Kickstart This: Awesome Practical FX Creature Film 'Harbinger Down'
by Ben Pearson
May 19, 2013
Welcome back to another edition of Kickstart This, FirstShowing's weekly column dedicated to spreading the word about cool indie projects that need your help to become a reality. This week, we're taking a look at "a film that utilizes and celebrates practical creature effects" called Harbinger Down. This project comes from the folks at Amalgamated Dynamics and promises a tense, claustrophobic thriller in the vein of Alien and The Thing. The best part? They'll only use practical animatronic and makeup effects to create the film's creatures. Take a look at their pitch video below, leave us a comment, and donate if you can. Watch this!
Like most film lovers who grew up in the 1980s, we're big fans of seeing practical effects in movies. It's not a revelatory stance; most of our readers and the rest of the movie blogging community agree with us. But we all know that major moviemaking is a business, so if studios can cut corners and create CGI creature effects for cheaper than they can hire talented animatronic and makeup artists to create something real, you can bet they're going to take the cheap route nine times out of ten. That's why this team is going outside of the studio system to produce a horror thriller that people like us should absolutely love seeing.
The story follows a group of grad students who board a ship called the Harbinger to study the effects of global warming on a pod of Orcas in the Bering Sea. While churning through the ice, the crew discovers a recently thawed piece of old Soviet space wreckage that could end up leading to their demise. The Russians had sent tiny resilient animals into space to test the effects of radiation, and the result is a host of mutated creatures frozen in the ice for decades...until now. The mantra that sums up the whole story would also be a great tagline when (fingers crossed!) the film gets funded: "When flight is not an option, the fight is more desperate."
You may not recognize Amalgamated Dynamics by name, but you'll certainly recognize the major movies the company has worked on since its inception in the late 80s: Tremors, Starship Troopers, Spider-Man, Zodiac, and tons more. The people working on Harbinger Down have 10 Oscar nominations and 4 wins between them, so this isn't some homegrown group working out of a garage. They also did tons of work on the 2011 remake of John Carpenter's The Thing, but almost all of their practical effects were unceremoniously replaced by CGI before the film hit theaters. The lack of practical effects in that movie was one of the main reasons it didn't work nearly as well as Carpenter's version, and Harbinger Down feels like a chance for these filmmakers to earn some redemption for that film's failure. Check out the pitch video:
For more on Amalgamated Dynamics' Harbinger Down, and to help support the independent project, visit its Kickstarter page. ADI co-founder and writer/director Alec Gillis is hoping looking to raise a total of $350,000 by Friday, June 7th, and they've made some solid headway already. Let's help them make sure this gets funded because it has the potential to be a totally scary, kick-ass horror thriller. Donate if you can, but if you're short on cash right now, I'm sure the filmmakers would appreciate if you passed along info on Harbinger Down to friends, co-workers, and especially fans of practical effects in film.
That's all for this week's Kickstart This. Feel free to e-mail me at BenPears85@gmail.com if you find a cool film-related project that needs some extra attention to meet its goal. My inbox is always open, and if you send in any Kickstarter or IndieGoGo film project, I can't promise we'll feature it, but I will always take a look at it. Thanks for your submissions and please keep them coming. As always, thanks so much for your support of these projects because they absolutely could not be completed without the help of film lovers like you. Sound off in the comments, and be sure to visit our archives here for a list of other cool projects.