No amount of impeccable CGI can replace the feeling of a tangible, practical, on-set special effect. It’s why the T-rex breakout scene from Jurassic Park can still wow audiences twenty years later, and it’s why the monster effects from The Thing are still mind-blowing today. If you agree, then have we got a movie for you: It’s called Harbinger Down, and it’s the directorial debut of effects masters Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr., who between them have worked on Aliens, The Terminator, Predator, Tremors, Starship Troopers and many, many more genre classics (pictured above are just a few of their company’s creations).
We last covered Harbinger Down when it was trying to raise money on Kickstarter to help cover some of their costs, which is why we’re thrilled to see that all their fundraising has actually paid off. The first trailer for the movie, about a fishing vessel that hauls up a big chunk of ice that contains something inhuman, is now online, and it teases a whole host of icky, creepy, monster-sized practical effects.
Sure, it looks like a love letter to The Thing set on a boat, but as far as writing love letters go, there’s really no better recipient, is there? Plus, when you hear Lance Henriksen say “We’ve dredged a piece of wreckage containing human remains,” you know what happens next is bound to be pretty great.
Speaking of The Thing, Gillis and Woodruff Jr.’s company actually created a ton of practical creature work for the remake, only to have the studio later decide to go in and completely replace all of their hard work with CGI. Here they are explaining about why decisions like that are made (a decision they didn’t even know had been made until three days before the movie came out), and how the only way to prove to studios that people still like horror movies with practical effects in them is to support the movies that actually use them. And that’s why you can expect plenty more from us about Harbinger Down from now until it’s release (which is currently undated; this is an indie movie, after all).
This video is also an excellent explanation of how decisions about effects, both digital and practical, are made at the studio level. It’s fascinating, honest, and informative, so do give it a watch when you’ve got the time.
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