Saturday, August 27, 2011

Favorite Films: The Thing

This is probably the greatest remake I've ever seen. When you consider the original film The Thing From Another World, it's barely even comparable to John Carpenter's masterpiece. After all, a space potato just isn't nearly as interesting as the horrifying crab-like anamorphic creature John gave us.
I was referred recently to a piece trying to rationalize everyone's positions in the film... who turned and when, etc. And though I did not find myself particularly blown away by the attempt made, it did cause me to look at the film in a very different way. I just re-watched it and found myself, more than ever before, enamored with the specificity of each character (something I rarely ever paid attention to before). Once I took the time to actually understand each character's reason for being out there in the first place it revolutionized my viewing experience. Not that The Thing could ever tire me, but it sure was nice to find something new in it after so many viewings. I've probably seen it more than ten times by now, so the fact that it can still surprise me is incredibly noteworthy. This is the kind of horror I'm referring to whenever I rant about what "good horror" should be.
It's rare, but the few that do exist leave an invaluable impression on my moviegoing experience.

(SLIGHT SPOILERS) So let me get down to the dirt, once Blair reads the numbers, he loses his grip.
He goes out and destroys everything. Because he knows this is the only way to SAVE THE WORLD. His descent later on is only due to his comrades' fears of the truth. While he could have done well to explain his findings, to him it was more rational to just "fix" the situation himself. The fact that he eventually becomes what he fears is honestly just a beautiful bit of story telling.

Childs is probably the most entertaining character in the whole piece.
He's ire-filled and too quick to act. But somehow these traits serve him well as he manages to get some of those final, excellent moments of the film... He's the wild card.

Mac is the badass who somehow, even though he's just the pilot, figures everything out. He's a man of action. He makes mistakes (frequently) but manages to fix them.
His ability to improvise and command respect deserves attention. (END SPOILERS) After all, he's Kurt Russell. How badass??
And he wears a very fashionable hat.
There's a great deal more, but I'm just giving a few quick examples of the three most recognizable characters in the film. If you ever get an extra chance to see the flick again, you should really do so. if you haven't seen it... I hope you didn't read the above... go see it.

The Thing is one of those few, perfect horror films. They only come along once in a blue moon. But there was a period of time when John Carpenter held the genre in the palm of his hand and made films work that probably wouldn't have if helmed by anyone else. Look at the original. That being said, I have to comment on the upcoming prequel.
I don't think I've ever been this excited and nervous about somebody new touching an established property. I have hope. I think there is potential in going back to that first camp... but only if the filmmakers are very very careful. I hope and assume they are just as in love with Carpenter's film as I am and know how to pay it respect. After all, it is brilliant... and you don't fix brilliance.

Anyway, thank you John Carpenter for being partially responsible for making me such a film snob.

The List So Far:
1927 - Metropolis - Fritz Lang
1928 - Steamboat Willie - Ub Iwerks
1931 - M - Fritz Lang
1932 - Tarzan, The Ape Man - W. S. Van Dyke
1933 - King Kong - Merian C. Cooper +
1934 - It Happened One Night - Frank Capra
1936 - Modern Times - Charles Chaplin
1957 - Funny Face - Stanley Donen
1966 - Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? - Mike Nichols
1982 - The Thing - John Carpenter
1984 - Brazil - Terry Gilliam
1986 - Labyrinth - Jim Henson

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