Tom Woodruff,Jr and Alec Gillis are behind two of the best films you’ll see this year.
Those names may or may not be familiar to you, even if they’re not you’ll be familiar with their work. Together the pair head up Amalgamated Dynamics Inc and between them the pair have created practical FX for classic films like Alien, Aliens, The Terminator, Predator, Starship Troopers, Tremors and plenty more.
Recently though the pair have been involved with two distinctly different but equally interesting and impressive looking projects. The first being Fire City: Interpreter Of Signs and the second being Harbinger Down.
What’s really interesting though is that both of these projects have come about thanks to crowdfunding.
Fire City created by Brian Lobocki and Michael Hayes , is a shadowy noir tinged world in which humans live obliviously alongside demons. Wanting to create a film set in their engrossing world but wanting to do it properly without an over reliance on unconvincing digital FX the pair reached out to Amalgamated Dynamics Inc who liked the ideas behind Fire City.
Interpreter Of Signs is the tale of Atum Vine a 700 year old Demon in the guise of a 30 year old, to the humans he is the drug dealer at the end of the hall in a beat up tenement building, to his fellow demons however he deals in something more potent – human misery. Then one day everything changes. The steady flow of addicts stops showing up, and the humans stop their predictable and lucrative self destructive behaviour, the alcoholic mother stops drinking, the wife beater stops swinging his fists and the deadbeat dad turns into a model father . When Atum visits Cornelia, an interpreter of signs or fortune teller in the demon world the pair discover something is very, very wrong.
Fire City: Interpreter Of Signs is written by Brian Lobocki and Michael Hayes and set to be the first in a series of films set in the Fire City world. The pair also wrote the short Fire City: King Of Miseries which was directed by Tom Woodruff,Jr who is also directing Interpreter Of Signs.
Fire City manages to blend noir style atmosphere with an otherworldly vibe and some impressive looking demons, the blending of these elements is a little reminiscent of the critically acclaimed comic Hellblazer.
Harbinger Down is a completely different affair,
Disheartened at the film industry shunning practical FX in favor of digital imagery the pair reached out to their fans on Kickstarter and said they’d put all their skills and knowledge from decades in the industry into a film which celebrated practical FX like films used to and Harbinger Down is the result.
The film centres around a group of grad students who have booked passage on skipper Graff’s (Lance Henriksen) fishing trawler Harbinger to study the effects of global warming on a pod of Orcas in the Bering Sea. When the ship’s crew dredges up a piece of old Soviet space wreckage entombed in ice, they find out that the Russians had been experimenting on tardigrades, tiny resilient creatures capable of surviving in space. After decades frozen in ice they’re waking up, mutated and the creatures aren’t about to give up the warmth of human companionship.
Harbinger Down ,written and directed by Alec Gillis, is very much in the style of the classic sci-fi horror creature features that are generally associated with the 80’s. A decade that produced numerous classic sci-fi and horror films, many of which had stunning practical FX work in an era long before digital trickery became common place in film.
Whether it’s Ray Harryhausen’s infamous stop motion FX, like the skeletons in the 60’s classic Jason and the Argonauts or something more recent Alien VS. Predator there’s something about practical FX that always beats whatever a computer conjures up. The tangibility of having something there is often lost in many modern productions and often it’s left to actors to try and smooth over the cracks, as seen in HBO’s Game Of Thrones, where Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen is often reacting to digital FX.