Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Great, White Isolation: John Carpenter's The Thing (Reviewed)

Norwegians and snow and alien blobs, Oh My!

John Carrpenter has long been one of the more unsung heroes of the horror's famed group of directors with more popular directors such as Wes (Craven), Sean (Cunningham), William (Friedkin), Michael (Bay), Marcus (Nispel), Todd (Browning), John (Landis) and Dario (Argento). Single handedly creating what we now know as the Slasher genre with Halloween, and giving us others such as Christine, Assault on Precinct 13, The Fog, The Crawling Eye, Tales From The Crypt, Village of the Damned, Prince of Darkness, They Live and the movie this whole thing is about, The Thing.

A remake of sorts, from the Howard Hawkes film, The Thing From Another Planet, and that being based on the short story "Who Goes There?" by John Campbell Jr., this was the first entry into his Apocalypse Trilogy, followed by Prince of Darkness, and In The Mouth of Madness. This is also Carpenter's first "studio film", and the third in a sting of 6 movies to feature Kurt Russell as a lead actor. Though despite being released and running against E.T., and having a poor outing in theaters, its gained a huge cult following and launched theme parks, comics, video games and a now announced prequel.

"Whoopdy doo Basil! But what does it all mean?" - Austin Powers (HA! I found a way to work an Austin reference into a horror movie review! Take that!)

Two research teams (An American team, and a Norwegian team) are sent to the Antarctic to explore and send back information regarding possible life in the area. One morning the American team awakens to find an Alaskan Malamute being chased to their base and being fired at by the Norwegian research team. After killing all but one of the only surviving members of the Norwegian team (unbeknownst to them), they take the dog in and and put it in the kennel with the other sled dogs. Later that night they check to see how its getting along with the other dogs and to feed it, and see that its killed/killing all the other dogs, and that its trying to assimilate them to itself. They kill it, and examine it, and find it has a full set of human and animal internal organs. Slowly, the remains start to take over the rest of the crew slowly trying to absorb them all. Despite figuring that out (Kurt Russell, Keith David, Richard Dysart ) it slowly transfers its way from one host to the next. After losing 3 of their fellow crew members (Richard Masur, Thomas G. Waites and Peter Maloney), they learn that even if the host is dead, the alien organism can still live and transfer, and that it can only be stopped by burning the remains of the dead. After running a computer generated test, the on site doctor (Wilford Brimley) finds that after first infection, it would take 3 years to infect everyone/thing on earth. He grows highly suspicious of everyone around him, and destroys all ground transportation and communication, and is then locked in an on site bunker by the remaining members of the research group, building and alien like craft underneath it. Fearing for their lives, and looking for answers, some non infected crew members, fly over to the Norwegian base to see if there is anyone else alive, and to see what their team found. Once on the ground, they find all are dead, and that they had uncovered an alien ship buried under ice for more than a thousand years, that they had awakened, and let loose one of its inhabitants. Upon returning to the base, they devise a sort of blood test to see who is infected and who is not. As more crew members become infected, and are killed one by one, chaos ensues, till only 3 are left. 2 men and 1 alien enter, one "Thing" leaves (Yes, pun intended).

This movie works on so many different levels its not funny. You really feel the isolation, paranoia and insanity. From the outside scenes, to its drab and stark appearance, to there being no women featured in the movie at all. Having all the outside shots filmed on location in the middle of the freezing Canadian winter, really gives it its authenticity. Also, even with all the inside shots being filmed on a soundstage in a studio, it still feels like your inside a real base. Again, with the absence of women in the film, you really get the feeling of frustration, of bordem, and there is no love interest to bog the movie down or sap it up. Russell, David, Brimley and the whole cast turn in very inspiring performances. They just ooze paranoia. The special effects are stunningly good, and frightening to say the least. The story telling is captivating, and and after a while, it feels like your right there with them, experiencing the same insanity they are. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about this film in the least (Well, one, but that might be a spoiler for some). Definitely a great watch when alone on a cold, blizzardy winter's night (Or anytime really)!

Rating: Two insanely huge, undecomposed zombie thumbs up.

If you call yourself a horror fan, you NEED to own this movie.

The Thing

Kurt Russell (Escape From LA, Big Trouble In Little China, Death Proof)
Keith David (They Live, Platoon, Pitch Black)
Wilford Brimley (Cocoon, Brubaker) (Mr. "Diabeetus!"lol)
David Clennon (Missing, Being There)
Donald Moffat (Popeye)
Thomas G. Waites (The Warriors)
Joe Polis (Seinfeld, Cheers, Star Trek: Voyager)
Peter Maloney (Manhunter, Amityville Horror)
Charles Hallahan (Wings, Vision Quest, Dante's Peak)
T.K. Carter (Ski Patrol)
Richard Dysart (Pale Rider, Prophecy)
Richard Masur (Mr. Boogedy, It, Nightmares)

(More reviews to come throughout the rest of this month featuring, The Exorcist, They Live, Children of the Corn and Nightmare Part Tres!)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Dying breed: The Halloween Special

Yeah, I know its a little too early for people to be in to any and/or all things halloween, and so maybe this post is a bit too pre-mature, but, TOO BAD!

Today's blog comes from the the world of the dying holiday, Halloween. With people being more concerned with things such as the economy, religion (the main thing holding back all of society), child predators (only real valid reason) and primetime ratings, my absolute favorite holiday is slowly being dragged to the depths of scarcity and extinction. Who suffers the most? Kids (But that's another story for another time). Sure, us grown up Halloween loving, decoration nuts are fewer and further between, and yes, Halloween's waning popularity hurts us too, but kids suffer the most, and as such, grow up to be bitter, conservative sticks in the mud. Schools have taken away Halloween celebrations where kids had in-school parties, were allowed to dress in costume and were able to get and eat candy/baked goods in school in favor of "Harvest celebrations" with none of the above mentioned happenings. Halloween isles in stores are slowly getting smaller with less quality products and decorations, and my main gripe here today, Halloween specials are slowly disappearing from TV's everywhere with with "fall" themed episodes taking their place.

I was born in 1987, so I missed the best ones, but luckily, I grew up in the late 80's and 90's so there was still massive interest in halloween, and everything fun, so I got to see many great "new" halloween episodes/specials, and reruns of the greats. I grew up on things like: The Witch That Turned Pink, The Halloween That Almost Wasn't, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (The Animated one with Bing Crosby as narrator, and live action with Jeff Goldbloom), The New Misadventures of Ichabod Crane, The Worst Witch, Mr. Boogedy, The Canterville Ghost, The Great Bear Scare, Its The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, Garfield's Halloween Adventure, The Halloween Tree and Halloween episodes of Roseanne, Home Improvement, Doug, Pete and Pete, The Simpsons, Disney Halloween Hall of Fame, Bugs Bunny's Howl-o-ween, Buttons and Rusty's Which Witch Is Which?, Disney's Halloween Treat and so on. All of which, with the exception of the odd re-run of the Home Improvement Halloween episodes, have been pretty much erased from history and forgotten about.

Now, yeah, I was little when all this was happening, and most had been out since before I was born, but to me then, and to me now, they were all considered classics, as were the Halloween commercials for Hallmark, Dunkin Donuts, Doritos, Pepsi and a few other assorted Halloween commercials. I watched them all until my mom shrieked when I would ask to watch the battered VHS tapes they were recorded on. I watched them till I knew every word for every character, knew every song and till the tape inside started tearing apart. Every friend I ever had/still have in my home town, and every girlfriend I ever had/have, all grew up on these and lived, slept, ate and breathed Halloween. It was all we cared about every year. Its all we still care about every year, and its all I'll ever care about, aside from any of my possible future children's birthdays.

Over the years, those specials/episodes I listed above, started to fall victim to the Halloween serial killer, and just started disappearing, with Disney being the trend setter by pulling things like Disney's Halloween Hall O' Fame and The Halloween That Almost Wasn't off the air, and putting lackluster poser Halloween themed shows like Halloween Town (And all its sequels) and The Haunting Hour: Don't Think About It on in their place. Then Home Improvement was canceled, Roseanne went off air, Pete & Pete was nixed after two seasons, and Doug died a horrible death, all replaced by mindless drivel like House, Gossip Girl, Grey's Anatomy, Mercy, Hannah Montana and iCarly. That was the final garlic wrapped, cross shaped steak through the heart for me for a long time. Until just recently...

With the latest resurgence of horror movies (Due in part to remakes of older, classic movies, explained in previous blog post), and the very slowly growing re-interest in Halloween, more classic horror movies are being remastered and released to huge chain stores, and things like Wizards of Waverly Place, Phineas and Ferb, and JONAS (I know, I know, but still credit for an actual Halloween episode) are bringing back the Halloween special, and Cartoon Network re-airing things like Scooby Doo Meets the Boo Brothers, Scooby Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf and Scooby Doo and the Ghoul School, Halloween is now on an upslide. Anchor Bay re-issuing Mad Monster Party and Lion's Gate acquiring the rights to The Halloween that Almost Wasn't, maybe Disney and 'Toon Network will wake up and give proper release to their timeless Halloween classics. I know the chances are slim, but maybe a petition to all the different studios would make them see the dark, orange, soul light of Halloween.

To Disney, Cartoon Network, Warner Bros, and all other studios who hold the rights to the above mentioned, and unmentioned Halloween specials, I paraphrase a quote from the great James Hetfield - "We're telling you not to fuck around!"