Sunday, October 5, 2014

Hell freezes over: THE THING(1982)

I haven't seen all of John Carpenter's films. I admit it. Still, John Carpenter remains in my top five all time favorite movie directors. Films like The Fog(1980), Halloween(1978) & Escape From New York(1981) all captured my interest in horror and sci-fi when I was a teenager and I still enjoy watching his work today on DVD/Blu Ray. My favorite movie directed by John Carpenter is also a top five favorite of mine including all film genres: The Thing(1982), a sci fi film theatrically released in 1982 by Universal which actually didn't fare too well at the box office but has definitely gained a large fan following since it hit theaters over thirty years ago. Carpenter's The Thing(1982) is often compared to another, much older sci-fi movie produced by Winchester Pictures Corporation called The Thing From Another World(1951). In the '51 film, directed by Christian Nyby and an uncredited Howard Hawks, a humanoid, hostile alien played by actor James Arness menaces a group of military and scientists at a remote Antarctic research station. The older "Thing" film employed a man in makeup, like most of the '50's sci-fi movies, to produce audience scares and shocks. John Carpenter went in another direction in order to scare movie audiences in The Thing(1982), deciding to create a shape shifting alien creature come to life through the effects work of Rob Bottin, then and up and coming makeup effects specialist who went on to become one of the best at it over the decades.

 The film's story: In a remote region of the Antarctic, a dog flees into the camp of a U.S. research station. The dog is pursued by an airborne, Norwegian helicopter whose passenger shoots at the dog with a high powered rifle. The helicopter lands, the passenger emerges and continues firing at the dog. A member of the American research station returns fire with his revolver and kills the rifle toting Norseman. The American research team dispatches their pilot and a scientist to the nearby Norwegian research facility where the Norse helo came from. There the pilot and scientist discover a burned out Norse station and charred human corpses that look disfigured. The burned corpse is brought back to the American research station for further inspection and investigation. What happened at the Norwegian facility? Why were the Norwegians in the helo shooting at the dog? The American research team also discovers a long buried and enormous, saucer shaped spacehip which was uncovered by the Norwegians who used thermite to melt the ice on top of it. In the meantime and back at the U.S. research station, the rescued dog from the Norse station has now been placed in a pen with service dogs belonging to the American research facility...and this sets in motion a terrifying and catastrophic series of events in which a shape shifting alien creature begins to "absorb" and mimic members of the American facility. The group of scientists begin to turn on each other as they race against time to isolate and destroy the hostile, shape shifting alien creature. (no other spoilers)

Thumbs up:
 > The practical effects created and employed by Rob Bottin are marvelous. Numerous scenes feature the alien creature erupting out of "hiding" as it imitates the service dog and then various research team members. Even with today's green screen technology and CGI I still think the practical effects used in The Thing are more effective at delivering shocks and "gross out" moments for those watching this movie.

> The human cast in this movie, a collection of interesting and often conflicting personalities. My favorites are the pilot "MacCready"(played by Kurt Russell), a likable character despite his obvious boredom and disdain at being stationed at the isolated Antarctic facility who, in frustation at losing a game of "Chess Wizard" to his computer responds by pouring a glass of whiskey into the device.  I also liked the mercurial, no nonsense "Childs"(played by Keith David) and the pot smoking "Palmer" who in one scene begins toking from a Cuban cigar sized joint.

> The overall pacing of the film is excellent -the tension and hostility that develops between the American research team members erupts after the "alien dog" incident and these human cast conflicts perfectly compliment the menace of the shape shifting alien creature in their midst. In particular "MacCready" and "Childs", both "alpha" male personalities who clash as they both try to lead the group against the alien

> The audio effects used to render the alien are terrific. The alien creature frequently emits a blood curdling sound that is half wail and half roar with a human element to the sound which sounds unique and creepy as hell all at once. loco2 -the ending of the film is ambiguous...but this IMO works best here given the events that transpired throughout

 Thumbs down:
> I would have liked seeing the director explore the origins of the alien's spaceship a little more in this movie.

 THE THING(1982) is available on both DVD and Blu Ray: either can be purchased online at Amazon. Anyone who hasn't seen The Thing(1982), whether they are a sci-fi/horror fan or not, should absolutely check out this film!

A trailer: