Zombos Says: Good
Harbinger Down is a good amorphous-glump-of-moving-terror monster romp in the vein of Leviathan, The Thing, and Slither. The practical special effects build a solid scare into the muck amok storyline, and I strongly disagree with flickfilosopher's summation of the"...cheap shoddiness of the practical FX this demo-reel flick is meant to show off." I give the effects a higher rating than that, as well as the movie overall, making me wonder why the same team that did them had their practical efx pulled from The Thing prequel in favor of the less than stellar GCI replacing it.
The lean budget (a Kickstarter funded $384,181.00, according to Wikipedia) does show in the studio-bound, dry-docked, boat scenes, belied by a drunken-camera, woozing at the wrong times, making us conscious of all the mid-shots and close-ups constraining tight frames used to hide the lack of waves and weather. Acting and story hold watertight enough, aside from pesky horror tropes and the usual pacing and editing staleness seen in productions like this. Otherwise, some moody and scary horror moments, and a well-time, and dryly delivered, variation on the "we're going to need a bigger boat" conundrum, perk up the minimal plot and sets, creating sufficient appeal for its 82 minutes of run time .
Then there's Lance Henriksen. I'll admit I can never fault his acting and I'd pay good money just to watch him read cereal boxes out loud, melodramatically. He has a face only a camera could appreciate, and a presence that makes supporting cast members look better than they usually are. Is he given enough to do here? No. But it's more than his wasted appearance in Hollow's Grove. Instead of moving the story through him, Sadie (Camille Balsamo) and her fellow graduate classmates, along with her professor (Matt Winston), provide the direction the boat steers in and the desultory chit-chat while we wait for mayhem to ensue.
Sailing with them are the Harbinger's scripted-go-to odd-ball crewmates including Svet (Milla Bjorn) and Big G (Winston James Francis). The chemistry between them almost happens: the story starts building a love interest--or sexual attraction--but then she's all KGB-big-knife-loving-sexy and he's just big and brutish-sexy--so the love doesn't bud between them. Instead they beat each other up before getting beat up by the monster. A wasted dynamic duo that also needed more to do with their relationship.
The creature makes its entrance courtesy of a Soviet spacecraft lost years before. The craft's location beacon suddenly starts transmitting again --after all those lost years of inactivity--and the crabbing boat's mission to watch the effect of global warming on Whales (crabbing boat, whales--wild, right?) turns into a salvage operation pitting professor, students, and crew against each other while the monster turns them into human sushi. Just once I'd love to see everyone actually on the same page and in the same direction: fighting the monster in earnest. Hey, I can dream, can't I?
A little face time from Leviathan can be seen at one point, and a lot of tentacles make for a good slithering menace through the above and below decks. I was fooled with a scene that hinted at a more robust monster entrance by having it plop down a flight of stairs, but it never happened. That disappointed me. I was hoping for a little more playfulness with my (and our) expectations. Harbinger Down is more cut and dried in it's choices, though, retaining those common moments we see in movies like this. Not an entirely bad thing when handled well enough and Harbinger Down does handle it well enough for me to recommend you put this on your viewing list.
A courtesy stream-screener was provided for this review.