Tuesday, December 11, 2012

John Carpenter Week: The Thing

You hear every sound as the tick of the clock allows for another minute to pass by.  You feel the sweat on your brow lightly trickling down and you know in your heart of hearts the person next to you may not be what he or she appears to be.  This is The Thing.

Lordy, how could spoilers survive in 0 degree weather?

In 1982, John Carpenter remade Howard Hawks 1951’s science fiction film The Thing from another World into simply The Thing; an alien entity that has the ability to change its molecular structure and DNA into something or someone else through assimilation.    On an Antarctic research station deep in the snow and ice lurks something man has never seen, 12 men will be pushed to the breaking point of sanity and paranoia will seep in.   OoOo got carried away there.  

Based on the original story, “Who Goes There?” by Science-Fiction writer John W. Campbell Jr., the screenplay for the 1982 version was written by Bill Lancaster (The Thing, The Bad News Bears film and TV series) and helmed by director John Carpenter (Assault On Precinct 13, Halloween, Escape From New York, Big Trouble In Little China, and Vampires) unfolds a story of 12 men encountering a malamute being shot at from a helicopter by a Norwegian research team when the copter explodes and kills the pilot and co-pilot.  The rifleman still trying to kill the dog is shot by the station commander Garry (Donald Moffat of The Thing, When the Time Comes, Clear and Present Danger).  

 Helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russel of The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, Escape From New York, The Mean Season, Soldier and Deathproof) and Dr. Copper (Richard Dysart of Being There, L.A. Law, The Thing and Spawn the Animated Series) discover a camp completely ruined and torched. A few deaths consistent with suicide and outside in the snow is a body with two heads burnt to almost lack of recognition.  The body is wrapped and research documents are taken back to the station.  Through an autopsy Doctor Blair (Wilford Brimley of The Waltons, The China Syndrome, Brubaker, Roughnecks and Borderline) the two faced creature is perfectly normal.  The malamute starts attacking all the other sled dogs and is toasted with a flamethrower wielded by Chiles (Keith David of The Thing, Platoon, They Live, Clockers, Gargoyles, and Spawn the Animated Series) then brought to Blair to do I guess a necropsy on it.  Blair finds cells in it that are not animal DNA and proceeds to comb the Norwegians’ records.  He discovers that an alien life form that was said to have came to Earth in a flying saucer and they speculate millions of years ago trapped under sheets of ice as far back as the first Ice Age. 

Finding this research everyone becomes skittish around one another, locking their doors and arming themselves.  Who is who?  Am I next?  FX wizard Rob Bottin (Maniac, The Howling and Robocop) is responsible for ¾ of the creature creations and prosthetics.  The dog creature was crafted by none other than the late Stan Winston (Dracula’s Dog, Parasite, The Terminator, Aliens, Predator 1 and 2).  35mm film with a Panavision anamorphic lens shot at a slower speed of 2.35.  Tight shots, a soundtrack composed by Ennio Morricone (The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, The Untouchables, Once Upon a Time in the West and Once Upon a Time in America) rather than Carpenter.    In conclusion, if you don’t mind feeling a bit twitchy and love a good scare then this flick still stands the test of time but never watch it alone…