And sad to say, they are dreadful. Comically inept, right from the shaky model space capsule in the opening shot, then all the way through to the slimy, rubbery conclusion. We're talking unintentionally slapstick levels of cringe.

If this is the answer to CGI, it's a question nobody asked.

There is no reason to watch this film. It has no merits. You will not enjoy it, and you will not recall a single scene from it after it is finally, blessedly over.
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feuer-goettin8 August 2015
I first saw the trailer on Youtube and I thought to give it a try. I must say it was an entertaining trailer, but I got disappointed by the actual movie. Some minutes into the movie, I immediately was brought back to when I was watching The River (that TV series). This movie is pretty much like The River - set in a confined space of a ship - only with another "entity" instead of the curse of the Amazon. Not a waste of time, but I personally believe there are so much more to be done with the story. The story is also almost too similar to Whiteout or whatever "entity" containment type of story. So, I gave it a five star, just because it does not waste my time.
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Uses the amazing practical effects used in 'The Thing' (2011) before they were replaced with bad CGI
nekrotikk3 June 2020
It's important to know why 'Inanimate' AKA 'Harbinger Down' looks like 'The Thing'. The only negative reviews I see of it complain that it seems to be a low budget rip off of 'The Thing'. 'Inanimate' was made to show the original practical effects used in 'The Thing' (2011) until they were badly CGI'd over at the last minute before release. If you look on YouTube you can find interviews from 'The Thing' (2011) talking about how practical effects were being used and how important the practical effects were. There's also footage released by the practical effects company who worked on 'The Thing' (2011) after they received criticism for the lack of practical effects. This behind the scenes footage shows that they made all the practical effects, and they looked amazing, but the studio stepped in last minute and changed it to CGI. As far as I'm aware, the practical effects team didn't know all their work had been replaced with CGI until they saw it at the premier. As I understand it a full practical cut of 'The Thing' (2011) does exist, but the studio released the CGI version. 'Inanimate' was made to show the practical effects, so it has to be similar to 'The Thing' in order to use those practical effects. It's really a film for people who want to see how good the effects in 'The Thing' (2011) would have looked if the studio hadn't decided to CGI over the practical effects. If you've seen 'The Thing' you know what you're gonna get with 'Inanimate', and I imagine if I'd seen it without knowing why it was made I'd give it a lower rating thinking I'd rather be watching 'The Thing' (1982). But knowing why it was made gave me the opportunity to appreciate it more.
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Still waiting for the triumphant return of the rubber monster
NonSequiturL3 September 2015
Drinks have been few and far between for fans of cinematic rubber monsters of late. After the art form's halcyon days of the 1980's passed by, creatures of the silver screen have generally been created with computer graphics, much to the chagrin of genre fans who prefer their talons and tentacles a little more tangible. We've been suffering a prosthetic drought, and this particular reviewer is very thirsty.

Enter Studio ADI's successful kickstarter for Harbinger Down, which came with a promise of delivering an old school practical effects-driven horror/sci-fi film - an oasis in the desert of creature features. A savior clothed in fake gore and torn foam latex.

ADI have a long history of helping some of cinema's greatest monsters come to life, so on paper the concept looks great. Add genre favorite Lance Henriksen into the mix and things start to get very interesting. So how did effects wizard Alec Gillis fare at pulling all of this together from the director's chair? Unfortunately, not as good as we hoped.

On its surface, Harbinger Down is an admirable homage to the classics, drawing its aesthetic and plot directly from Carpenter's The Thing while making numerous visual and dialogue nods to Alien, Jaws, Predator and other beloved creature features. Sadly, in being so reverent it fails to develop its own identity and never becomes anything of its own. Yes, we all love the classics; but being so stuck in reference and homage causes stagnation.

All of that shouldn't matter as long as the creature is good. There are some cool, creative moments of practical effects, but they're fleeting and lit darkly, and you're rarely sure what you're looking at. The film is shot so claustrophobically to hide the limitations of the set that you never feel that much of anything is real, including the monster. We don't find much out about its abilities or the way it operates, and to be honest, it's so derivative that it really doesn't matter.

But it wasn't just the monsters that made Harbinger Down's major influences work. Those films were generally populated with casts full of character actors that generated an on-screen sense of camaraderie and implied history between them, which went a long way to bringing home the horror when their friends fell victim to whatever unknown force they happened to be dealing with.

The cast here falls flat. Lance Henriksen's presence heightens the bar slightly, but he looks tired and probably would be more comfortable rocking away on a porch with a glass of cold iced tea in one hand and a paycheck in the other. Our protagonist lacks any charisma whatsoever, and spends the entire film looking a little too perfect for the setting. Her make-up is freshly applied and her hair meticulously straightened in every scene, even though she's among a crew of grizzled sailors fighting a gooey alien enemy on board a rusty old tub. We don't get enough time to know any of the other characters, as the film's run time is so short that it can only barely be called a feature.

With all of its problems, it's still a fun, dumb, nostalgic ride. It just comes nowhere near competing with its influences. We need a practical effects monster movie to hit the screens with a force of originality and show that there's still plenty of life in this art form rather than reinforce the idea that it's a thing of the past only worthy of homage and fondness for the good ol' days. Harbinger Down had plenty of opportunity to be that film, but missed the mark by a long way.

So we go back to waiting for the return of the rubber monster.

Always, waiting.

Note: Harbinger Down features repeated use of a particular squeaky door sound effect. It's used so many times (often more than once in the same scene) that it becomes comical. This is the "Wilhelm Scream" of squeaky door noises. Once you become familiar with it, you'll start hearing it in every single movie. It cannot be unheard. Harbinger Down wins for having the most uses of this sound in any movie I've ever seen. Congratulations, Harbinger Down.
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Proofs something again
noirink-120542 November 2016
While the reason to make this movie seems like a good idea and the motivation and the effort that were taken to make Harbinger Down are truly honorable - for all creature-feature builder and its fan base.

But in the end the movie proofs again, that FX is not enough - especially if the script and the editing are… let us say it nicely; in a poor state. The movie is very dull, sorry. It's a wasted opportunity to actually proof those movie executives, that they are wrong how they treat the animatronic and practical FX departments. Afterall, I rather watch a flick with a decent, entertaining story (I'm talking about a basic horror-flick-story by all means. I'm not talking Shakespeare here!) with *sight* cheesy Digital FX. Or I re-watch an old classic, like Cronenbergs The Fly, Carpenters The Thing or Peter Jacksons Braindead, they proof at least that both works… story and practical FX.

I really WISHED for the makers of this movie it would have been a better movie - for the sake of their professions and their future. Therefore I give it five stars instead of 3.
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middle of the road.(just)
Mcgolj10 August 2015
OK Not the worst movies i've ever seen, but it's by no means going to be remembered for anything special. Lance is about the only thing that holds it together, good actor, underused in my opinion, but even he struggles in the last third to hold the film together. The acting from some, is, shall we say, tired and formulaic, there are flashes from a few, but that's the thing, it's just flashes of what could have been.

So far as the story went, it was very much a "the thing" meets "Alien" meets fishermen..... A promising idea and a good story could have been told, but alas, they fall into the traps they so desperately needed to avoid for comparisons to other more polished bigger budget franchises. A bit more attention to the less is more camp, for achieving a scare where you don't have a big enough budget, would have done more for the poor poor effects and this coupled with poor acting in parts, leaves the film sagging in places where it could have been sailing high.

As i said, not the worst, but by no means the movie it could have been. i gave it a middle of the road meh! rating
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Effective but unfulfilling remake of classic B-movie thriller
eschetic-218 August 2015
If people must keep remaking the iconic 1951 THE THING (...From Another World, from the John W. Campbell short story "Who Goes There?")- and people do seem to insist on doing that - the only effective way to do it is the way the RKO original did: to remove all the close-ups of the "monster" or their modern day CGI equivalents and let the viewers' imaginations supply the chills in classic B-movie fashion.

Writer/Director Alec Gillis seems to have understood this perfectly in his low budget but effective HARBINGER DOWN, which cuts right to the chase with his ANDROMEDA STRAIN inspired premise, setting up the origin if his particular "Thing" and then leaps forward 50 years in time to the ice bound body of his creepy tragedy. Cinematicly, Gillis gets maximum "bang for his buck," and the film's dark colors wrap the viewer in the desired cocoon of depression, mistrust and fear from the moment we board the crumbling "crabbing trawler" which has agreed to take on board a gaggle of graduate students (the team includes the daughter of a former partner of the boat's master) seeking to explore the effect of climate change on marine life - to give the film some modern validity - until the inevitable final rescue of a survivor "to tell the tale." The atmosphere is so strong that we ignore the incongruity of a martinet master allowing his ship to become so far from the "spit and polish" state which would keep it at peak efficiency (it wouldn't help the requisite creepy spirit of the film any more than brighter lighting would have). This kind of film is ALL about atmosphere.

Your rating may be higher than the five stars I give HARBINGER DOWN if you don't ask a horror film to do more than scare you with predictable regularity, but I'm inclined to feel that a good film of any genre has to justify its story on some deeper level. The audience should come away with something more than just the memory of some effective but passing chills. This HARBINGER DOWN, while effective at what it apparently sets out to do, offers nothing of value beyond temporary stimulation of a few lesser glands (isn't that one judicial definition of pornography?). No message of ecological ideals or scientific responsibility. No couching of scientific fact for broader consumption. Nothing, in fact, to make the film as memorable as the quality of the film making makes one wish it was, hence my lower rating.
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Have you seen "The Thing" ? You better not watch this feeble attempt to equal it.
peterp-450-29871628 October 2015
"This is a portable molecular analyzer. Place the sample in this cartridge and it could tell you everything... from what species it is... and whether or not if it has a cold or cancer. Hey, Bowman, I wonder if that thing can analyze a fart. Okay, leave now, cavemen. Go wrestle sharks or whatever you do."

Can you remember that spider-like, slimy creature with a deformed head attached to it from "The Thing"? Or when John Hurt's belly bursts open in "Alien" and a bloody alien pops out of it? Both films were made in the 80s. An era when there was fairly limited use of computer animations in films. The special effects were usually achieved by using stop-motion techniques, makeup and miniatures. "Harbinger down" is an ode to these techniques (PFX) which are still being used by the film studio ADI (also in the remake of "The Thing" in 2011). So it's a mixture of "The Thing" and "Alien" with an alien organism that has nestled itself in the body of a Russian cosmonaut who's been frozen in the polar ice already for many years now.

Personally, I always had a boundless admiration for the creators of SEs and make-up at that time. This was the period of a rampant VHS / Betamax market. I can remember me, as a film lover and not owning a video player, going to the local video store and returning home with a plastic case, with a VHS player, and five videotapes. Films full of exploding heads like in "Scanners" for instance or decaying body parts like in "The Fly". And now a renowned company comes up with a self-produced film of which they say that they only made use of these ancient techniques. That caused a momentary excitement. Unfortunately there's very little to see of these techniques. Either the creature appears in the dark which made it rather difficult to see. Either it moved so quickly.

Despite its high nostalgic value, the end result is somewhat disappointing. Besides the striking resemblance with classics from the 80's, there is also the sometimes appalling act. The stereotypical circumstances aren't very original. Again it takes place in a polar region. This time it all happens aboard a crab boat. Yet again a location where an escape is impossible. Obviously, there's someone whose priorities are at least somewhat debatable. The moment hell breaks loose, the systematic elimination of crew members begins.

I don't doubt the craftsmanship of Alec Gillis as creator of grotesque, slimy monsters. But directing is a job he clearly hasn't mastered yet. First of all there's a total lack of tension. There isn't a single moment that grabs you by the throat. You look at it in an apathetic way and patiently wait for the denouement. Even the main topic of the film is a great disappointment. The organism looks artificial, plastic, fake and is far from fearsome. It's just a considerable over-sized octopus that changes shape and moves around the boat quite easily. But you won't get the chills from it.

The good intentions are clearly present, but then again the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The finishing touch remains weak. Maybe it was initially intended to create a movie similar to "The Thing". At first the remake of 2011 solely consisted of techniques used by ADI. However, these were excluded from the final film. So perhaps this is a raised middle finger towards the makers of that remake. This doesn't diminish the fact that it's still an extremely poor movie. However there are still two positive facts I should mention. The way the alien transfigures, wasn't such a bad idea after all. And Lance "Bishop" Henriksen plays a rock solid role as the stubborn and steadfast captain Graff. But ultimately it was still too meager. They could have neglected that Soviet rubbish and focus on those white whales. That would have been equally exciting.

More reviews here : http://bit.ly/1KIdQMT
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A copycat or homage?
leisherentry21 May 2017
Have you seen John Carpenter's The Thing from 1984 and starring Kurt Russell? If so, then you've seen this film.

This is almost an exact replica of that movie. Character names and the setting is different, but they're pretty much the same movie.

That doesn't necessarily make this film bad, but because it's a copy of a more famous film, the natural tendency is to compare it to said film. That's where this movie fails. It doesn't capture the same atmosphere or mood. The acting isn't as good, and there are some logic problems with the plot.

Still, if you're a horror fan you'll be entertained enough to make a viewing worthwhile. The cast does a decent job and it's still an interesting premise.
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OK flick
8512229 August 2016
Greetings from Lithuania.

"Harbinger Down" (2015) is pretty much a much weaker rip-off / clone of "The Thing". Considering its small budget, i kinda enjoyed this flick for what it is. The creature itself was very "Thing-ish" - pretty creepy staff. Sure some of the characters kills off were way to chezee, but not also not that bad. The main reason i watched this flick were that i wanted to see some low-key horror flick and especially something with Lance Henriksen - i really like this actor, so basically i got what i asked for it - a low-key horror flick with Lance Henriksen - and it was pretty OK one.

Overall, if you skip "Harbinger Down" you won't lose anything, as you have seen this movie many times if you like the genre and in much better form. Nevertheless i kinda enjoyed this movie, for what it is - it gave me what i expected and nothing more. Enjoyable, low- key genre flick, definitely not as bad as its rating says.
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