Pop Junk’s 31 Days of Halloween: #6 The Thing

In a world of reboots, remakes, and prequels that are really just duds; this film stands head and shoulders above the rest and it really pains me to keep it out of my top 5 but the films that it’s up against are revolutionary in the horror genre, that is really this flick’s only flaw is it didn’t break any new ground, but it sure as hell shook it.  1982’s John Carpenter’s The Thing is a remake of the 1950’s Sci-fi/horror classic “The Thing From Another World” but instead of the usual remake treatment of today where filmmakers either carbon copy or detract from it’s predicessor; Carpenter takes the good and makes it amazing.

The film opens with a Siberian Husky running through the Antarctic tundra, chased by two men in a helicopter firing at it from above. Even after the dog finds shelter at an American research outpost, the men in the helicopter (Norwegians from an outpost nearby) land and keep shooting. One of the Norwegians drops a grenade killing himself and their helicopter ; the other is shot dead in the snow by Garry (Donald Moffat), the American outpost captain. American helicopter pilot MacReady (Kurt Russell) and camp doctor Copper (Richard Dysart) fly off to find the Norwegian base and run into some pretty heavy shit. The base is in ruins, and the only occupants are a man frozen to a chair after killing himself and the burned remains of what could be one man or several men. In a side room, Copper and MacReady find a coffin-like block of ice from which something has been recently cut. That night at the American base, the Husky changes into The Alien Thing, and the Americans learn first-hand that the creature has the ability to mutate into anything it kills.

This is where Carpenter is at his most brilliant pitting all the characters against each other and really preying on paranoia and fear.  For the rest of the film the men fight a losing (and very gory) battle against”The Thing” and ends with an ambiguous twist; never giving the audience a definitive answer on weather one of the two survivors is “The Thing” or not.  I always appreciate a movie that shows balls with that sort of an ending and that is a lot of the time where a movie ending truly triumphs.  You need to leave the audience a little bit of the movie to write themselves because it’s really better than what usually fleshes out on screen.  John Carpenter knows this uses it to his advantage to almost all of the endings of his movies which is one of many qualities that sets him apart from most filmmakers and gives him such a cult following.

Another great aspect of this film is the atmosphere caused by the cabin-fevrish paranoia themed setting of this middle of nowhere Arctic station.  This only begins to set the tone for the viewer because once you realize the Alien could be anyone of those men trapped inside the station is when the tension really sets in.  On top of the paranoia this movie instils in it’s viewer, the scares are genuinly frightening.  I was deprived when it came to this film and I didn’t see it til I was 21, at which point no movie could scare me.  I wore that like a badge of honor until this movie almost made me shit my pants.  In the scene where the crew attempts to bring Norris back to life with the paddles, although the special effect might be somewhat crued, holy shit I did not see what was coming next.

Two other notes on contention are Kurt Russell who is awesome as the lead actor and protagonist.  Carpenter liked him so much he would be in three more John Carpenter pictures as the lead actor.  Also the score is done by Ennio Morricone; famous for scoring The Good The Bad and The Ugly and other famous spaghetti westerns.  Hell, if Carpenter himself isn’t going to score the movie himself, Morricone is a hell of a choice.  The score is a departure from his other movies, ditching grand and epic for melodic and creepy.

This flick didn’t succeed at the box office upon releases, maybe due to the fact that it was released the same day as some sci-fi called Bladerunner, and two weeks following another little known alien movie called E.T.  Suffice to say this movie didn’t stand a chance to make money but it found it audience on VHS and DVD and it continues to terrify audiences today.  The new badge of honor these cult films all get now a days is a reboot, in this case a prequel.  The problem here is No John Carpenter, No good movie.  You can’t replicate the feel and tension that Carpenter creates with his films.  The Thing is a horror classic and still one of the greatest of all time.

 

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~ by ATOM on October 26, 2011.

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