Director: John Carpenter
[Norris’ head grows legs and tries to walk away]
Palmer: You gotta be fuckin’ kidding.
With October winding down and Halloween just days away, I’m finishing my month-long dive into Horror flicks worth watching. I decided to save the best for last and in this case that might not be hyperbole. There’s a fairly fucking compelling case to be made that “The Thing” (1982) is the best Horror film of all time and plenty of people have made it. I don’t think I would go that far, but its way up there. It was actually a commercial flop when it came out, but it was competing against the money-making, family friendly, juggernaut that was “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” (1982) and released on the same day as“Blade Runner” (1982). What really saved “The Thing” (1982) and prompted serious critical reconsideration was the emerging home video market. This is a film that rewards multiple viewings generously. In the late 70’s and early 80’s there were a bunch of great but, admittedly, violent and bleak movies that got short shrift with the viewers and critics, only to demand a second look with success in the home video market. “Apocalypse Now” (1979), “Blade Runner” (1982) and “The Thing” (1982) being the most notable.
Starring Kurt Russell who was fresh off of the role of Snake Plisken in “Escape From New York” (1981).The role that would cement him as a great Hollywood bad-motherfucker and perpetually cool for the last 34 years. As good as Russell is, this flick wouldn’t work unless the rest of the cast delivered, and they’re all great. Co-starring some of the finest character actors around including Keith David, Wilford Brimley, Donald Moffat and Richard Dysart. The most important character is the Thing itself, in all of it’s crazy, gory and downright fucking disgusting permutations. This was the golden era of practical special effects).(that is, non-digital effects)and “The Thing” (1982) features some of the best work of any Horror movie (and any other genre). You can never discount the importance of a great death scene in Horror films. This flick has them in spades. Rob Bottin, who is largely credited for creating the effects, went on to work on “Robocop” (1987), “Total Recall” (1990) and “Se7en” (1996), just to name a few.
The film opens at an American government research facility in Antarctica. A helicopter from a nearby Norwegian camp approaches the facility chasing a dog while shooting and throwing explosives at it. The helicopter lands and is accidentally blown up. The lone, armed survivor aggressively chases the dog, screaming something in Norwegian, into the group of Americans who are forced to kill him. The Americans go to investigate Norwegian facility which turns out to be a burnt out, bloody, disaster. No survivors, just a hollowed out chunk of ice. Getting back to base they figure out pretty quick (and memorably) that there is something seriously fucked up with that dog. What happens next leaves the hard-drinking, well-armed, all-male team of rough characters at each other’s throats, unable to trust each other as a storm cuts them off from civilization. No sense in giving away much more than that.
There’s a whole lot more to be discussed when it comes to “The Thing” (1982). Particularly its association and similarities to “Alien” (1979). I kind of love this rabbit hole considering the source material for“The Thing”(1982), a John W. Campbell, Jr novella called “Who Goes There?” (1938) almost certainly influenced “Alien” (1979) in several key ways. There’s also the hacky, but nonetheless real, parallels with American Cold War culture. Don’t even get me started on what we actually see at the end. Really though, all of that would ruin the fun and spoil too much of a classic and downright scary movie. It’s also fucking disgusting at times, but the art and effects are so visually compelling you really can’t look away. I can only assume most people have seen this already. If that’s the case, you’re probably due for a re-visit. If you haven’t, get on that shit. If you’re staying in on Saturday night, “The Thing” (1982) would fit very nicely into a scary movie marathon you may have planned. There is a fairly entertaining prequel,“The Thing” (2011) which depicts what happens at The Norwegian camp and it runs directly, shot-for-shot, into the original. I had fun watching them in narrative order.
A little different format this time. This month I have been forced into watching and re-watching several fine Horror films. A genre I don’t tend to dabble in a that much. In doing so, I have discovered and re-discovered a bunch of films that simply didn’t fit into the previous columns this month. So, I’m just gonna toss out a bunch of good Horror flicks to watch.
What we do in the Dark (2014): This mocumentary about Kiwi vampires is the funniest thing I’ve seen in years. It’s tough out there for the undead, both new and old. Their beef with local werewolves is just perfect. When it comes to Comedy-Horror, there’s this and “Shawn Of The Dead” (2003). Everything else is running way behind. Watch this now.
Let The Right One In (2008): Much loved Swedish film about a 12 year old who befriends a girl who at least appears to be the same age. Turns out, she’s a vampire. A love story that is just beautiful to look at. A real piece of art.
Frailty (2001): Bill Paxton stars and directs in this highly re-watchable tale of The Wrath of God and those who are called upon to deal it out to demons among us on this plain. Co-stars Matthew McConaughey and Powers Boothe. One of my all-time favorites. I can’t really think of another movie quite like it.
Ravenous (1999): Union soldiers. Wild West outpost. Fucking Cannibals. Super fun and fast paced. One of very few good films in the little used Western-Horror genre. Actually very funny in a near-pitch black kind of way. Guy Pearce and Robert Carlyle star. Co-stars include the always underrated Jeffrey Jones (yeah, yeah, I’m aware), David Arquette and Jeremy Davies.
The Mist (2007): Frank Darabont (director & screenplay) Stephen King (novella). Can’t fuck with that team. Fun fact: King returned his un-cashed cheque to Darabont for “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994) film rights. Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden (who is always good) and others are trapped in a grocery store and there’s fucking monsters in THE MIST (and they look pretty cool)! Great ending.
Return of the Living Dead (1985): A couple of goofs accidentally raise the dead. Bad news for them and the local punks who party in the local cemetery. Featuring a legendary striptease performed by Trash (Linnea Quigley). A bona fide cult classic. If you’re gonna go with schlock, go with one of the best. – LEE
(Lee Ostler is a musician, avid fight fan, man-of-many-words, and huge fan of fine cinema. We think it’s too cute that he has a Minor in Film Studies, and are tickled pink that he now gets a chance to shine. So, each Thursday, he will start our minds rolling for the weekend with another gem of a film we can hunt down. Some will be easier to find than others, but that’s part of the game. Get the home theatre ready, pop the corn, and prepare to see some friggin’ awesome films)