A Netflix Finds Review
If it came out in the 1970s or 1980s and it has John Carpenter's name on it, I'm probably going to love it. While the horror genre has always been a big money maker, and a constant production line of memorable and non-memorable thrills, I feel the 1980s best capture the genre for what it really should be - unique and terrifying. Today's modern horror will rely too much on the torture porn area, or the abrupt twist that makes no sense, in an attempt to scare us. Not gonna lie, it's been a long time since I was truly scared from a movie.
But John Carpenter doesn't set out to scare you. He sets out to make you feel uncomfortable with your surroundings and your decisions. While the 90s saw a sharp decline in quality from Carpenter, and the 2000s have proven even worse, it's safe to say that the 1980s were owned by John Carpenter. Despite being a horror director, he ventured into the drama world in 1984 and got Jeff Bridges an Oscar nomination for Starman. Recently, Netflix uploaded a slew of Carpenter classics to the Instant Queue.
There are several great films available by Carpenter on the Instant Queue - The Fog (the original, folks), Assault on Precinct 13 - but the ultimate Carpenter experience is in his quasi-remake of the 1951 classic The Thing From Another World, aptly shortened to The Thing. If you have not seen The Thing, you need to stop everything you're doing and go watch it. To me, it is unquestionably the greatest horror film of the last century. It deftly blends everything that we like about horror into a tight and concise hour and 49 minutes.
The film is set in the Arctic where a group of scientists stumble upon an alien life form that some how manages to mimic its prey, after disposing of them in some pretty horrific ways. Kurt Russell takes center stage as the gruff MacReady, the pilot and self appointed leader of the pack once the attacks begin. It sounds like typical monster fare to those who have never seen it, but The Thing pulsates not just on the horror aspect, but legitimately creating a mystery - a whodunnit if you will. As the thing manages to pick off the crew one by one, it becomes a guessing game as to who is it impersonating now. Paranoia sets in and you can feel that sense of insecurity in every scene. It chews through the bulk of the film. One thing Carpenter did well here is create a film that you can go back to several times to find all of the clues and piece together how this guy or that guy became the thing. It's truly a wonderful tale weaved so tightly by Carpenter, that it still resonates today with film lovers.
No horror film would be complete without masterful special effects and make up. The Thing does not disappoint in this area. People's bodies split open and reveal teeth that bite off hands. It's gruesome, it's unsettling, but it looks fantastic. The realism of those shots puts a lot of the gore and make up of today to shame. Not even the tolerable prequel from 2011 (also titled The Thing) could maintain Carpenter's vision without utilizing overblown CGI effects, leaving the the creature to appear more comical in some scenes than intended. The Thing of the 80s manages to surpass the original from the 50s and could not be beat by the prequel of the 2000s - a true testament to the greatness that was John Carpenter pre-1990.
His work here is nothing short of a classic, with a cast that comes across believable (Quaker Oat guru Wilford Brimley) and even hilarious (the always reliable Keith David as Childs), top notch effects, and a script that leaves you still questioning the person sitting across from you just before the credits role, John Carpenter's The Thing is one of the greatest horror films to ever grace the screen. The film itself a mimic, has been mimicked repeatedly since it's debut in 1982, and will continue to inspire filmmakers everywhere, and scare audiences for years to come.
MPAA Rating: R for strong graphic sci-fi/horror violence and gore, disturbing images, language and some drug use.
Runtime: 109 mins.
Director: John Carpenter
Writer: Bill Lancaster
Cast: Kurt Russell; Wilford Brimley; T.K. Carter; David Clennon; Keith David
Genre: Horror | Mystery | Sci-Fi | Thriller
Tagline: Man is The Warmest Place to Hide.
Memorable Movie Quote: "I dunno what the hell's in there, but it's weird and pissed off, whatever it is."
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Official Site: www.theofficialjohncarpenter.com/pages/themovies/th/th.html
Theatrical Release Date: June 25, 1982
Link to Netflix: The Thing (1982)
Synopsis: Scientists in the Antarctic are confronted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of the people that it kills.