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. Genre : SF/Horror Country : USA Cast : Lance Henriksen : Graff Matt Winston : Stephen Camille Balsamo : Sadie Director : Alec Gillis
"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
Hey, Bowman, I wonder if that thing can analyze a fart.
Okay, leave now, cavemen. Go wrestle sharks or whatever you do.”
Can you rememberthatspider-like,slimycreaturewith adeformedheadattached to itfrom "The Thing"?OrwhenJohn Hurt's belly bursts openin"Alien"andabloodyalienpopsout of it? Both filmswere made in the 80s. An erawhenthere was fairly limited use of computer animationsin films. The special effectswere usuallyachieved by usingstop-motiontechniques, makeupand miniatures."Harbinger down" isan odetothesetechniques (PFX) which are stillbeing used by thefilm studioADI (also in theremakeof "TheThing" in 2011).So it's a mixture of"TheThing"and"Alien" with an alienorganism thathas nestled itself in the body of a Russiancosmonautwho'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 highnostalgicvalue, the end result issomewhat disappointing.Besidesthe strikingresemblancewithclassicsfrom the 80's, there is also thesometimesappallingact. Thestereotypicalcircumstances aren't very original. Again it takes place in apolar region. This time it all happens aboard acrabboat.Yet again a location wherean escapeisimpossible.Obviously, there'ssomeonewhoseprioritiesareat leastsomewhatdebatable.The moment hell breaks loose, the systematiceliminationofcrew 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 oversized 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.