1000 Views and a Repost of The Thing
I’m happy to say that my blog hit 1000 view today, especially happy because I hit 500 views just two weeks ago. I’ve been getting a lot of traffic recently and in particular I’ve gotten a huge amount of traffic just for my Jeepers Creepers post, 50 views alone today. So I must thank all my readers and those Jeepers Creepers fans who have visited my blog so often. Special thanks goes to Tyson Carter over at Head in a Vice for being the second person to follow my blog and for posting my review of The Thing on his IMDb Top 250 Films Reviewed; to Mike at Badasses, Boobs, and Bodycounts for that single tweet that brought in the heaviest traffic my site had theretofore seen; to Misty Lane at Cinema Schminema for her many comments; to Brett Piper, director of A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell, who commented on my review of his film and promised to do an interview; I swear I’ll get around to writing those questions, Mr. Piper; to Emily Einolander at Craft Fear for her lovely feminist analysis of A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell; to Andy from Andy Watches Movies for consistently liking my posts; and to all the folks at The B-Horror Blog for following me and talking to me on Twitter. All of these people have great blogs/websites and I would urge you to check them out if you have not done so already.
Since this isn’t a television series and I can’t have a clip show, I’ll do the next best thing and talk about the reviews I’m most proud of. Obviously, I’m very proud of the Jeepers Creepers post because it’s gotten so many views, but I have to admit that it took me by surprise. To be sure, I like the film, but I never would have expected it to be popular enough that so many people would read about it on my blog. Another post I’m proud of is the one for A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell. It’s another one of my more popular posts, it attracted the attention of the director, and it inspired a fellow blogger to write her own post about the film. However, I’m most proud of my review of The Thing because it was posted over on Head in a Vice, which made me feel like a professional reviewer, and because I was analyzing the film in its context as one of the succeeding iterations of a gripping story, originally told in “Who Goes There?” Today I’m reposting The Thing and links to my reviews of the previous incarnations so you all can read them in sequence and get a sense of how my thoughts about the story and films evolved as I wrote about them. Enjoy!
Most horror movies lose their potency over the years. Some of it is just the drift of culture over time. Creature features from the 50s and 60s largely derived their horror from prevalent fears of nuclear weapons and radiation, but now, when the threat of nuclear annihilation is far from most of our minds, these films are synonymous with campy, low-budget schlock. Sometimes horror films lose potency because the market for a certain genre of film has been saturated. Slasher films were all the rage in 70s and 80s, but they were limping by the 90s and played out by the 2000s. The so-called J-horror subgenre flared up in the United States after the American remakes of The Ring and The Grudge in the early 2000s, but had significantly declined by the end of the decade; it’s amazing how quickly people got tired of creepy girls with long black hair. Unfortunately, even a horror movie that survives cultural drift and genre saturation can look silly with dated special effects. What was cutting edge and realistic yesterday often breaks the suspension of disbelief today. Part of what makes The Thing such a good horror film is that it has avoided most of these pitfalls, ensuring that it is as potently scary now as it was 30 years ago.
The Thing is the story of a group of researchers in Antarctica who are beset upon by an alien creature that has the power to take over and shapeshift into any organism, including humans. The crew has to eradicate the alien to prevent it from taking them over or escaping and taking over all of humanity. However, the men don’t know whom to trust because the creature can imitate a person so perfectly that it’s indistinguishable from the original. The battle is not just against the monster, but also against each other.
The genius of this plot is readily apparent. The tension is created by a standard murder mystery scenario. A group of people is trapped together; one or more of the group is a murderer; the group collectively must deduce who the murderer is, but each individual must be wary of one another and must try not to get killed by the murderer in the meantime. The twist to this is that the Thing is like an infection, jumping from one person to another. Therefore, the identity of the Thing is dynamic, making it hard to track and hard to kill. In fact, it’s so difficult to detect an imitation that only once does the group manage to deduce who is a monster, using a blood test, and that still ends in someone’s death. The horror of paranoia is no less potent today than it was in yesteryears, but The Thing preys on current fears as well. Accompanying recent panics about diseases like the avian flu, there have been numerous films about the horrors of global pandemic. Aside from the multitude of zombie flicks, films like Carriers, Contagion, Doomsday, and I Am Legend are all about the ravages of an apocalyptic disease wiping out most of humanity. The group’s desperate attempt to quarantine themselves and eliminate the Thing coincides with contemporary fears; it should be no surprise that the prequel, inconveniently titled The Thing, was released so recently.
The plot originates from a short story called “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell Jr., which was published in 1938. The tale is well written and the plot phenomenal, which is why it was adapted for the screen in the form of The Thing from Another World, a Howard Hawks production premiering in 1951. The Thing from Another World is only very loosely affiliated with the story, replacing the shapeshifting creature with a humanoid plant that feeds on blood. Although this kills the premise that everyone is a suspect, the film makes up for it with new tensions introduced between the scientists who want to preserve the creature and the military personnel who want to destroy it; plus, The Thing from Another World has 50s sci fi charm. The Thing is more faithful to the original story, but it takes some elements from The Thing from Another World. The Thing pays homage to its predecessor by mirroring a couple scenes, including the scene when the researchers spread out in a circle around the flying saucer trapped in ice and the scene when the monster is set on fire and it tears through the side of building, running out into the snow.
Although its predecessors are quite good, particularly the short story, The Thing fleshes out the monster, so to speak, in a unique and terrifying way. “Who Goes There?” describes the creature with all its claws and tentacles, but The Thing realizes that vision in gooey, tactile detail that is far more disturbing than in the source material. The Thing in its various incarnations is truly alien, often a collusion of massive jaws, tentacles, insect legs, wet, lumpy skin that looks like a healing wound, eyes, and the deformed heads of humans or dogs. As a chimera, it violates the boundaries between species, but unlike a sphinx or a cockatrice the parts never gel together, making it seem even more grossly incongruous and monstrous. In short, the Thing is a hideous monster and the artists who designed it, Stan Winston and Rob Bottin, deserve the greatest of commendations.
The creature is strange in one respect however, aside from the obvious. It’s rarely mobile. We do see a man’s head grow legs and eye-stalks and then crawl away. We also see the creature break floorboards as it shoots through the ice beneath the basement floor. But most of the time we see it standing in place or hanging from the ceiling; it never chases the humans. Usually we expect movie monsters to chase the humans because they are predators. The Thing certainly seems predatory with its tentacles, sharp teeth, and insidious, covert manner of hunting its prey. Yet, that’s what makes it so frightening. It doesn’t have to chase, because it only has to wait in the guise of a human for the opportunity to separate its prey from the herd. When the Thing reveals its true nature, it does so under duress or because it hasn’t had time to change into human form. And when it does change, it doesn’t have to reach far in the claustrophobic confines of the Antarctic base.
The Thing deserves its spot on IMDb’s Top 250 list for its compelling, tense plot and iconic monster. It deserves the spot for staying scary after all these years by being unique, still topically relevant, and having unnervingly realistic creature effects. The film is classic, which is most assuredly why the prequel, also titled The Thing, failed so miserably in ratings and at the box office. The first time I watched The Thing (2011), I was largely dismissive of it. A second viewing has changed my mind. The film is very polished overall. The acting is good, the special effects are good, and throughout the movie are little references to The Thing (1982) for the keen observer. Unfortunately, I think what turned most people off of this movie was the creature. The CGI for the creatures is well done, but it lacks the gooey, tactile quality of the mechanical puppets in the original. Other than that, the only flaws I can find with the film are vague notions that the film is too fast-paced and that the soundtrack is too loud at times. The Thing (2011) is a pretty good horror movie, but it’s standing next to a giant and many will find it hard not to compare the new film unfavorably with its stellar predecessor. I would recommend any of the films to horror fans, but The Thing (1982) still holds a special place amongst the adaptations of “Who Goes There?”