Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Thing (1982)

The Meat of The Thing (1982): The Thing digs your meat. The Thing wants to absorb your meat. Replicate your meat. Become your meat. 

Lady Terminator's Special Guest: Artist, musician, insomniac...Erik Wilson! If you're a fan of extreme horror writer, Edward Lee, you're probably already familiar with Erik's work. If not, feast your eyes on some of his beautiful cover art!

Ghouls (interior) The Haunter of the Threshold, Lucifer's Lottery, The Innswich Horror

If Erik's not already on your radar, he should be! This Twin Peaks inspired piece should tell you why. 


Let's see what 5 things this talented bastard loves about The Thing (1982). As always, be forewarned. Spoilers lurk ahead!

This movie isn't my favorite John Carpenter movie.

This movie isn't my favorite horror movie.

This movie is my favorite movie.

Times watched: Uncountable. Hundreds.

Picking five Things to isolate as Things to call out is nearly impossible. It is a Thing of beauty from all aspects: script, cinematography, acting, direction, and of course, those beautiful effects. I could play the movie, randomly pause at five different points, and bore the shit out of you droning on for hours about the importance of the board games and signs in the background, or how this or that particular effect was achieved, or the Christian metaphors in The Thing's monstrous agenda (they're there, but that's an entire article in and of itself). I'll  try to reign it in, and keep it short. I'll try.

I promise nothing.

1. The (post-title) Opening Scene:

After the saucer crashing into the Earth's atmosphere and the incredible title burn-in...

...the story proper opens up with the vast whiteout of Antarctica at the beginning of winter. A husky-ish dog bounds through the snow, being chased by two Norwegian men in a helicopter.

The pilot is getting as close as he can to the running dog, and the second man is trying to gun the animal down.

It's made clear very quickly that these men are desperate to kill this animal. Even though they're not speaking English, you know from their tone, their body language, that they're terrified.  

And when they make it to the American camp, before dying in their futile attempt, one of them yells something out in Norwegian. Carpenter or scriptwriter Bill Lancaster could have had the actor say anything. Gibberish. Random Norwegian. Just "Hey, get that dog!". But what he says is this:

"Get the hell out of there. That's not a dog, it's some sort of thing! It's imitating a dog, it isn't real! GET AWAY YOU IDIOTS!!"

There's the entire movie, right there. Even though we the audience almost certainly couldn't understand the line, we knew this was bad. We knew this was the end of the world.

2. MacReady's Drinking

Alcohol is a symbol of MacReady's humanity - the first scene we see him in, he pours a drink into an electronic chess game, "killing" his inhuman foe.

Immediately after this, Bennings is wounded by the Norwegian trying to kill the dog, and MacReady comforts him with...booze. When he visits Blair in the makeshift prison-shack, MacReady takes a sip of the alcohol sitting on the table, as he tells Blair to have faith. Even though he knows at this point that if Blair is the Thing, he could be infecting himself by drinking from the bottle. Similarly he offers (and shares) a drink with Childs at the end of the movie, when it's very likely that Childs is a Thing. 

The giving, taking and sharing of drink is a symbol of humanity, echoing the sharing of mead in Teutonic and Nordic hero-tales.

MacReady is an anti-Thing, and he's (symbolically) infecting those around him through its sharing with humanity. It's incredibly subtle and brilliant.

3. The Effects

Holy shit, the effects. Rob Bottin, only 22 at the time, created a masterpiece of cinema art. The creature sculptures are beautiful, and I mean that in the deepest, purest sense of the word. It still holds up now, and looks better than anything I've seen attempted digitally. the Norris heart attack scene in toto, starting with the "jaws" chest opening...

and ending with the "spider head" (and the best line in any movie, ever) ...


...is astounding and scary and funny and weird and just perfect.

Stan Winston's dog-Thing in the kennel sequence is brilliant too.

4. The Lighting

As perfect as Bottin's sculpts were, it was Dean Cundey's lighting and cinematography that made them work on camera. And not just that - the lighting in the entire film is just flawless. Even choices like using blue airport lights for the outdoor nighttime scenes make the movie more than it would have been otherwise.

Not taking anything away from Carpenter, but I think a lot of what makes his early films work so well is Dean Cundey's  lighting.

5. The Ending

One of, if not THE, best film endings ever. I won't go on and on here. Just go watch it. I was 13 when I saw this movie when it opened in theaters. I saw it twice opening night. I had never seen a movie until then that just had the balls to end that way. People around me groaned and cried and complained. I got back in line and watched it again.

Lady Terminator Quickie: Here's a brief list of 5 things I love about The Thing (1982)...

1. Mac's Luxurious Mane
It's like a Pantene commercial up in here.

2. Isolation
The Antarctic setting contributes to the feeling of dread. 

3. Monsters
The creatures in this film are some of the best practical effects of all time. 

4. Paranoia
If the Thing doesn't destroy you, the not-knowing will! The blood test scene is insanely intense!

5. Nauls' Rollerskates

Nauls wasn't about to leave behind his skates for some job in the Antarctic. Nuh-uh.

The Final Tallies? 

What we learned today:

1. Erik Wilson might be a Thing. Since I can't perform a blood test, maybe we'll just have to monitor his activities. 

You can do that in the following places...

Website: erikwilsonart.com 
Etsy shop:  https://www.etsy.com/shop/ErikWilsonArt
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ErikWilsonArt
Twitter: https://twitter.com/erikwwilson

You'll also want to keep an eye out for an upcoming project of Erik's that I and 29 other authors took part in! Go here for a tease. 

2. It's unanimous! Both Erik Wilson and Lady Terminator think John Carpenter's The Thing is about as perfect as a film can get. If you haven't watched it...go do it! If you're already a fan, watch it again! And if you have a dog...maybe give him some side-eye. 

Until next time...

Sloppy Infected Kisses,
Lady Terminator AKA Erika Instead

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