Saturday, June 21, 2014

Harbinger Down





I love The Thing, and I have no problem with filmmakers assimilating the DNA of Carpenter's classic to bring us more gooey, Thingy goodness. In recent years movies that are heavily inspired by The Thing have started popping up more and more frequently, to the point where it's starting to become a little sub-genre in its own right. As is to be expected, the results have ranged from mediocre (The Thaw), to excellent (The Last Winter, Splinter). Just as I still love Alien rip-offs, I'll never tire of seeing people attempt to emulate the tension and creature effects of that seminal Arctic monster movie.

As such I'm stoked that we've got not one, but two The Thing clones headed our way. The first is Marvin Kren's Blood Glacier (the follow up to his excellent Rammbock), which has already been out for a while, and despite receiving a lot of negative reviews looks like it could provide a few icky thrills. The movie that has me more excited however, is special effects veterans Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr's upcoming Harbinger Down.

Gillis and Woodruff's Amalgamated Dynamics has turned in some great creature effects over the last 25 years in the likes of Tremors, Starship Troopers and this year's Godzilla. They've also provided terrific effects work for a number of not so stellar movies, and one of those is the woeful 2011 remake/prequel of The Thing. During production of that film, much was made of the practical effects that ADI were utilising to bring the Thing to life, but by the time the movie was finished most of their work was hidden under layers of CGI. Honestly, that was the least of that movie's problems, but the disappointment at seeing all of that great practical work obscured by not-so-great CG was the last straw (just to clarify my position on CG, I'm not completely averse to it and love it when it's done well. See District 9, Elysium, Godzilla '14 etc).




So is Harbinger Down, written and directed by Gillis himself, ADI's response to that fiasco? Is this them going "well that was a disaster, so why don't we unofficially remake it ourselves with no studio interference"? If the frenetic trailer is anything to go by, then perhaps. Said trailer features a number of  glimpses at effects that are very reminiscent of Rob Bottin's famous work, and it's kind of endearing to see how unabashedly they're ripping-off Carpenter's movie. You've got your arctic locale; big chunk of ice containing monster remains; glimpsing the creature through a chain link fence; killing it by burning; charred remains seen in the snow. The trailer is full of imagery that fans of the '82 masterpiece will instantly recognise.

It's also kind of charming that they are being so unpretentious with the film's marketing. Look at the taglines on the poster above: from the creature creators of and a practical effects film. It's seems obvious to me that Harbinger Down was driven purely by an enduring love for Bottin's work, as well as a desire to make a buck from the effects legend's legion of fans, many of whom were likely disappointed by Matthijs van Heijningen's 2011 failure.

Bob and Dennis Skotak are also part of the Harbinger team, making the effects pedigree of this movie truly amazing. Of course it has to be noted that there's a long history of features directed by effects gurus that are just plain awful. Whether Harbinger's screenplay, cast and myriad other crucial elements of filmmaking are any good remains to be seen, but despite those reservations I feel optimistic about this one! I mean, there's going to be some stop-motion fucking animation in this! How can you not love that?

Oh, and did I mention the icing on this gory cake? Lance Henrickson is in it!

Read more about it here, and check out the trailer below.





3 comments:

eddie lydecker said...

The 2011 prequel to The Thing might`ve indeed been 'woeful' (relatively speaking anyway) but its still the best film that Mary Elizabeth Winstead has ever appeared in ! ! !.

jimmie t. murakami said...

The 'thing' that i found disappointing about the prequel was the number of actual major transformations sequences in the film, there were 3 the same as in Carpenters film, i thought there were going to be 6 or 7 especially when you consider how cheap CGI is to do now and how convincing the images have become in recent years, i think if there had`ve been twice the number of major effects sequences (CGI quantity vs Bottin's brilliant quality, as it were) the fans might`ve been more forgiving, i know i would`ve been.

Aylmer said...

Eddie: I like Death Proof, and frankly I'd probably take Final Destination 3 over The Thing '11.

Jimmie: yeah, more Thing might have saved it, but I don't know. The characters were all so weak, all the corny references to the original that made it feel more like a remake than a prequel, and that terrible ending.