Movie of the Day – The Thing
September 10, 2011 Leave a comment
Again, I don’t know why I don’t fully admit that I like the horror movie genre. I think I kid myself into believing that all horror movies are just about the gore and shock factor. There isn’t tension, character development, or real clever devices to keep a person engaged. Sure there are the few movies that reside in the genre that more than make up for it, House of the Devil, 28 Days Later, [rec] and zombie flicks reinvigorate the genre and makes me appreciate them more. Then there is one thing that today’s horror movies have gotten away from is the use of conventional effects. Sure it’s easy to design a monster or creature or even a gruesome death with the use of computer effects, but they just don’t have that, weight or impact that seeing an animatronic or makeup design team would have creating something with conventional means. Not only that but this is a fucking terrifying movie as well from the mind of John Carpenter, with a little inspiration from the Howard Hawks 1951 film of the same name and guidance from John W. Campbell Jr. story “Who Goes There?” If there is ever a true horror movie, The Thing is it.
The film opens enigmatically 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 and blows himself and the helicopter to pieces; 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 discover some pretty strange goings-on. The base is in ruins, and the only occupants are a man frozen to a chair (having cut his own throat) 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.
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I am not wanting to give away what the creature they are up against is or more about the structure of the movie since this is one of the finest horror movies around. What this horror film does, thanks to Carpenters pacing and directing, is creating this feeling hopelessness and isolation. Paranoia runs rampant when the creature is scurry about, infecting all around him. You don’t know who to trust or where to go since the setting of the film has this research team isolated to a base in Antarctica. Help is weeks away and not knowing what you are up against heightens the tension when each member of the team starts to turn on one another. This is where the story of the movie gets me. I am hooked on the notion of “trust no one” that the movie pushes along till the very end scene of the movie where even through their whole ordeal, no one can be trusted ever.
So while the movie moves along with a tight pace and suspense that rivals any movie our there, the thing that makes this memorable for me is the creature effects. We don’t know what the creature, alien, virus, whatever it is looks like. Only we see manifestations of its presence through this grotesque mutations of its victims. Effects crew led by Rob Bottin and some help from effects guru Stan Winston are to thank and blame for the horrifying nightmares they created in my childhood. I can’t even begin to imagine the dreams these people have when coming up with the mutations that take place and how they even put to film their creations. I don’t even want to post pictures of their creations since I want everyone to see them in their full, frightening glory.
This to me is a classic horror movie. Isolation, paranoia, unknown creatures and danger at every turn inhabits and permeates every frame of this movie. I can’t begin to tell people what they see on screen of the creature as it is just mind bending to say the least. There is a prequel coming out this year, which is also called The Thing, that chronicles the Norwegian teams discovery of the “the thing” days before their the original took place. I am more than likely going to see it since I want to know about the Norwegian teams back story and discovery. But if you get a chance and are in the mood for a scary movie night, The Thing is the best you can do.