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Fund This Film: ‘Harbinger Down’ is Sci-Fi/Horror for Fans of Practical Effects by Masters of…

By  · Published on May 11th, 2013

Fund This Film: ‘Harbinger Down’ is Sci-Fi/Horror for Fans of Practical Effects by Masters of Practical Effects

As I’ve stated in previous Fund This Film posts, one of the main benefits of crowdfunding is that it offers opportunity for projects that Hollywood literally rejects. Filmmakers like Alex Cox, Ralph Bakshi and even Zach Braff have hit Kickstarter because their visions and methods don’t fit the industry standards and preferences these days and no mainstream production and financial outlets are interested in their works as they’re intended. Similarly, with computer effects being the go-to norm in moviemaking now, people wishing to work with practical effects need to go to fans of such tactile techniques in order to pay for it. We’ve already seen a few campaigns highlighting old school movie magic, including Cox’s effort, and now there’s one from animatronic and makeup wizards Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr.

If you’re not familiar with those guys by name, you know the creatures and other stuff they’ve done for such films as Aliens, The Terminator, Tremors, Spider-Man, X-Men: First Class, Evolution, Cocoon, Jumanji, Superman Returns, The Incredible Hulk and The Monster Squad. Gillis was nominated for an Oscar for both Alien 3 and Starship Troopers, and Woodruff was also nominated for Alien 3 and won an Academy Award for Death Becomes Her. Through their company, Amalgamated Dynamics, they also collaborated on the recent prequel/remake of The Thing, but they were disappointed to see most of their work on the movie replaced or augmented with CGI, and that’s part of why they’re doing this (similar-sounding) feature film called Harbinger Down themselves.

Gillis is writing and directing while Woodruff is producing. Hopefully he’s also performing in some capacity (he’s the guy in the main alien suits in many Alien sequels as well as the title monster in Pumpkinhead and a gorilla in numerous movies including Zookeeper). Also hopefully appearing in the film is actor Lance Henriksen, who says he wants to star if they’ll have him and his schedule permits. Presumably he’d play a ship captain or professorial guide for a team of grad students studying global warming’s effects on whales in the Bering Sea. In which case he’d likely be an early victim to the mutant experimental organisms found aboard newly thawed Soviet space wreckage.

The Kickstarter campaign for Harbinger Down has a goal of $350,000, and after a couple days they’ve raised more than a seventh of that. Understandably, the $10,000-priced perk of not only appearing but being graphically killed in the film is already taken. But there are still high pledge points that will get you actual creature models used in the movie and personal face/body plaster cast molds. Other incentives include personalized artwork, having a character named after you, having a photo of you or your whole family in the movie and autographed scripts.

To show us what the film will look like, their video includes a brief proof of concept trailer and their page features a good amount of creature design drawings. Honestly, the video does look great effects-wise, but I do hope the final product will be more tightly directed. Gillis doesn’t really have a background in writing and directing, so that’s a big thing to overlook when pledging. It’s nice that these guys are getting to do the effects work they’re best at and that they want to celebrate practical techniques and pay homage to the late Ray Harryhausen, but are they the proper people to fill the main filmmaking duties, too? Effects artists turned filmmakers don’t have the best track record. These guys worked with the Strauss brothers on Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, though, so they ought to know that.

Let’s hope for the best and share in the excitement of Gillis, who will tell you more about the project in the video below.

Do you want to see this film? Enough to help fund it?

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.