October 08, 2015

(John Carpenter's) The Thing (1982) - Halloween Horror Movie Fest (2015 Edition) - Review #3

"That's no dog!" Our third installment of Pop Punk Radio's Halloween Horror Movie Fest features another 80s movie that used to give me night-terrors as a kid. John Carpenter's The Thing!



The movie stars Kurt Russel (and also includes Wilford Brimley, aka the guy in the diabetes commercials) and centers on a team of researchers working at a remote facility in Antarctica when, out of nowhere, a dog approaches at full sprint with a helicopter containing two men in pursuit. The helicopter lands nearby and the pilot accidentally detonates an explosive which destroys himself as well as the helicopter. The helicopter's passenger rushes forward while yelling in a foreign language and raises a rifle...
firing a shot which ends up hitting one of the researchers. Another researcher returns fire and kills the helicopter passenger. The dog is safe and is brought inside the research facility.

The men know nothing about the attackers or their motive, but determine that the helicopter originated from a Norwegian camp miles away. Two of the Americans fly out to the other camp to investigate and discover that the Norwegian camp has been burned down and destroyed. Searching through the remaining rubble the two men discover a horrific scene of dead and mangled bodies, one of which appears to have two heads and four arms. The two men also find film footage that shows that the Norwegians had discovered something buried in the ice.

Back at the American camp, the doctor performs some blood tests and determines that the two-headed body is human. The men are baffled. Why did two Norwegian men fly in and attack them? What happened to the Norwegian camp? What the hell is this two-headed, four-armed humanoid body? "Whatever it is, they burned it up in a hurry."

Suddenly, the men realize what the Norwegian men were shooting at when the rescued dog begins to transform and attacks other dogs in the kennel of the research facility. This scene is where all hell breaks loose and this is also where Oshkosh B'gosh becomes Oshkosh B'dookie.



The special effects are still pretty freaky and hold up incredibly well for a movie that is over 30 years old.

Anyway, without spoiling the movie, the men discover that this "thing" is an alien life-form that crash landed in Antarctica thousands of years ago and remained frozen in the ice until the Norwegians discovered it. The "thing" was frozen like a slightly creepier version of Walt Disney, but unlike Walt, it was still alive and escaped after thawing. The Norwegians destroyed everything, including themselves, while trying to kill it. We're optimistic that there's still time for Walt to run a-mock in similar fashion. Watch out, Norway! "Disney World" ain't no joke!

Anyway, this "thing' is more like a parasite that survives on a cellular level by destroying a host's blood cells and imitating them. Basically this "thing" can kill an organism like a dog or a human and then replicate that organism with an imitation. So it kills you and then creates a "thing" copy of you which can also go around killing and creating "thing" copies of other organisms.

Oh, and every individual blood cell will attempt to survive on it's own. So if you chop off an arm or leg, the arm or leg can sprout arms and legs of it's own and run away. If it were to reach civilization, it could assimilate all life on Earth within a few years. There is some speculation that the plot was inspired by hysteria surrounding AIDS in 1980's as this "thing" essentially attacks the blood cells and anyone infected could look and act just like a normal person.

The men become paranoid because they don't know who to trust anymore since any one of them could be a "thing." They start pointing fingers at each other and some of them freak out. There's a scene that always cracks me up where Wilford Brimley's character goes nuts and pulls out a gun and says "I'll kill you" while unintentionally sounding almost exactly like Yosemite Sam. The other classic one-liner that I love from this film is "You gotta be fuckin' kidding..."



The Thing is one of those movies that gets a lot of airplay in my house. My parents used to watch it whenever it came on TV when I was a kid and even now they still put it on whenever it's on cable. I find myself doing the same despite having seen it probably over 50 times. This is a fun movie to watch again and again because of the psychological thriller aspect of trying to figure out who is a "thing" and determining when or how it happened if it wasn't one of the obvious scenes shown on screen. There is actually a major debate among fans about whether some specific characters were ever infected throughout the course of the film.



My only complaint about this film is that the "final battle" is incredibly short and doesn't fully illustrate that this "thing" has somewhat become a grotesque amalgamation of the organisms it has killed/assimilated up to that point. Carpenter originally intended for the scene to be longer but was unable to do so due to special effect limitations. So I guess I would prefer for the climax to be cut-short rather than to look cheesy and ruin the integrity of the film.

The ending isn't "terrible" but it does feel like a lot of tension is built up just for a quick one-liner and explosion. It would be like if instead of an epic final battle in a steel mill at the end of Terminator 2, you just had Arnold show up and say "I'll be back" before blasting the T-1000 in the face with a shotgun... roll credits. Regardless, this really is a "must-watch" cult classic and I still find this to be one of the freakiest movies of all time, even at 30+ years old.

There is also a prequel released in 2011 which shares the same name and focuses on the events that took place at the Norwegian camp before the events of the 1982 film. While I do think that both movies can still be enjoyed by watching the prequel first, I HIGHLY recommend seeing the 1982 film BEFORE the 2011 prequel because much of the enjoyment of the 2011 prequel is in discovering the answers to some of the questions raised in the 1982 version.

Speaking of the prequel, stay tuned for more horror movie reviews as we will be covering that one later this month!