Harbinger (2016)

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A man suffering from bizarre dreams follows the clues gleaned from his visions to a remote cabin. He’s hoping that he will somehow find a meaning behind his hellish nightmares, but he soon discovers that his dreams were probably better left buried.
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That many locks can’t be good….time to leave.

Harbinger is a Lovecraftian inspired short film brought to us by our friends at Gearmark.TV, the same people who did Rake, which I talked a bit about earlier. But while Rake was your typical third-person tale of the supernatural, Harbinger chose to do things a bit differently.

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Harbinger is filmed completely in the first-person perspective. It really feels less like a film and more like a trailer for a first-person horror gaming experience. In fact, I’m so used to that perspective in survival horror games and the filmmakers mimicked that viewpoint so well that, initially, I thought it might have actually been an impressively rendered CGI experience. But no, it is in fact filmed with sets and live actors. It’s just so unusual and incredibly well done that you wouldn’t be remiss in thinking it was a gaming trailer. The only other recent film that comes to mind being completely filmed that way is Hardcore Henry which, while impressive, did have a tendancy to make me a little nausious at times. Thankfully Harbinger is much shorter and much more subdued, so that isn’t an issue.

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One of the key elements I look for in anything Lovecraft related is visuals and atmosphere. Some films get it and some don’t. This one, I feel, is in the former camp. The cabin, the film’s one location,  feels lived in, but just a little….off. At first glance you might not even see anything really out of order. But then notice the strange drawings on the wall, the lighting is a little off and then you spot that seemingly innocuous glass jar on the kitchen counter that happens to be filled with tiny bones. Then you get down into the basement with the disturbing wall hangings, diagrams, blood and a bizarre looking book that, if not the Necronomicon, is clearly it’s equally accursed cousin, and THAT’S when you know you have entered a Lovecraftian hellscape.

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Oh, cool. The Blair Witch works with Cthulhu….Neat

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The acting throughout is effective, though it could be interpreted as feeling a little…forced in certain instances. Which is perfectly understandable. It’s hard to convey emotions when you know the viewer can’t see your face, so you have to compensate in other areas. As such, gasps of shock and hand gestures from the protagonist are perhaps a bit overly ‘dramatic’, but also necessary. The other principal actor, The Stranger at the cabin, doesn’t suffer from such a setback. He’s still overly dramatic, but he’s overly dramatic cause he’s a crazy nut, not because you can’t see his face. He does “crazy nut” well though, for the short time he’s on screen. So overall I’d say the acting fares pretty good.

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I’m not crazy, damn it! I’m just possessed by the Old Ones!

Overall I think Harbinger is a great little film. It’s fast paced, creepy, has good acting and looks great (seriously the production here is top-notch). And while it’s not directly related to Lovecraft, it does the visuals so well that it could easily fit into one of his stories. Some people might take issue with the perspective and some of the visuals for motion sickness reasons, but moments like that are brief and will likely not even be an issue. For everyone else the perspective feels quite immersive and, at only 8 minutes, the film is so short that it makes for a nice burst of visual entertainment. If you like Lovecraft or survival horror games, then Harbinger should be a nice, quick watch.

Harbinger is available on several streaming services, including free on Youtube.

You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45O-GAi0gNw&has_verified=1

 

Michi

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