Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Film Review: Harbinger Down (2015)

Harbinger Down (Review)
United States/2015
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"If you don't mind a bland narrative, this is a spectacle worth watching for the practical special effects."

Sadie (Camille Balsamo) and her college group board the fishing trawler Harbinger to study the effects of global warming on whales in the Bering Sea. Their studies are soured upon discovering something more sinister in the ice...

Harbinger Down is a basic creature feature with a generic cast of characters — I think the latter is more disappointing. The film follows Sadie after she boards the Harbinger — the trawler captained by her grandfather, Graff (Lance Henriksen). The crew discover a block of ice with a Soviet spacecraft and decide to keep it in the hold. Of course, instead of waiting until they dock, Sadie decides to pry into their discovery. She finds bizarre alien bacteria and the crew find themselves attacked by a shape-shifting alien. There are other tidbits here and there, but that's practically the entire plot. Discover, unleash, survive. The ending plays it safe — very predictable and fails to leave an impression. It's not horrible, but it could have been better.

Obviously, I was disappointed with the plot in Harbinger Down. The story is hollow and underdeveloped. It's riddled with plot contrivances and exposition. The characters are extraordinarily generic and dull, basically cutouts from other films. Yet... I was engaged and entertained through the film. It's certainly flawed, but it also has its fair share of highs. I liked the concept. I liked the setting and atmosphere — it's secluded and frigid. There some moderate suspense here and there, too. The shape-shifting alien steals the show, though. If you don't mind a bland narrative, this is a spectacle worth watching for the practical special effects. I think the practical effects really helped in keeping me engaged. I was excitedly waiting for the next alien appearance. If you love practical special effects, like myself, you only have to get past the first act before it starts moving. Although never amazing, the story becomes more tolerable during the latter half, at least.

The acting is barely serviceable, though. Lance Henriksen is good for the most part. However, the rest of the cast suffer from poor delivery. It feels like they are reading directly from a script filled with stilted dialogue — it just flows so unnaturally, missing conviction and sincerity. The film looks decent, though. Some scenes stick out due to some questionable effects, but it generally looks good. The music was also decent — nothing I would listen to on its own, but it matched the mood of the film. As I previously stated, the practical effects are really the highlight of the film. These effects are splendid and create an interesting level of immersion. The film is written and directed by Alec Gillis. He certainly knows how to craft a film and set a scene, but the writing leaves much to be desired. It's not horrible, but it feels hollow and uninspired. Oddly so, too, considering the film felt like it was supposed to be a homage to classic creature features. Unfortunately, it never quite feels that way.

Overall, Harbinger Down is a decent film. The story is severely flawed and the characters are weak. However, the plot becomes more tolerable during the second half, the suspense is decent, and practical effects are marvelous — wondrous enough to conjure some "wow" moments and keep me seated from beginning to end. If you understand what you're getting into, I don't mind recommending a cheap rental or steam. If you're searching for a ground-breaking story or unnerving suspense like The Thing, stay away.

Score: 5/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore.

No comments:

Post a Comment