Monday, October 26, 2009

#8 - The Thing

The Thing (1982)
Directed by: John Carpenter. Written by: Bill Lancaster, based on the short story Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell Jr.

Plot: Scientists stationed in Antarctica come across a gooey alien life form capable of assimilating other life forms and creating identical facsimiles of them - this poses a problem as no one knows who is human and who is alien copy. Paranoia abounds.

Review: This movie is actually kind of like Invasion of the Body Snatchers run through Alien but without any of the female characters (mind you, if there had been any women in this movie you can bet your ass one of them would have been Adrienne Barbeau, and no one wants that), only grosser.

The alien life form itself is probably one of the most fucked up things ever committed to film (supposedly the effects guy who made a lot of the stuff suffered a nervous breakdown during the making of the film or something) and disgustingly realistic.

The movie is not afraid of showing shit which is almost unnecessarily gross (I mean, really, the alien could have been a giant flower or something) with disturbing amounts of enthusiasm. In one scene I think they do an autopsy on the Thing and we see I guess Wilford Brimley going through its guts and stuff. Ew.

The grossest part for me is probably the bit where the Thing eats all the dogs. Pretty nasty shit.

But the point of this movie is not the gratuitously horrible special effects. That is merely the icing on the cake, and what got me to watch the movie in the first place (“spider legs come out of a guy’s head?! Fuckin a!”). The film’s substance lies in the superior character development (you don’t particularly want the people to get assimilated by the Thing - except maybe Wilford Brimley, he was an asshole), fast pacing and interesting structure.

This is the kind of movie that you kind of have to watch once, taking notes, and then watch all over again to piece together bits of stuff. I’ve seen this movie three or four times now and I’m still never sure who is a Thing. For example, in the petri dish scene, I can never remember who turns out to be a Thing (now that I’ve thought about it, I’ll probably remember). And I’m always trying to figure out when exactly people got absorbed. It’s sort of hard to keep track of. Very weird.

And what the hell happened to Nauls? I can keep track during the last few minutes of the movie, so it’s like he just disappears. I can’t for the life of me think of what happens to him.

So yeah, this is the movie that keeps me up at night, not because of fear (I have Body Snatchers for that - conceptually much more terrifying), but because I’m trying to work stuff out. There’s a whole school of thought that suggests Kurt Russell is in fact a Thing - I do not ascribe to this. I think the evidence leans towards his being human, although for me, it doesn’t really matter too much. Whether he is or isn’t, you know, they never made a sequel.

I did have an idea for a sequel last time I watched this though - set in 1985, lets say, a group of rich students just graduated from high school (we’ll say slightly uneven boy-girl ratio just to increase the tension) are heading down to visit the uncle of one of the girls, a scientist who owns a property on the southernmost tip of Chile. They arrive but find the uncle mysteriously vanished. However, they do discover a set of notes regarding a penguin which the uncle found especially distressing, and a sample of penguin tissue.

When out smoking a joint, one of the guys is assaulted by a demented man, who turns out to be the girl’s uncle. He has evidently gone crazy, and tries to kill the guy with an axe. They patch the boy up with first aid supplies found in the house despite the uncle screaming that everything inside the house is ‘contaminated’.

And then a bunch of stuff happens. It turns out that one of the girls is immune to becoming a Thing, and also psychic, so the Thing (rather than assimilating everybody) decides to just lurk around and hack people up with an axe. Or something.

If the movie people use this idea, they have to give me ten dollars and a crew t-shirt.

But yeah, this is a pretty solid sci-fi thriller and extremely creepy. I could probably watch it several times in a row and not get bored. Yay!

Favourite Part: The aforementioned spider-head was pretty fucking cool. And disturbed. I mean, his tongue. It was so long. Ew. But yeah, very neat bit of FX work.

Other versions:
Semi remake of The Thing from Another World, although they aren’t really all that similar.

Sequels: They’re working on a prequel, but maybe the entire cast and crew will contract malaria (no, that’s too harsh. Maybe just mild dysentery) halfway through shooting and have to cancel production. Pray with me, brothers. EDIT: I saw it and thought it was not bad.

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