Thursday, October 6, 2016

"Harbinger Down" (2015) d/ Alec Gillis

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Those of you out there closer to my age (old bastards, we are now) fondly recall the 1980's as a decade where anything at all could be brought to life upon the silver screen through the extensive usage of practical special effects like prosthetics, stop motion animation, animatronics, or miniatures, and films like The Howling (1980), The Beast Within (1982), An American Werewolf in London (1981), and The Thing (1982) were living proof for rabid genre fans worldwide to enjoy. Enter ADI, a special effects team hired by Universal to provide practical effects for a Thing prequel, only to find most of their gruesome handiwork had been digitally replaced in post-production by computer generated imagery. After a YouTube channel full of videos containing their missing artistry proved wildly popular among fans, Alec Gillis, the director of tonight's review, created a crowd-funded Kickstarter campaign to give the people what they really wanted: a practical effects-heavy monster movie like they used to make 'em, and thus, Harbinger Down was born.

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" I brake for sea cucumbers," notes Graff (Lance Henriksen).
After watching a Russian spacecraft burning up upon re-entry and crashing into the Bering Sea, we are fast-forwarded thirty years to the present, where two grad students, Ronelle and Sadie (Giovonnie Samuels, Camille Balsamo) are accompanying their prof, Stephen (Matt Winston),  on an experiment documenting global warming's effects on whales, aboard Sadie's grandfather's trawler, Harbinger, while he and his crew do some King Crabbin' in the Bering Sea. What could possibly go wrong. Oh yeah, spaceship in the ice. Not only does the dead cosmonaut inside show no damage from the fiery crash when Billy Idol was on the charts, he looks as though he just expired yesterday. Scarfaced, vodka-drinking, man-beating Russian stereotype,  Svetlana (Milla Bjorn), seems to take a special interest.

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"Oh lawdy sweet Jeezus hepp meh!" It's funny, because it's true.
Turns out the dead fellow's cadaver was loaded with tardigrades in a Soviet attempt to prevent him from burning up upon re-entry,  and the resilient microscopic organisms might have been compromised by cosmic radiation in space, causing them to mutate into a shape shifting monster that can survive inside the bodies of Graff's (Lance Henriksen) crew, or stalk and kill those unaffected with an ever morphing range of interstellar weapons, i.e. teeth, tentacles, pincers, fluid-spraying stalks, the whole gamut of bleeech, baby. Add the fact that Svetlana has set charges all over the vessel with plans of hopping a nearby submarine before the fireworks begin, and you can start to fathom what kind of a boffo, knockdown, drag out finale you're about to witness...

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You probably should have read the side effects in fine print on your new erectile dysfunction medication.
Much credit is due to to the makers of tonight's movie, which stands as a genuine throwback to the heyday of motion pictures of it's type, a brand of film sadly all but lost in this modern era of corporatist shortcuts, and penny-pinching producers who would sooner castrate their production to assure the proper box-office returns for their shareholders, moviegoers and their acute preferences be damned. If you siiv through all of the available genre movies provided by streaming media services online, you'll find little else but cheapskate cgi-heavy SyFy fare, assembly line trash of no artistic merit, aimed at dumbed down audiences who can't tell the difference between a good movie or a steaming dump. An effort like tonight's review deserves more than that, and should be championed and uplifted by those of us who still know better. See it, pass it along to your peers, and perhaps someday in the future, movies like this will again be the norm, not the exception. Three wops, and a strong recommendation.

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Alien life form, you so nasty, eatin dat booty.
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