“Harbinger Down” is a enjoyable flick, but there are some caveats to keep in mind. First; yes this is very much “The Thing” done over. There’s a reason for that though. The effects house Amalgamated Dynamics was hired to do the practical effects for 2011′s “The Thing” prequel. Unfortunately, the studio replaced all of their effects with CGI before release. Feeling slighted, ADI decided to venture forth and kick start their own film to showcase their practical effects. With that in mind, ADI may have had a bit of a misstep in promoting this as a ‘practical effects’ movie because at times, the story runs a bit thin as the movie tends to feel like an effects showcase. That’s not to say it’s a bad movie though.
“Harbinger Down” benefits greatly from the addition of genre legend Lance Henriksen. Lance commands the screen and helps drive the plot when it sometimes bottoms out and runs a bit slow. The rest of the cast does well enough, with nobody really standing out as particularly bad. Nobody really stands out as particularly good though in the wake of Henriksen. This isn’t such a bad thing; it’s a serviceable cast that shines on its own from time to time. With a story line that mirrors such an iconic genre movie though, it could have benefited from some stellar performances.
The story is another factor that keeps “Harbinger” in the realm of pretty good vs. great. Again, it’s a watchable story and is engaging. It just mirrors its roots closely throughout its run. They tweak the origin a bit as well as the big bad, but it was clear that the filmmakers had a particular setup in mind and the follow the formula from beginning to end. It’s a solid formula though, so you can enjoy the film for what it is. There’s just no particular aspects to make it stand out on its own. No aspects that is, aside from the effects.
It’s clear that “Harbinger Down” is made to be a showcase for the unused practical effects created by ADI and thankfully, those effects really excel. While sometimes the framing of these effects by the film around them are a little hokey, if you were a fan of the gory results of “The Thing”, you’ll be impressed by the chaos that besets the crew of the Harbinger. They shoot for the moon in their creations, aiming for bigger and crazier than its predecessor and they make for a fun twist, and these twists are where the film separates itself from their influences. Their big and gooey and sometimes packed with splatter, and there’s moments that will make you cringe and make the gorehounds smile.
In the end, ask yourself this; did you like “The Thing”? Then you’re going to like “Harbinger Down” better than the prequel.