So in my search through the sub-basement below the Netflix basement, I came across Harbinger Down (2015). It’s a Russian-American Aliens / Thing rip-off, mixed with a soupcon of Deadliest Catch as it takes place on a crab boat. Okay, I’m game. Let’s check it out.
Harbinger Down (2015)
In June 25, 1982, a Russian space capsule hurtles towards earth. It bursts into flames as it rockets through earth’s atmosphere. Then pink goo drips from a vent. The effects are pretty good. But then the spaceship just flies into clouds with no hellacious crash, so I’m a little disappointed.
Now in the present day, we get shaky handheld home video of a girl and some old dude bickering in a car. The old guy is kind of a jerk, which becomes important later. They drive up to the titular crab-catching boat “The Harbinger” duh-duh-duh.
We meet our crew, the usual rag-tag team of Fishermen/Space Marines/Arctic Scientists that make up these kinds of movies. There’s the tall, bearded dude, the handsome bearded dude, the mysterious Russian chick, the black comic relief guy named Doc, and a bearded Innuit dude. They bicker and threaten each other.
Then f-ing Lance Henriksen enters with the definitive line, “If anybody’s going to be delivering an ass-kicking, it’s going to be me.” Okay, I’m sold. Yes! We have Lance Henriksen as the Ass-Kicking Boat Captain. I’d call him “grizzled” but that would be a redundancy. Lance is the physical embodiment of the word “grizzled.”
There’s some plot stuff to get out of the way. The Girl, the Schmuck Scientist, and an African-American girl who presumably was holding the video camera in the car scene are studying beluga whales. And the Girl’s Pop-Pop is Lance Henriksen, the aforementioned Ass-Kicking Boat Captain. Using the whale sonar equipment, they discover the missing Russian space capsule from Scene 1. They haul in the wreckage and, before we know it, someone utters the line, “Some things should stay frozen.” And the poop hits the fan.
I actually enjoy these rag-tag fishermen. The filmmakers do a good job setting up their personalities quickly. I like Schmuck Scientist guy, who mistakenly gets into a pissing contest with Lance. Lance wants to turn the space capsule over to the authorities. Schmuck Scientist wants to keep it. Lance does some grizzled acting and the Scientist immediately backs down. And Lance goes, “Now why did he expect anything different would happen?” Clearly Jerkface Scientist never watched Aliens. Although I’m suspecting this movie’s filmmakers own a well-used DVD of it.
There’s an autopsy on the Russian cosmonaut and, wouldn’t you know it, despite hurtling through the earth’s atmosphere, he’s not burned up, but his skin does look like a baseball after batting practice. Then later there’s a POV Monster Cam with skittering noises as the creature goes through the door marked “Engine.” I guess Russian slime monsters can read English.
Anyways, we don’t have to wait too long before some dude that we haven’t seen before finds a pulsing brain thing under his bed, and he gets tentacled. In short order, all hell breaks loose and the fishermen become… the fishered.
Schmuck Scientist pulls a John Hurt from Alien except, instead of getting a single chest burster, three meat tubes pop out of his back and squirt pink juice everywhere. Then the creature sort of escapes, as it’s sentient pink ooze. “How smart do you think it is?” asks one of the crew members. Cue the entire ship power grid shutting down.
So the monster goes around eating people and the cast members futilely try to defeat it. We’ve seen this before but the monster is effectively pulsating and slimy.
My main gripe with the movie, aside from wholesale theft from better films, is that although the monster is seemingly intelligent, we don’t ever find out what it is or what it’s trying to accomplish, aside from lurking around the ship. For example, if the alien was trapped in ice for 30 years, why would it then try to sabotage the boat in the middle of the ocean that’s heading back towards civilization? That would’ve been a nice detail to add. “What is it and what is it doing?” are usually details that monster movies try to make right about the midpoint. These filmmakers forgot to even ask those questions.
BOTTOM LINE: This movie is an enjoyable, if blatant, rip-off of far superior movies, but I’ve seen much worse on Netflix. The story moves along briskly and Lance Henriksen gets to deliver more lines like, “We’re going to need a bigger bucket.” Okay, maybe it’s not as good as Jaws. It also pays off on pretty good monster effects, and some almost tense scenes of fumbling around in the dark. In a better movie, the Whale Scientist Girl would use some knowledge of biology to fight the monster, but that never really happens. The monster itself is pretty ill-defined visually, however. Sometimes it looks like a transforming tooth monster from Carpenter’s The Thing, but at other times it looks like a pile of goopy intestines. So that’s a negative. The ending is a bit of a let-down, too, which gets another demerit. Ultimately, if you enjoy these slime-monster on a boat movies like Leviathan, Deep Rising, Virus, or Speed 2: Cruise Control, well, those are all better. But hey, this one has Lance Henriksen as Ass-kick Boat Captain.