Film: John Carpenter's The Thing
This is one of those films that, once you've seen it, you should always be able to remember the first time you saw it.The first time I saw it, was a few years ago when it was on TV. I *think* this was back before adverts were so loved by Britain's "Big Four...er i mean Four And A Half (you can't count Channel 5 as a complete channel)". I may be wrong, but I seem to remember it was an uninterrupted horror fest, a rare thing these days (unless you buy the DVD). And it actually was quite scary, or as close as any film can get. The tension just builds until it all blows up, the final violent (and rather gory) 20 minutes or so being possibly the only aim of the rest of the film. You get a string of startling revelations all within a pretty short space of time, including the out-of-the-blue genius of the reluctant hero, Macready (mack-reedy as opposed to muck-reedy, if you see what I mean), a helicopter pilot who succeeds where a couple of doctors had failed.
The basic premise of the movie is a US research base in...er...Antarctica? somewhere snowy up north, anyway, by chance takes in a rather nasty alien. The problem is, the alien is an uber-chameleon-type virus-like thingybob, that is capable of hiding itself as any other species, and uses this to...wipe out any other species. You don't know this to begin with, but it doesn't take too long for the film to introduce this little nasty, and anyway the chances are, even if you've not seen it yet, you've heard a bit about it.
I should point out right now, this film has some very gory moments. It's not for the weak-stomached, and the first scene that shows the alien in its shape-shifting glory should be avoided by animal lovers, as two or three huskies get slaughtered.
One of the most memorable things about The Thing is the use of special effects. Or, more specifically, what must have been liberal usage of either melted rubber and/or melted plastic. I'd really like to see some of the masks and other bits they must have made for filming. The other really notable thing about this film, is how simple yet atmospheric the music is. When I say "music", bear in mind that it actually just re-uses bits, or the whole, of the same piece of music at all the points where tension needs building. BUT! It WORKS! I love that dum-dum rhythm. It's just so...menacing. Just like the research team's situation: when they first find out about the alien, all they know is it can mimic humans, it's amongst them, but it must have got less than half of them (or they'd all be dead). They haven't got a way of seeing who is really human or not (it even goes as far as mimicing it's food's internal organs, at least up until the point where it no longer needs the disguise).There are inconsistencies, as with (seemingly) all movies, but I don't feel like spoiling it by pointing out the obvious ones here (and I seriously doubt I spotted them all).This is one of those slightly strange films; I'd guess that many, many more people have heard of it than have actually seen it, which is a damn shame because it's proof that John Carpenter at least used to be able to do great things, even if he's slipped a bit more recently (Vampires, anyone? maybe not...)
John Carpenter's The Thing DVD at Amazon
John Carpenter's The Thing VHS at Amazon