Monday, 31 October 2011

Halloween-O-Thon Part The Third

Hello there, I hope you are having fun tonight. I am busy constructing an elaborate bucket-of-fish-heads trap for the local trick or treaters. They love it when they ring the doorbell and 10 pounds of mackerel rains down on their heads. Their cries and squeals of delight can be heard for miles.

Now let me tell you about one of my favourite scary films.

The Thing

The Thing is magnificent, possibly John Carpenter's greatest film - sod Halloween, The Fog, Escape From New York, and In The Mouth of Madness because The Thing is better than all of them. In fact, The Thing combines the best parts of the other films to make a fantastic whole. The stalking suspense of Halloween, the implacable weather conditions of The Fog, the coolness of having Kurt Russell acting all anti-heroic, and the paranoia and creeping fear of In The Mouth of Madness.

Look, watch this and you'll see that even the trailer is great.

"Man is the warmest place to hide."


Much like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the real horror of The Thing, is the loss of self. The thought that a creature could take your body, your personality, your being, your form and parade around in your skin, living your life. The victims of The Thing are perfect duplicates, the facsimiles retain memories and personality, nothing gives them away until it's too late.

Of course for those who don't consider identity theft a horrific idea, there's always the fact that The Thing can shapeshift into millions of hideous forms and kill you with pseudopods, teeth and alien ejaculate.

The film is set in a remote outpost, cut off from civilization and surrounded by harsh weather conditions. There is no escape from the alien terror, no safe haven to hide within, no outside help to call in to remove the problem. The desolate surroundings add to the air of encroaching hopelessness, of a land howling in pain and wanting to scrub itself of this alien infection.

Plus Kurt Russell is fantastic in this film. Snake Plissken and Jack Burton are cartoon (anti)heroes, RJ MacReady is a more rounded, everyman character. MacReady is clearly someone who has seen horror before, his matter of fact demeanour with each new crisis suggests someone who has seen horror and conflict. He's also a man with little remorse or love for his fellow cabin mates. I have a theory about MacReady, it's not a clever one but I think he was a Vietnam veteran. He's a helicopter pilot, he's sullen to the point of being anti-social (hell, he lives in a shack away from the rest of the men), he's a drinker, and he knows how to handle a weapon and explosives. For MacReady the paranoia in the research base is probably very similar to the constant fear of time spent in the jungles of Vietnam. That's just my theory anyway. Not ground breaking or particularly insightful but I think Russell's performance does give some depth to the character that isn't in the script.

I was fortunate enough to see The Thing in the cinema last year. There were two showings over one evening, both sold out. It was amazing to view the film on the big screen with a packed audience cringing and shifting uncomfortably during the quiet periods and reacting with yelps and cries of horror during the gory action sequences.

The Thing is a film that should live on your shelf, slowly absorbing the other DVDs into its collective and making them dance for its own amusement.

No I don't know what I meant by that last part either.

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