Monday, October 3, 2011

Film #77: The Thing (1982)

Fox Mulder was right! Trust no one.
Your wife brings you a plate of spaghetti for dinner? Throw it on the floor and scream in her face; she’s an alien trying to poison you.
Your boss pats you on the back for finalizing the Big Johnson Deal. Break his hand and Jujitsu-chop his neck. Obviously, he was trying to turn you alien.
That guy in the mirror who keeps copying your every move? Duhhhh… AN ALIEN!

Well, on second thought, we might not have much to fear from loved-ones-turned-alien-lookalikes. Yet. But we also are not Kurt Russell (sadly). Paranoia is that man’s best friend in this week’s flick, “The Thing.” Kurt is waist deep in alien imposters trying to take over the world.

Our movie begins with a homage to Sarah Palin’s favorite pastime – shooting wolves from a helicopter. Those crazy Norwegians stationed in the icy throes of Antarctica have gone loco, and chased a dog by whirlybird to the nearby US Antarctica Research Program base.
After shooting and swearing didn’t stop the rogue mutt, the Norwegians turn to grenades and human murder! What could go wrong! Well, a lot.
They end up either blown-up or shot by the Americans, who are left to wonder just why they were hunting down that dog in the first place.

Kurt Russell plays RJ MacReady, the bases helicopter pilot who hates drama as much as he loves bourbon. MacReady and his fellow base-mates decide it’d be best to go over the Norwegian base and see what up with their “biznas.”
When they arrive, they find their base in frozen shambles, along with a grisly scene of bloody mass murder and mayhem. What caused it? Too much Netherlandian death metal maybe?

The answer is contained in the base’s logs, a few videos and a twisted, mutated corpse found half burned near the base. Seems those clever Norwegians stumbled upon a centuries old space ship buried in the ice. They dug it up, melted down one of the alien corpses, and surprise! The alien was alive!

Not only that, but this feisty alien has the ability to absorb and imitate any living creature on earth, including humans! Why were they chasing that dog? It was the changed alien, who is now sitting right in the middle of the US camp! Shitttttttttttttttttttttttt!
This realization doesn’t sit too well for MacReady and his fellow chum(p)s, and the fact that the US base can’t contact anyone over the radio for help doesn’t, well, help things.

“It” starts with the finger pointing – YOU must be the alien! That quickly devolves into scheming and murder. MacReady is put in charge to sort out the mess. Good thinking, he is Kurt Russell after all. But Kurt don’t like no drama, and ladies and gentlemen, what goes down at US Antarctica Research Base is more drama than a drag show dressing room.

Will MacReady weed out the human imposter aliens?
Can the aliens take over the world one absorption at a time?
Is there a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?
Find out, in director John Carpenter’s legendary sci-fi/horror remake, 1982’s “The Thing.”

RDHP Ratings and Reviews

C-Rating: 5.0
Chris Dimick mutates:
“This movie is perfect horror. Though not John Carpenter’s most remembered work, it is right up there with some of the horror-master’s finest. A perfect horror movie must “bring-it” in five key areas. Listed below, those areas, and how Carpenter bought it in each:

Scary setting: Haunted houses are a frequent setting for horror films, but they always fail eventually for one simple fact; you can always open the door and run out. But The Thing is set in the most remote place on earth, the middle of Antarctica.
The nearest help was the Norwegian base, and that has already been destroyed by the alien. With the radio equipment non-functional, and the -40 degree weather preventing outdoor maneuvering, the fellas in The Thing had nowhere to run or hide from the monster. Much like “Alien” where space was the captor, here harsh nature is beautifully employed as captor, killer, and manipulator.

A Great Villain: Nothing ruins a monster movie faster than a lame looking rubber monster. Carpenter knew this, and pulled out all the stops to create one of the most disguising, creepy and original monsters in horror history.
With the killer alien being able to replicate any living thing, the cabin fever tension was heated to a boil. But Carpenter didn’t stop there. When the monster shows its true self is when the real horror begins. Slimy and putrid, the monster is a mass of ripping tissue that was part spider, part slug, and all grotesque.
The Thing was crafty in human form, and insanely gross in natural form. It also couldn’t be killed, as each drop of blood was another alien life form. Original and vomit-inducing. Brilliant.

Eye-popping effects: While some of the gore shots, like the doctor having his (obviously cardboard) hands bitten off, didn’t hold up to modern standards, for the most part the effects in this film are still amazing to viddy. Any imperfections enhanced by the sands of time can be forgiven due to other scenes that have never been matched in both their horror and visceral beauty.
For example, as a mutating human comes apart, Kurt Russell torches The Things body to ashes. But the head crawls away, eventually sprouting spider legs, with an upside down human face, and scurries away. Nick and I both smiled with sickness. It was unsettling, but so amazing to look at, that we couldn’t help but grin.

Realistic acting: Another typical downfall of the horror movie; actors who can scream and stab, but not act. The Thing’s performances were not award material, but they were note-perfect for the situation. A lot of tense looks, swearing, running, screaming, and fighting. Everyone, especially Russell, were at the top of their game.
And that is saying something with the character Dr. Blair, who’s played by film and TV legend Wilford Brimley. The tension building interaction between the cast heightened the sense of fear and dread Carpenter wanted to convey to the audience.

Unique ending: Of course I can’t openly discuss the ending of the film due to my “no-spoiler” clause. But good horror movies should have an ending that the viewer doesn’t see coming, or at least leaves them with strange feelings inside.
An ending that makes one think. The Thing does this, and freezes one’s gut in the process. At the end of the movie, you don’t know if you should laugh, cry, cheer, or puke from the number of disgusting things and foreign emotions you just experienced. I say, try them all and see what fits.

Add in Carpenter’s fittingly sparse and empty score, ample use of a flame thrower, and Kurt Russell’s character’s insane hat, and The Thing is easily one of the few perfect horror movies from the last 90 years of horror. It earned its 5.0.
Grab a friend and watch this classic (again). That IS your friend and not an alien imposter, right. Right? RIGHT!”

N-Rating: 4.7
Nick Rich mutates:
“I should have seen this one coming. (Really, I should have, as Chris and I had both seen The Thing before.) We both knew going into this one that we would be in for a nice, warm visit with a old horror friend from the get-go.

Hot time, winter in the city!

And what's wrong with that? To be perfectly frank, as we've neared the end of our time-traveling horror rainbow the pickings have gotten a little slim... and while Mother Abigail's father always said 'it's a whole tougher when there's none!' I've still been left hungering for a good helping of horror - and The Thing delivered that is spades (or flamethrowers if you prefer). It even threw in an awesome hat for good measure!

You may not be as cool as Kurt when you wear it,
but you too can own one!

As Chris mentioned, The Thing had it all: location, villain, premise... all of which mixed nicely and settled just right on the cerebral cortex to create an outstanding order of horror! As I mentioned to Chris during the viewing, one of the things I love about this film is that it embodies the spirit of a zombie film - without the zombies. One of my favorite elements of a zombie film is the isolation you get to experience with the characters... feeling alone in the world due to these horrible circumstances, and how you deal with that situation (and others). In a unique twist, The Thing begins with a cast of characters who are already in that mindset due to the nature of their vocation. Trapped, for all intents and purposes, in a frozen wasteland far from home with a bunch of people you haven't chosen to be with but are stuck with. It is a dark and lonely place to start a tale of horror, one that pays off tremendously (as this film showed).

Now due to our prior viewings of it, and our extremely high marks, it may seem like the deck was stacked in favor of The Thing going into this viewing. If anyone thinks our rating were a bit unfair in the grand scheme of the project, I challenge you: watch The Thing. If after a viewing of this film you don't agree with our assessments, I may just have to torch you, as you'll have effectively proven yourself to be an impostor!

Often imitated, never duplicated.

The Skinny: Check this flick out if you're breathing and over they age of 12... or if you've ever romanticized living in a remote location.”

Things We Learned from The Thing:
-Nick and Chris would burn the other if they became infected with alien.
-The Boom Box: annoying white people since 1970.
-Netflix makes bad business decisions.
-Chess Wizard doesn’t like to drink.
-Aliens are just “voodoo bullshit.”
-Don’t ever order your alien medium-rare.
-Aliens taught the Incas everything they know.
-Always play the odds.
-Even in the 80s, Universal Studios still had it in horror.
-Aliens burn real good.
-Remakes really can be better than their original.
-Norwegians are cat people:

Quote of the Viewing:
[Actor Wilford Brimley, a notorious diabetes care spokesman in his later years, walks onto the screen]
Nick: [In old man voice] “’I want to talk about your diabetes.’”
Chris: [Laughs]
Nick: “I knew one of us was going to say it eventually. Just wanted to get it out of the way so we could enjoy the film."

RDHP Presents:
Paranoia runs rampant not just in the tundra, but in space too as evident from this "The State" sketch.

The Bearded Men of Space Station 11 - The State from Sebastián Hoch on Vimeo.

RDHP Honors:
Kurt Russell, American Badass
Does anyone kick more hinny than Kurt Russell? Women want him, and men want to be him. As the alien fighter in this flick, Kurt was a damn fun hero to root for. His other dude-friendly films like Escape from New York,  Big Trouble in Little China, Death Proof, and the western Tombstone cemented Kurt as a true American Badass (we will forgive the romantic comedies like “Overboard”)
Below, we salute Mr. Kurt Russell, a man’s man when he’s not with a lady.

As Stunt Man Mike in Death Proof

As Wyatt Earp in Tombstone

In Stargate a Col. Jack O'Neil

As Sake Plissken in Escape from New York

As Stephen "Bull" McCaffrey in Backdraft

As Dean Proffett in Overboard

As Lt. Gabriel Cash in Tango & Cash


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