THE THING (1982)

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Overall Impression – Truly some of the grossest (and most awesome) special effects ever put to film.

THE FOUR QUESTIONS

Who’s your main character? – R. J. MacReady.

What’s he trying to accomplish? – Professional: kill The Thing once and for all. Personal: N/A. Private: N/A.

Who’s trying to stop him? – The Thing, the other scientists, and the arctic.

What happens if he fails? – The Thing will kill everybody and infect the entire world.

THE FOUR ARCHETYPES

Orphan – R. J.’s team works in a remote Antarctic outpost, and they soon become completely cut off from the rest of the world.

Wanderer – R.J. checks out a destroyed outpost, only to discover a monstrously deformed creature. Upon further investigation, they realize that they’re looking at an alien life form that mimics other creatures… and any one of them could be infected.

Warrior – As The Thing begins to mimic members of the team, paranoia sets in and R. J. must discover who’s who if he’s to destroy the alien for good.

Martyr – R. J. is willing to sacrifice himself to destroy The Thing and save the world.

AND, IN THE END…

For all intents and purposes, the special effects are the star of THE THING, and R. J. is the main character simply because we spend the most time with him.  As such, the characters lacked definitive personal and private goals, needing only enough shading that we can differentiate them.

(This is a trait I’m seeing more and more in certain movies.  Check out my recent review of CRANK 2: HIGH VOLTAGE, another movie in which the main character takes a backseat to the real star – in this case, the movie’s crazy antics!)

Re-watching THE THING got me thinking about today’s abundance of CG compared with traditional make-up and puppetry, and I still think CG falls short in some areas.

As an obvious but unfair example (given that these was the early days of CG effects), remember when the STAR WARS trilogy was re-released?  Lucas finally managed to cram it with the CG he always wanted, but which didn’t exist in the seventies.  However, to my eye, the puppets in the Mos Eisly cantina look way more realistic than their CG alternatives.

A modern movie to compare to THE THING might be SLITHER.  It’s a great example of gross ‘splatter CG’, and both movies successfully creeped me out… yet when it comes to horror, I still prefer the look of traditional special effects.

I don’t think I even have a good reason why…  Traditional special effects just feel more real, which they are, I suppose.   While make-up, goop and puppets exist in real life, a CG monster doesn’t.  Perhaps this knowledge makes it harder to suspend disbelief toward CG elements in movies?

Enough rambling.  Point is, I’m still waiting for a horror movie with effects to rival THE THING.

– Dan Pilditch

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