Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Thing

I wasn't a big fan of the two other John Carpenter/Kurt Russell collaborations I've seen, but this turned out to be quite good. People call it a remake, but much like the recent True Grit, it's more of another adaptation of the same source material. It combines elements of science fiction and horror in a pretty recognizable way, having done poorly on its initial release but since becoming a cult classic and obvious inspiration for a number of other attempts with similar subject matter. It begins with some Norwegians shooting at a dog from a helicopter in Antarctica (the movie specifically mentions that it's winter, so shouldn't it be night the whole time?) before crashing near an American research base and getting killed. That's odd enough to the men stationed there, but things get way worse when they realize that the dog is actually some sort of alien that was recently thawed from the ice that can take other forms. Also, it wants to murder and assimilate all of them.

What follows is a very interesting combination of visceral and cerebral horror as the men constantly worry about whether those around them have already been taking over, while occasionally exposing the monster and fighting off its tentacles and mandibles with flamethrowers and dynamite. The practical creature effects look remarkably good almost thirty years later, and are pretty effective at setting the mood and looking crazily grotesque even if they don't provoke a real physical reaction anymore. But the paranoia of the story is what really works the best about the movie, especially once the survivors' numbers have really dwindled and the possibility that the whole world is at risk looms large. Pretty outstanding apocalyptic ending, too. Russell is pretty bad ass as the station's chopper pilot and de facto leader once things get hairy, and Keith David is good too as possibly Russell's biggest skeptic. You also get to see Wilford Brimley first as a perplexed doctor and then running around like a lunatic smashing things, so that's fun. The Thing is certainly an early example of what can be a lot of fun about R-rated science fiction.

No comments: