A group of grad students have booked passage on the crabbing boat Harbinger to study the effects of global warming on a pod of Belugas in the Bering Sea. When the ship’s crew dredges up a recently thawed piece of old Soviet space wreckage, things get downright deadly. It seems that the Russians experimented with tardigrades, tiny resilient animals able to withstand the extremes of space radiation. The creatures survived, but not without mutation. Now the crew is exposed to aggressively mutating organisms. And after being locked in ice for 3 decades, the creatures aren’t about to give up the warmth of human companionship.
Have you seen The Thing? What about Alien? Did you enjoy the fact that they used some great practical effects that make the film age well AND were great for their time? Do you also hate whenever anything changes, and want all movies to look like The Thing or Alien? Well, you’re in luck kiddos. Harbinger Down looks like a movie made 20 years ago, shot on nicer cameras. I love a good, silly, practical monster effect. The Thing is one of my favourite horror movies ever, and clearly the people involved in making this one feel the same, that’s the problem though. This movie takes elements from all of those movies, and feels so much more like an homage film than an original idea.
Homage works, especially in horror, but you can’t make a 90 minute homage and not add to the genre in any way. Cabin in the Woods paid homage in DROVES, but also had it’s own ideas and a unique story to put forward. Harbinger takes elements of Alien (the organism uses humans to grow and reproduce) and The Thing (set in the cold, organism “infects” people etc), smashes them together and sticks everyone on a boat. It was hard to get too invested in anything that was going on, because everything felt so rehashed.
This is especially true when you see that director Alec Gillis worked in make up and special effects on Aliens and The Thing prequelremake. The monster effects here aren’t bad, that’s not my complaint about the movie at all. They’re actually pretty great and gross and fun. Unfortunately they’re all crammed into the dark, and not given a real opportunity to shine.
The cast of the movie is serviceable enough, particularly the wonderful Lance Henriksen, but even then, all he is really give nto do is be gruff old Lance Henriksen. Everyone else is fine, even if the characters are pretty flat. One of the characters is revealed to be a Russian spy and even that falls pretty flat and underwhelming in the movies “twist”.
It’s clear that a lot of love for horror movies went into this movie, but it sadly doesn’t bring anything new to this monster movie pile that we already have. It’s not unwatchable by any stretch, but it’s also not much else. I would recommend checking out movies like Feast, Splinter or John Carpenter’s The Thing well before adding this one to the list.