14 October 2011

John Carpenter's The Thing



John Carpenter’s films are always a blast. I say always, and I know that people are going to disagree. That is what is so great about film. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, even if it is wrong. Carpenter is also a multi-talented man of film. He writes, directs, composes, and sometimes even acts. His roles are usually small like when Hitchcock puts himself in his own films. His creative mind has given us such classic characters as Michael Myers and Snake Plissken. He directed Halloween and its first sequel as well as Escape from New York and its sequel. Carpenter also scored both. Halloween has that haunting theme that if you hear it, you know it.

In 1982, John Carpenter reteamed with Kurt Russell to make The Thing. It is based on a 1951 film The Thing From Another World. The Thing is a staple in horror films. The killer is not a psycho, a slasher, or even human. The plot is very reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic Alien. A group of people are isolated from the outside world and have to deal with a killing machine. The stakes are a bit higher in The Thing, but I do not want to take anything away from Alien.

The Thing opens with a mysterious spacecraft entering Earth’s atmosphere. It then cuts to a husky running through the Antarctic tundra. Hot on its tail is a Norwegian helicopter with a rifleman shooting at the dog. The dog makes his way to an American camp, where it finds refuge and the Norwegians find death. The lovable characters of misfits in the American camp include MacReady (Kurt Russell), Childs (David Keith), Blaine (Wilford Brimley), XXXXX. It quickly becomes obvious that the dog is possessed, and now some of the people in the camp could be, too.

The Thing focuses heavily on the paranoia. Everyone in the camp suspects everyone else of being the “thing.” A brief expedition to the remains of the Norwegian camp does not provide the answers they were hoping and looking for. Tension mounts as people are killed by each other and the alien. Tests are made. Tests are given. In the end, a final plan and last ditch effort is conceived.

John Carpenter does a wonderful job making you feel trapped with them. The shots that are outdoors are short, and full of wind and snow. A few shots even have the entire frame in focus, giving them an eerie feel. The score does a good job in heightening the feeling. The visual effects were top notch, for 1982. The hold up well enough. The scene of the head falling off and climbing under the desk is priceless and my favorite scene in the whole film. The movie is completely 1980’s. There are no doubts about it. The computers are reminiscent of my family’s old Commodore 64. The computerized chess match is a nice touch.

The “prelude” comes out this weekend. It fills gap of what happened at the Norwegian camp after they discover the alien entombed in ice. I do not understand why they are making the film, let alone letting it be helmed by a nobody. The trend lately to remake movies with cult followings need to come to an end before they really piss off the wrong crowd. What is the line that they shouldn't cross? I am not a huge fan of The Thing, but I would advise renting this one again before spending the price of admission to watch a shitty “prelude.”

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