Tuesday, October 27, 2009

John Carpenter's The Thing

Seriously, what is better than classic John Carpenter? His golden days as a filmmaker are long over, but he had a run of films for a period that were simply to die for [poor choice of words maybe]. The Fog, The Thing, They Live, Prince Of Darkness, Escape From New York and of course Halloween. He hit a stride that was simply off the charts brilliant. John Carpenter's The Thing [1982] is a pure classic. Is there anyone out there who hasn't seen this film?

This was a remake of the Howard Hawk-Christian Nyby film The Thing From Another World [1951], another classic, and Carpenter's take is allegedly closer in content to the short story from which it is based, Who Goes There?. Although, running through The Thing From Another World it's easy to see where the two films intersect.

To pick one perfect scene out of the deliciously entertaining yarn that is The Thing is no easy task as shot for shot it is near perfect from start to finish. It also ranks as one of actor Kurt Russell's best in the role of R.J. MacReady. Russell also starred in Carpenter's Escape From New York, Big Trouble In Little China and Escape From L.A..

To complement the icy cold temperatures of the film's Arctic research station, Carpenter gives us isolation, paranoia and bloody terrific visual effects thanks to one Rob Bottin. It's more body-snatching, body horror with one of the best executions of the concept to ever grace film. An extra-terrestrial is unearthed and de-iced killing a Norwegian research group. Before long a Siberian Husky brings it back to the American Unit where it begins assimilating its victims one by one, leaving distrust as the group's only friend. Slowly, the wonderful, all-male cast begins to tear one another apart out of self-preservation.

Films like Slither owe a debt of gratitude to films like The Thing as The Thing does to films before it. Not unlike Event Horizon, The Thing was a box office failure financially speaking, but cultivated its support base following its departure from theatres. Oddly, The Thing has become a phenomenon and achieved classic status that rivals it initial competition, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, within its own genre.

The mood and atmosphere is taut and heightened by a simple score from composer Ennio Morricone. The simplicity of the music merely serves to underscore the tension in the silence. Either way both serve to emphasize the group's trapped, claustrophobic isolation within the station. The amazing direction of the film is buoyed by an all-star male cast of terrific character actors that give the proceedings genuine credibility. They ground the horror in a sense of reality. Richard Dysart, Peter Maloney, David Keith, Wilford Brimley, Richard Masur and a host of others make this film something special. The Thing is a treasure to own and must be part of any proper film library.

Here is one of the classic gross out moments from the film. I must have replayed the scene a hundred times just to hear Palmer's reaction to the critter. Actor David Clennon's delivery is bloody hysterical.

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Yeah, that hideous sound will raise the hair on your back. I've also clipped a scene exemplifying a bit of the chemistry between the characters in the film. It's really part of what makes this film work so well. It's hard to believe, in retrospect, but when the film originally came out it was lambasted by critics. Time has treated the film kindly and critical reassessment has garnered it a certain respect giving the entire production the prestige it deserves.

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For more on this amazing film be sure to check out the original documentary Terror Takes Shape which is included on most DVD versions of the film. It's an 80 minute humdinger that interviews everyone and their brother involved in the film. It's a real inside look that gives you insight into how they pulled a film like this off. Folks, it still looks brilliant today. Trust me. It is really me. I swear.

The Thing: A

5 comments:

Havremunken said...

Just a silly little thing - this movie was the first american movie I saw where Norway / norwegians were mentioned - and I was ever so proud.

Also, the movie is way cool. :D

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

It really is way, off the charts, cool.

That's right, the Norwegian camp. It's unfortunate they were all dead. Then you had the Norwegian shooter after the dog for all the right reasons. He had to be killed.

I understand they'd like to do a prequel, perhaps it would be with Norwegian actors and completely in Norwegian. Wouldn't that be something?

But that's funny. Hope all is well.

Havremunken said...

I guess a prequel would be the only way to explore what that thing did before it arrived with the protagonists.. :)

I also seem to recall that the norwegian guy they had to kill actually spoke norwegian - something not common for Hollywood movies of the day (understandably so). Even something as recent as the X-Files had an episode take place here, and when the local yokels spoke, it was Swedish Chef-like made up language time. I am guessing they are paying more attention to detail here - I seem to remember that the norwegian they kill at the beginning is basically giving you the entire plot of the movie, but in norwegian, so if it isn't subtitled, then you don't get the info up front about what this thing really is. :)

*I* would of course enjoy a movie entirely in norwegian (as long as it isn't a norwegian movie as such, they usually suck), but I doubt that would play well with any other audience. :) Dead Snow (the nazi zombie movie from last year) did well internationally, but I don't think a lot of our other movies are very popular. :)

I guess it is best to think of it the way jms answered a question about why aliens talking amongst each other on B5 would speak english (which they sometimes do) - he referred to a little girl that had the simplest of explanations. "The TV translates for us". Beautiful in its' simplicity. :)

All well here, getting ready for Christmas mode. ;)

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

"Swedish Chef-like made up language time"

Hahahahaha! That is funny, makes me think of the Swedish chef from the Muppet Show.

Well, I will have to clip that segment of the shooter sometime for you to translate, but that is really funny if the guy was giving anything away about the movie to all of us non-Norwegian speaking types.

Dead Snow, I did see the trailer for that. That was Norwegian huh?

I have a confession. I love a-ha and Morten Harket. Always been a fan. I hear they will be breaking up, err again.

The TV translates, that's true. HA! Very sharp!

Well, off for now. We have Thanksgiving next week. You know, when the Pilgrims came to America. Best.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

oh and there's the bit about the Indians. It started out well of course, but in the end went kind of badly.