Last year, practical effects company Amalgamated Dynamics Inc. (better known as StudioADI) announced that they would be producing their own movies, starting with a creature feature titled Harbinger Down. Successfully funded through Kickstarter and starring Lance Henriksen, the film has been highly anticipated by backers an followers alike. In an update to the film’s fans put out by director Alec Gillis yesterday, he announced that the film has been picked up by a yet unnamed North American distribution company, and will have a limited ten theater release no later than September of this year. Here’s the first trailer:
The Back Story:
It all started with ADI’s co-founders Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr being hired by Universal to helm the animatronic and makeup FX for the highly anticipated prequel to the now classic John Carpenter version of The Thing. However, as time whore on the film’s release date was pushed back, and studio executives continued to ask for changes. Finally in 2011 the movie was released, only to preform poorly at the box office and receive outrage from its cult following over the use of rushed, overly slick and liquid looking CGI. Audiences had been promised in camera effects, in keeping with the original, and wanted to know why this was. Many wondered if Gillis and Woodruff’s team had dropped the ball, leading to the overabundance of computer effects. However, it turned out that nothing could be farther from the truth. In an effort to redeem themselves and show the fans that they related to their disappointment, they launched their own YouTube channel, and in April of 2012 put out a behind the scenes look showcasing their lost work.
The response was immediate and overwhelming. It was plain for fans of great horror and science fiction to see that they had been robed, and the comments came poring in, like…
“I was so angry to learn that they had actually made these practical effects and then some idiots replaced them with those lousy CGI ones. I shall boycott mainstream Hollywood films until practical effects like these are again appreciated!”
“If the movie was just these prosthetics, just like the original, I would’ve watched it without hesitation. “
“That is some unbelievable work! So I finally get a chance to see what practical effects could look like done with today’s technology and the studio replaces it with CGI? You have to be f**king kidding me. These people spent months of their blood, sweat and tears on this stuff and it’s relegated to YouTube fandom?! F**k you Hollywood….f**k you. Always tearing the art out of the film industry, one Transformer at a time.”
While these effects geniuses were sure that people would appreciate their work, they later said that they had no idea that they would start such an uproar or garner the million-and-a-half hits that just this one video provided them with. Soon their YouTube channel was putting out videos of their past work on a weekly basis, including peeks behind the magic for such movies as Tremors, Starship Troopers, Spider-Man, the Aliens franchise, and their Oscar winning work on Death Becomes Her. Creature enthusiasts were also learning that it wasn’t only The Thing that was leaving its best work on the cutting room floor. Finally, the support from fans became too much, and in May of 2013 (as mentioned before) StudioADI announced that they would make Harbinger Down, starring their friend and acting legend Lance Henriksen.
Soon after that, it became apparent that this was not your average crowed-funding operation; this had become a fan driven movement dedicated to the Renaissance of practical effects. Many moviegoers had tired of CGI and decided for the most part that they just weren’t believable or scary enough in the majority of instances. Just as painting still has its place in the world of the camera, there’s no need to throw out tangible, hand crafted movie magic just because a new way of doing things has come along, nor is there any reason to be anti-pixel. However, many companies have felt compelled to paint it that way, in an industry that is constantly being undercut by big studio nickel-and-diming. It made sense that if Gillis and Woodruff wanted to continue to do things their way, that they needed start making their own films. Regardless of what others might argue, support for the film continued to snowball, and soon everyone from the Soska Sisters, “Monster Man” Cleve Hall, and director Ron Underwood were posting and tweeting about how everyone needed to help make the movie happen. Internet personality ComicBookGirl19 even did an interview with Gillis, which is now arguably one of the most important commentaries of the past few years on the subject of practical effects.
While Gillis’ brain child had originally come about from him pondering what the ideal sequel to Carpenter’s Thing would be, the idea evolved into a tribute to what might be called the “Alien Infection” genre. Some have complained that Harbinger Down is a B-movie ripoff of The Thing, but Gillis has been quick to point out that there are plenty of zombie movies that are not considered ripoffs of Night of the Living Dead, just as there are thousands of vampire movies that are not considered a ripoff of Dracula. Needless to say, the project funded at just over $380,000 and with additional help from company Dark Dunes Productions, along with interns and volunteers pitching in, shooting began. Never ones to forget about the fans, ADI joined forces with Stan Winston School of Character Arts to give people a live tour of production, but once principal photography had wrapped, all became quiet.
Yes, there were photos here and there from the 2nd unit work that was going on with Oscar winning miniature effects masters the Skotac Brothers, and gracious thank yous towards contributors Michael Spatola and Cinema Makeup School, but other than that we were all left to watch previous BTS videos while wondering what was going to happen next.
Now we have our answer. Distribution deals have also been struck in Asia and Europe, and soon after that the film will hit Video On Demand. According to the update, there will be more deals announced soon, so hopefully the entire world will get a chance to see Harbinger Down.
...is an indie film maker in Austin, TX who specializes in low budget practical effects in the sci-fi and horror genre's. He is also the publisher of Moonlight Art Magazine and creator behind comics such as The Black Lipstick Curse, The Temp, and Negative.