Friday, October 22, 2010

The Thing. (1982) John Carpenter

This is the first time I've seen The Thing, and apart from some very 80s looking effects, it drew me in. It's a fun and creepy monster movie that functions as much in the realm of nail-biting thriller as it does in cringe-inducing horror. Seeing it now and knowing it has somehow survived the test of time, I can't imagine how much cooler it must have been to see it in its day. But few did see it -- it came out two weeks after E.T., and for its poor timing it suffered at the box office.

Time has smiled kindly on The Thing, however, and a cult following seems to champion the film as a sort of b-movie horror staple. I don't know that this is a b-movie, per se, as much as it's simply a film that caught on years after its FX wore out. (But I'd still rather see this again than much of the current CGI garbage that dominates modern film, the horror genre in particular.)

The story follows a group of twelve scientists in the Antarctic who run into a virus-like alien that can graft copies of itself in the shape of another being. That is, it latches onto something or someone, destroys them, and incorporates its DNA to form itself in their image. The scientists, although typically quite drunk, remain very educated, and figure out what's happening relatively quickly. But the knowledge of what's happening is no comfort. If anything, knowledge in this case leads to greater panic. You don't know if the man you once worked with is still himself, or if the "thing" has taken over.

So half of the fun is the paranoia involved, and that strand of the story is why the film transcends its time. Kurt Russell, looking like a mix between Bad Blake and late period Jim Morrison, is especially fun to watch as he distrusts everyone and everything around him. The method he comes up with in testing the blood of all the men provides one of the greatest jolts in the film, and that jolt, from a blood sample in a petri dish, was perhaps the most fun jolt I've had this year.

I didn't even realize that a prequel to The Thing will be out soon. I've gotta say, I'm looking forward to seeing where they go with it.

1 comment:

  1. thank you for writing a SHORT review of this instead of a 400 paragraph gush where you discuss how "ingenious" the film is for depicting paranoia via the audience not knowing who's infected and who isn't


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