Tuesday, October 18, 2011

30 Days of Fright - 17: The Thing

When you take a set against something it can be very hard to see past that and to give something, or someone, a second chance.Once bitten, twice shy as they occasionally say. Which is why, when I saw The Thing come up on the Sky TV guide, I thought to myself "look Murt, he was the worst character in the first Fantastic Four film and no better in the second, does he really deserve a movie of his own?"

The Thing... Not Great

The Thing (1982) is actually John Carpenter’s cold-weather creature feature horror movie and stars Kurt Russell as MacReady, a bad-ass, boozing helicopter pilot assigned to an American research station near the South Pole along with an eclectic bunch of researchers and weirdos. One day, their icy peace is shattered when a Norwegian helicopter appears with its two occupants chasing a dog across the ice and taking pot-shots at anyone and anything as they try to get to the poor pooch.

Not happy with this the American lads start shooting back once the chopper has landed and in the resultant firefight the two invaders are killed and their whirlybird destroyed. Puzzled by this unusual event, the American’s dispatch a few of the boys to the Norwegian research station a few miles away to find out just what the fuck is going on. When they get there, MacReady and Dr. Copper discover the place in ruins, with charred corpses and signs of general mayhem all over the place.

The boys return to base with two of the corpses, chosen because the bodies are fused together in a very twisted fashion. While still concerned by what had happened the lads settle down for the winter, safe in the knowledge that they can’t leave until spring even if they wanted to. The dog that the Norwegian’s were trying to kill is put in with the other sled-dogs the station keeps but almost straight away something isn’t right. The dog's presence in the kennel causes a ruckus and shortly after he's put in there he begins to twist and transform into a rotten looking creature that attacks the other dogs.

Alerted by the racket the poodles are making, the lads pile down to the kennels, tooled up with guns and flamethrowers which they use to kill off anything that moves. After inspecting the remains of the creature, they figure out that they're not alone, as whatever the dog really was it definitely wasn't originally from Earth. As they chew over this notion, it slowly dawns on the boys at the research station that the creature had the ability to transform itself into any living creature and that not all of the men might be men at all...

Honestly, who gave this lad dynamite?

I sat down to watch The Thing will a little trepidation it must be admitted, not because I thought it would be super-scary or anything, but because it's a John Carpenter film, and he and I haven't really got along since Halloween. It turns out that Mr. Carpenter was able to redeem himself as The Thing is not a bit like Halloween, in that it's good.

Carpenter and Russell had a bit of a bromance going on for a while and that paid off nicely as Russell is pretty good in The Thing, but then almost everything about the film is top class. I really like scary films set in cold weather as the contrasts offered up tend to work well for horror. Clean white snow always shows up blood really well, far better then the dirty walls of a dungeon ever could, and there's always an added element of danger when being stalked by something when the mere act of going outside without the right coat on could kill you. Knowing what to do with such a setting is the trick to getting a film like The Thing right and thankfully this time Carpenter knew what he was at.

The vast empty expanses of Antarctica allow for pretty much anything to be dwelling there and it makes for an ideal location to crash an alien spaceship. The remoteness means that no-one is coming to help, even if you could raise them on the radio which you can't due to the bad weather. I reckon that for those with an active imagination a real-life posting to a research station like that featured in the film must be quite an ordeal as the darkness sets in and the wind howls. Add in the chance that there's a metamorphosing alien creature out there hell-bent on murder and you're pretty much buggered!

The Thing features an ensemble cast of people you will recognise from various films and TV programs, but I challenge you to name the actors without the aid of Google. They all turn in decent performances and play their individual traits well. Russell is the main man in the film but he's seriously overshadowed by the special effects.

One of these people may not be human... can you spot which one?

Various gory, twisted, nightmare creatures find their way into The Thing and while constrained by the effects technology of the time they still manage to make for disturbing viewing. The effects department let their imaginations run away with themselves and the results make for some seriously fucked up creatures, like the human head that sprouts spider legs and scuttles off. One excellent side effect of these creatures are the funny comments that the cast make upon encountering them.

Sadly though, as most of the film is made up of a bunch of lads running around the place wondering which one is a monster in a bloody good disguise while the audience wonders which one will die next, there isn't a whole lot really going on and therefore The Thing relies just a little too heavily on the creature effects to hold your attention.That aside, The Thing is an enjoyable, if gross in spots, creature feature.

Two Thumbs Up for The Thing

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1 comment:

  1. wilfred brimley's autopsy is the best ever