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.
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!)