Synopsis: Thawed from ice after three decades mutated creatures recovered from a piece of Soviet space wreckage terrorize a group of graduate students on a fishing trawler.
Sometimes being complimentary can come off feeling like it’s purposely forced. On the outside the 2011 version of The Thing set out to answer the age old question no one really asked – What exactly happened to the Norwegian base after digging up an alien life form in the middle of Antarctica? All who’ve seen John Carpenter’s The Thing are given what is called a fractured backstory where over the course of the first half of the film a few discovered puzzle pieces get realigned then your imagination fills in the rest. No matter how sincere one’s efforts to try and follow in the footsteps of arguably one of the greatest horror films in modern history its like trying to walk on stage after Queen galvanized an audience of 70,000 at Live Aid (sorry David Bowie). Everything that could go wrong with the 2011 Thing did from the overall look of the film to pacing issues to trying way too hard to match the tone of Carpenter instead of trying to evolve into a completely different organism in itself. Then there’s the inexcusable use of dicey CGI to the point where anything that is supposed to look terrifying comes off as unintentionally funny. Whenever I find myself looking back at this Thing the question that remains is why does Hollywood think that effects of this ‘caliber’ are worthy of making the final cut? When production started Amalgamated Dynamics (an Academy Award winning company formed by two students of Stan Winston) was handling the practical creature effects yet as the release date started to draw near Universal Pictures wasn’t impressed with what had been accomplished and decided to instead plop a giant computer generated cow pie on top of their hard work.
Second chances don’t occur very often but in those rare instances people are mostly seeking redemption for past mistakes. Rather than accept the questionable decision that Universal made Amalgamated Dynamics moved forward on their first independently made full length feature with 100% practical effects to offer those who were disappointed with the outcome of The Thing 2011 an olive branch. The DNA from what Amalgamated Dynamics were hoping to prominently showcase a mere four years ago proves that whatever is painstakingly designed and physically put in front of the camera can never be replaced. The best way to describe Harbinger Down as a whole is ambitious unlike the prequel Thing the atmosphere is perfectly unnerving you get a lot tension met with some powerfully driven acting thanks in part to the impassioned dominance of Lance Henriksen. One thing that was greatly missing from 2011 Thing was an skilled actor who could carry the movie’s weight on his or her shoulders. At 75 years old Lance dials in a performance that if you grew up watching him in Terminator or Aliens should have you grinning from ear to ear. The other actors hit their marks well enough however they most likely felt that in order to have a better presence to let Lance be the anchor to keep Harbinger steadily in place. Regrettably the film suffers from feeling too much like a imitation of The Thing and the original Alien where a group of people are isolated and slowly stalked until only a few remain. Its the worse case of been there done that syndrome in a project that should boldly fly the banner for practical effects defiantly returning into the heat of battle. The indie scene is full of young/hungry film makers inspired by the innovators who came up with some pretty revolutionary ideas. All it takes is a little outside the box thinking and high quality physical effects to make Hollywood realize the error of their ways. Remember nothing stays the same forever – Things change.
Final Grade: C