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The Greatest Horror Movie of All Time,
This review is from: John Carpenter's The Thing [DVD]  (DVD)
John Carpenter's name seems to have slipped off the radar recently, but I suppose it doesn't really matter. When you specialise in the horror movie genre, and go on to create the greatest of them all, there's not much needs adding to your legacy.
Offering a more authentic interpretation of the short story "Who Goes There" by J W Campbell Jr, than the competent but discursive 1950's first attempt "The Thing From Another World", Carpenter brought to the screen an extremely bleak & wonderful experience. In short; a hostile alien life-form has fallen to Earth over 100,000 years ago and been discovered in the antarctic ice by a research team. Despite the passage of time, it's cells are still viable, & thawed-out, begins clandestinely assimilating the team members by turn. The trouble is; it produces identical copies. So who's who?
Carpenter assembled a team of B-movie faces to perfectly interpret his quirky mix of characters, from the laissez-faire, to the thoughtful, the arrogant, and the confrontational. Everyone's a wholly believable cameo. But he didn't stop there. Carpenter is a can-do guy, who has frequently written the creepy-cord music to his own movies, but here he recruited professional composer Ennio Morricone, and that too was a master-stroke. However; the unwholesome icing on the cake came courtesy of Rob Bottin, whose study of the creature in various stages of incomplete metamorphosis are so halucinogenically monstrous as to leave you staring open-mouthed even today. Let's be clear about this; there's no CGI. This movie predated its introduction; these are genuine special effects. And I mean special. Then, there are the sets. Mr C's recreation of the confined facilities of a partly destroyed research station in which there appears to have been bedlam is seemless. Equipment lies littered & smashed, snow has penetrated and accumulated just as you'd imagine. The contrast of residual order disgorged into chaos is frankly perfect. And so it goes on; editing, lighting, script and sound effects - all right on the money. Each character is one with believable foibles. They are sympathetic and I, for one, am moved to care about them. As I should be. It's hellishly cold. And it so was on set. The wind is a ghostly ever-moaning backdrop.
As the story unfolds, horror, terror, claustrophobia and paranoia ratchet-up relentlessly. In a Radical gamble; Carpenter employed an all-male cast, so there's no tiresome romantic bi-line to destract us. we focus down on the team's dilemma and we become part of it. Three particular scenes stick in my mind. In one; a pilot & doctor fly to the Norwegian base. We see their helicopter in long shot, tiny & vulnerable against the seemingly infinite ice feilds. In the distance there are thin, trails of blackened smoke rising. Ennio Morricone's incidental music does not so much entone a sense of terror; it's heavily weighted in strings and conveys more a sense of dispair and tragedy, which perfectly suits the theme. Because this organism does represent absolute tragedy. All life on Earth would be subsumed to its repugnant alien greed: Over 3 billion years of evolution & variety laid waste. Then; at the wrecked base, they find something lying in the snow. It's partly burned, but frozen. They return it to their medical centre and pull back the wrap. "We found this..." the doctor baldly announces. The team are gathered closely round. `This' is barely glimpsed. We observe things not from adult level, but waist-height, more from the standpoint of a child peering between grown-ups, which rather raises our sense of vulnerability. The group stare in uncomprehending shock & disgust. There is coughing. Men glance furtively at each other. Vapour rises up, and melting water drips in a glutinous, syrupy way from thawing extremities that are unrecognisable. I love revelations in movies, and this is a blinder. On another occasion, one of the team has been exposed in half-assimilated condition out on the ice. He's still a man in most respects but his hands look more like gnarled tree branches. The survivors observe him by flares as he kneels, staring up at them. In his look is neither comprehension nor recognition; already it's an exchange between two life forces, regarding each other from across the gulf of their separate geneses. The thing howls an unworldy howl, in which there is no familiar tone or emotion. Then it burns.
I've sunk more 6-packs, more bottles of Shiraz and more gins & tonics - according to companions' tastes - than I would ever dare confess to my doctor, in discussions as abstruse as the evolution of alien life, to the remanence of personal identity, that were begun in pubs, then continued elsewhere until dawn began to hint at the horizon. And when a movie can provoke so much thought amongst its viewers; that movie has surely served its purpose.
I'm sorry I've been so long-winded, but true THING fans will hopefully forgive. This movie is an absolute classic by any definition.
Mr Carpenter? We are not worthy.
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Initial post: 16 Dec 2014, 18:49:47 GMT
Thanks for the " I like your style" comment today.I would have answered on the discussion but my pc is dead and am now using a wii u gamepad which only lets me do the first reply of any discussion so thought I would read some of your reviews.Must say I agree on "The thing" as being the greatest horror movie of all time.At least your reviews are considerably more in depth than mine.
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