Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Thing (1982)

I, actually like many happy reviewers, have to shamefully admit that it wasn't until recently that I saw the complete and unabridged version of John Carpenter's The Thing. is sort of his own Thing, and I am currently in a fully blooming embrace of that Thing, although not in any sort of pseudo-sexual way, despite how it may sound. Every one of Carpenter's cinematic pieces that I add to my mental repertoire reinforces my dutiful acceptance of his place as a defining master of the horror genre. Of course, no movie will be dearer to my heart than Dark Star, but The Thing certainly gives it a run for its money. 30+ years later, people are still trying to dissect the overwhelming mastery of a film that was panned by critics and the box office alike. The answers for these things are never really a tangible thing, but I can tell you my impressions at least, right? right? What I really love about The Thing is the overwhelming simplicity of it all. It's breathtakingly contained in a way that makes the plot both timeless and universally applicable. As long as there are humans forging into inhospitable conditions (probably as long as there are humans...), this movie will be relevant, and gloriously so at that. And the effects. Oh the effects. With a 22 year old at the helm, and a whopping $10 million to spend, the effects department set out to do what so many did so well in the 1980's - special effects. In a time before CGI, and with a finicky director dismissing even claymation as subpar (not the claymation!), The Thing emerges amidst the grime and gore of deliciously disgusting special effects. And not all effect at that, since real animal organs were used in the autopsy, and an actual double-amputee actor writhed in pain when arms were lost. Oh yeah, and that look of surprise on Kurt Russell's face when the dynamite explodes? That's real surprise, and that's real dynamite. Ah, the 80's. And . What a fucking badass. I love that when they did the 21st century remake of this film (2011), they (very wisely) decided against pitting any of the young actors today against such a legend by having him fill such butt-stomping shoes. Instead, they went a completely different path entirely and selected a female protagonist to kick ass and perform scientific experiments. This is especially fitting when you realize that no females (with the exception of a computer voice, and pre-recorded TV footage) were used in the making of this film. Not in the acting, not in the crew and not in the editing. What was that? Ah yes: Oh, the 80's.

The best piece of trivia, however, goes to the stereophiles:

"The Thing came out in the early days of home video with stereo sound. It also came during the time videophiles began to learn how to decode the matrixed surround track encoded on Dolby Stereo films by use of a left minus right decoder with delay applied. The Thing was one of the main films that were recommended to test out the setups due to the aggressively directional surround stereo mix, especially in the opening helicopter chase. The Thing was among the first movies to advertise that it had a "matrixed surround track" on its packaging for the stereo soundtrack versions."
Talk about an interactive package. They just don't make 'em like they used to. Or maybe I'm just a really old 28 year old. The possibilities are endless.

I deem it: "Epic and eternal! Classically Kurt and irresistibly indomitable! Tenaciously tense! Guts, gore and Casio =  everything I want from the 80's!

Art by Dan Mumford