August 21, 2015

VOD Review: Harbinger Down (2015)
There's just something about Crab Fishing that we find fascinating. We're suckers for anything involving big seas and danger to begin with, and it's pretty awesome to watch the guys pull massive pots full of crab onto the boat as well.

Don't ask me to explain it, because I'm honestly not sure what it is.

Naturally, we're addicted to the crab fishing reality show, The Deadliest Catch, so it stands to reason that the prospect of a Horror movie set on a Crab Boat instantly makes our ears perk up... I only wish that Harbinger Down had ended up being as good as we had imagined it would be in our hopeful little minds.
A hot chick (Sadie) and her grad student buddies (names irrelevant) decide to take to The Bearing Sea to study the effects of Global Warming (via whale migration?), hitching a ride on her Pop-Pop's Crabbing Boat, the Harbinger (Down.) Her Pop-Pop is a touch-as-nails Captain who isn't about to take any guff off of some fancy pants College kids neither! That's the Bearing Sea way!

While crabbing (and watching whales), Sadie finds an odd, blinking thing encased in ice under the water, and like any rational group of human beings would, the crew decides to haul it on deck to see what it is. What it is, is the wreckage of an old Soviet Space capsule, that crash-landed in the sea more than 30 years ago. Inside of the capsule is a dead astronaut, and some wired living goo called retardigrades, or something. These retardigrade organisms have survived the crash and have mutated, which means that the Harbinger (Down) is probably not going to get its load of crab back to Dutch Harbor anytime soon.

Soon enough, everybody aboard the Harbinger (Down) is in a fight for their lives against the deadly mutating organisms, and it's up to Captain Pop-Pop and Sexy Sadie to stop them before they bring the Harbinger Down! *See, that's clever, because that's the title of the movie.

There were things about Harbinger Down that we really liked: the premise;  the setting; the crabbing (although very limited); it's valiant attempt at making some dazzling practical effects; Lance Henriksen; and Camille Balsamo. The movie's solid elements are solid enough to be enjoyable, but they aren't quite enough to make us love it as a whole. Or even like it all that much.

We can't say enough about Lance Henriksen in this one. He played the part of grizzled Crab Boat Captain perfectly, adding his own brand of intensity to the role, and we loved every second of it. He's one of the Genre greats, and this is one of his best roles in recent memory. It just really fit him to a T.

We also have to give it up for Camille Balsamo, because she's really hot.

Harbinger Down started off intriguing enough, with its isolated Bearing Sea setting, and the pending alien organism threat, but somewhere along the way it just lost us. It's the story that really kills this one, as it spends a lot of time with its characters, but never really made us care about them. It's almost like they said "Screw plot and characters, we're here to show off the FX!" That is rarely a good move, especially for smaller-budgeted films like this one. 

The FX in this one weren't all that great, but it's clear that they could have been, had there been a bigger budget for the crew to work with. They came up with some crazy-looking monster shots and gore gags, but it came off as silly at times, again, mostly due to budget. It also didn't help that the camera cut away from some of the action at the worst times, or showed the gags through a shaky/blurry lens.

That aside, the gore was pretty solid when we got it.

In the end, Harbinger Down tries really hard to be a deep sea homage to The Thing, but it just doesn't have the storytelling or the quality FX to pull it off. It's not a bad first feature-length effort for FX-minded director Alec Gillis, but he really needs to learn to master the art of storytelling if he's going to make a go of it behind the camera.

It's probably worth a rental for most folks, but just know that it feels more like an impressive Demo Reel at times than it does a completely satisfying movie.


Harbinger Down is available now on VOD.

Oh Camille Balsamo, you sassy little thing you.


  1. I don't even think budget can be blamed for the movie's flaws. Without even getting into script issues, if they had simply plopped a more experienced director behind the camera, that alone would have bumped this movie's quality up significantly. As it is, most of the great creature props go to waste because they literally look like lifeless, flopping sock puppets in most scenes.

    1. Yeah, that's why we saud that the director needs to get a better grasp on storytelling going forward. In different, more experienced hands, this movie could have been far better.

  2. Poor FX!?!?!? Really!!?

    I thought that, although brief many times, what was on the screen was almost practical FX mastery ala Rob Bottan Rick Backer.

    Alec has been the Lead FX guy for some of SciFi's greatest cult classics, such as StarShip Troopers, Aliens, and The Monster Squad.

    Anybody who takes the time and has the skill to produce actual physical FX in this day and age should be praised.

    And as far as the story, well unless you lice under a rock and don't watch many movies, you can plainly tell that this movie is clearly character driven and NOT story driven. The characters are FAR from you standard cookie cut kind, and I was legitimately invested into each of their ultimate fates.

    I have a feeling that you guys bought some bad mojo while watching this, or perhaps it was watched as a group and one person had a problem with some things and that vibe effected the group. Don't tell me it doesn't happen, cause we both know that its most certainly does.
    I suggest that you guys revisit this movie, and do it alone at 3am like I did. It really makes a difference. If you guys are watching all of these movies while its still light outside, then I truly have issues with some of your critiques.

    Just sayin'

    1. No bad mojo, it just wasn't a great movie. It had its moments, and we do praise them for going for practical FX over CGI, but they weren't that great. They were great in concept, and decent in executon, but not stellar.

      And let's not compare Alec's previous FX work -on much bigger movies with much bigger budgets- because Harbinger Down is the exact opposite of those, and is constrained by its limitaions. At least in that respect.

      I've seen plenty of movies, more than most people, and character driven or not, the story lacked. And as far as those characters do go, asdie from the father & daughter, they were all pretty disposable.

      Look, you love this movie, and that's awesome. We gave it a C-, which is a slightly below average grade, because we liked some of the things that it offered. Overall though, the story was weak, the characters and dialogue weren't much better, and the FX wasn't great. We're not bashing on it, we're just being honest.

      And if you have problems with the critiques of anyone who watches movies during the daylight hours, then you probably take issue with most critiques. I tend to watch most movies int he wee hours of the night myself, and for some of them, you're right, it makes all the difference.

      This just wasn't one of them.