If you're like me, you LOVE horror/sci-fi special effects from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. And most of those amazing creatures from Alien, Tremors, Monster Squad, Terminator, Predator, etc. were thanks largely to Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis of Amalgamated Dynamics Inc.
But lately, horror and sci-fi movies have been dominated by computer-generated monsters. CGI is a cheaper, faster alternative to the old-school methods, but the results are inferior. Take for instance 2011's The Thing, a prequel to John Carpenter's classic of the same name. Amalgamated Dynamics were brought in to create animatronics and puppets for the film. It gave us fans such great hope for this dying art form and what better film to do so than a follow-up to Rob Bottin's mind-blowing FX? Just look at the beautiful creations they came up with:
Then the prequel was released in theaters and it was as if millions of fan voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced - ADI's hard work had been covered up with digital "enhancement." Now, that digital FX work was done by the very talented Image Engine (who worked on District 9), and I understand the use of VFX to enhance the creations beyond their practical limitations. Sometimes the combination of the two techniques worked effectively in The Thing, but mostly it took us out of the movie and it broke the hearts of all who worked on those practical creature FX. I would kill to see the movie pre-digital enhacement of the creatures.
Well, Woodruff Jr. and Gillis are looking to give us something even better now. They have launched a Kickstarter campaign to help make Harbinger Down, a sci-fi movie with 100% practical FX. They are raising a meager $350,000 and asking fans to contribute. Check out the Kickstarter page here:
Harbinger Down will star Lance Henriksen and follow a team of grad students studying global warming on killer whales in the Bering Sea. They dredge up a piece of old Soviet wreckage that is harboring deadly, rapidly-mutating organisms. Obviously, this film will draw inspiration from Carpenter's The Thing, and that's not a bad thing. Check out this concept video where you'll see some of that:
If Gillis' evidence in that video wasn't enough, the following statement from their Kickstarter perfectly summarizes why this project is so important:
Ridley Scott...told us that the original Alien suit restricted the performer's movements more than expected. That limitation led him to change the way he shot the creature, to a more horror-based approach. For instance, appearing in the flashlight beam held by Tom Skerritt was a way of avoiding having the Alien climbing or running. According to Ridley, embracing this limitation actually improved the film. These days the 'solution' would probably be to digitally replace the Alien with an over-nuanced, hyper-active, CGI creation that looks like it belongs in a video game. And it wouldn't be as nearly as scary. That won't happen in Harbinger Down. What some would call 'limitations', we will embrace. And the film will be better for it.
The ADI guys are promising use of animatronics, puppets, miniatures, and even stop-motion animation. Harbinger Down is poised to be everything we fans have been begging for and now is the time to put our money where our mouths are. They are offering some sweet rewards, too, so you have no excuse! Click and contribute!