Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Thing (1982 film)

Based on the novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell Jr., The Thing is the story about a group of mysterious life form that infiltrates an Antarctic research station where a group of men to defend themselves from the creature who can imitate these men as paranoia ensues. Directed by John Carpenter and screenplay by Bill Lancaster, the film explores the world of men trying to deal with something they don’t know as they eventually start to distrust each other. Starring Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David, T.K. Carter, Donald Moffat, and Charles Hallahan. The Thing is a chilling yet harrowing film from John Carpenter.

A group of American Antarctic researchers witness a Norwegian helicopter team trying to kill a dog as it later shoots at them only to kill the shooter and save the dog. Suspicion arises as a helicopter pilot named R.J. McCready (Kurt Russell) and Dr. Copper (Richard Dysart) go to the Norwegian camp where they find the place in ruins as well as a strange body. Upon bringing the body and video documentation at the camp, something strange happens where an autopsy is made where a man named Blair (Wilford Brimley) makes a discovery about this strange thing as it starts to imitate various life forms and kill those around the area as many struggle to survive against this strange alien being. Yet, distrust and paranoia starts to play in as the residents in the camp try to figure out what to do just as their numbers start to dwindle.

The film is essentially a story of survival and paranoia that revolves around a team of American Antarctic researchers trying to kill a strange alien who can imitate all sorts of life forms including themselves. During the course of the film, these men realize that the monsters can turn into humans and is willing to kill at any length leaving to all sorts of mistrust among many. Leading the pack is a helicopter pilot who is trying to maintain his cool and get everyone in tact where everyone becomes afraid or starts to act erratic leading to them being suspicious around one another.

Bill Lancaster’s screenplay definitely plays to a lot of the schematics of horror in which characters get picked off one-by-one and whoever are left are all trying to deal with the monster. The script does manage to invest a lot of time with the characters as they’re all just normal guys who do their job and such as they try to live their life in the extremely cold Antarctic. There’s not much plot in the story but it doesn’t need one since it’s just simply about a group of men fighting a monster and eventually themselves just as distrust starts to arrive. Even as they all realize that if they need to survive, they have to trust one another through some strange tests and such where there’s also the feeling that they might not make it all.

John Carpenter’s direction is very engaging for the way he builds up suspense and horror as he knows how to maintain a sense of rhythm into creating that sense of momentum in the suspense and horror. From the film’s opening scene that is this amazing wide shot of a helicopter trying to follow a dog through these snowy rocky mountains. It is clear that Carpenter is establishing something that would play a key part in the story with this opening sequence for what these men are to face. Through these vast locations set around British Columbia, Canada and parts of Alaska, Carpenter creates a world where nature is unforgiving in the cold world of the Antarctic. It’s not just this dark creature and themselves that they’re facing but also nature itself.

Carpenter’s direction also has a sense of foreboding intimacy in his framing where it’s clear that everyone is trapped in the rooms they’re in as Carpenter shoots the actors in various group shots and cuts to another small group to see who is the monster and who is not. It’s all part of the world of paranoia that Carpenter is trying to set-up that adds to the suspense where the third act revolves the small group of survivors trying to fight the monster any way they can. Overall, Carpenter creates a truly captivating yet mesmerizing horror film that plays to a lot of its schematics and more.

Cinematographer Dean Cundey does great work with the film‘s exhilarating photography to capture the beauty of the landscapes along with the sense of dread in the film‘s nighttime interior and exterior scenes where the lighting creates an unsettling mood. Editor Todd C. Ramsay does excellent work with the editing to play up the suspense and horror while utilizing dissolves and fade-outs for the film‘s transitions. Production designer John J. Lloyd, along with set decorator John W. Dwyer and art director Henry Larrecq, does amazing work with the set pieces such as the base the characters live in to the ruined Norwegian base and spaceship that is found nearby.

Special creature effects designer Rob Bottin, along with Stan Winston, does brilliant work with the look of the monster as it imitates itself in various forms that also features an element of repulsiveness in its look as it plays a large key to the film‘s horror element. Sound editors Colin C. Mouat and David Lewis Yewdall do superb work with the sound to play up the sense of atmosphere that occurs as it also plays a key part in the film‘s suspense and horror. The film’s music by Ennio Morricone is fantastic for its intense, orchestral-driven score that adds to the film’s drama and suspense as Morricone’s score is a major highlight along with the film’s opening theme by John Carpenter that is this chilling, electronic-driven piece that adds to the film’s darkness.

The casting by Anita Dann is terrific for the ensemble that is created as it features some notable small roles from Norbert Weisser and Larry J. Franco as the Norwegian men in a helicopter as well as Adrienne Barbeau as the computer chess game that McCready is playing against. Other noteworthy small roles include Thomas G. Waites as the radio operator Windows, T.K. Carter as the cook Nauls, Richard Masur as the kennel operator Clark, Joel Polis as the scientist Fuchs, Richard Dysart as the doctor Copper, Peter Maloney and Charles Hallahan as the researchers Bennings and Norris, David Clennon as the scientist Palmer, and Donald Moffat as the base head Garry. Wilford Brimley is great as the scientist Blair who makes a discovery about the autopsy and his powers as he immediately starts to act erratic. Keith David is superb as the researcher Childs who rallies around everyone while often challenging McCready in the game of distrust. Finally, there’s Kurt Russell in an incredible performance as McCready who leads the team in fighting everyone while is willing to do anything to prove that he’s not the monster as it’s Russell bringing a lot of guts and charisma to his performances.

The Thing is an outstanding horror film from John Carpenter that features an intense performance from Kurt Russell. The film is definitely a horror film that doesn’t try to create any scares by focusing on characters and heavy themes that adds to the element of suspense and horror. Even as it explores the world of paranoia and survival in an unforgiving landscape that adds to the sense of terror in the film. In the end, The Thing is a hypnotic yet engrossing film from John Carpenter.

John Carpenter Films: Dark Star - Assault on Precinct 13 - Halloween - Someone’s Watching Me! - Elvis - The Fog - Escape from New York - Christine - Starman - Big Trouble in Little China - Prince of Darkness - They Live - Memoirs of an Invisible Man - Body Bags - In the Mouth of Madness - Village of the Damned - Escape from L.A. - Vampires - Ghosts of Mars - The Ward

The Auteurs #60: John Carpenter Pt. 1 - Pt. 2

© thevoid99 2012

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good review Steve. It's a pretty freaky movie in how it slowly lingers to the conclusion, and just goes to show you that Carpenter knew how to do gore, the right way. The remake wasn't terrible, but it definitely felt unneeded.