Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Thing (1982)

Year 7, Day 297 - 10/24/15 - Movie #2,182

BEFORE: This is the first movie titled "The Thing", but it takes place right after last night's film titled "The Thing", which wasn't a remake or a sequel but a prequel - so the second movie happens first and then the first movie happens second, OK?  Or if you watch the first movie first instead of second and wondered what happened before you can watch the second movie second, just be aware that those events took place first, got it?  

And this movie has nothing to do with the Marvel Comics character named The Thing, and the movie titled "The Invisible Woman" is also on my list, and neither have anything to do with the members of the Fantastic Four - though I'm betting both are better films than the recently released re-imagining story of that superhero group.  

I've finally been quietly chipping away at the watchlist, which was stuck at 140 films for the longest time.  I had an influx of films from 2014 appearing on cable, so I was adding one film to the list for every one I watched, but finally the wave seems to have stopped, and I've got the list down to 136, after tomorrow it will be 135.  I've only got a few more chances to reduce that number before I take most of November off, and then come back in early December for the last 5 films and the new "Star Wars", of course.  

Linking from "The Thing" (2011), Mary Elizabeth Winstead was also in "Sky High" with Kurt Russell (last seen in "The Best of Times").

THE PLOT:  Scientists in the Antarctic are confronted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of the people that it kills.

AFTER:  This is a well-respected horror film from 1982, so much that it appears on that list of "1,001 Movies to See Before You Die" (more about that list tomorrow), and a lot of people seem to swear by its influence on the creepy-crawly claustrophobic horror sub-genre, ignoring the fact that it's really just "Alien" taking place in the Antarctic and not on a spaceship.  My prediction was accurate, I can't take the circa-1982 special effects seriously after seeing the much more sophisticated ones in the 2011 prequel.  Computers have truly changed the world, and that's most evident in Hollywood's ability to create nasty, gory but realistic nightmares.  

As I've said many times, I'm not really a fan of horror films.  I've forced myself to watch them for only a partial month each year (thank God for NY Comic Con) because I've tried to understand the spirit of the season, like a Jewish person listening to Christmas carols.  But this also gives me a different perspective, I can sort of take a step back and look at the genre as a whole, and spot some things that are universal - and I've noticed that a lot of the scares derive from a lack of control.  The killer ties up his helpless victims, the gremlins take over the town, the call is coming from inside the house!  (For God's sake, get out of there!)  Freddy Krueger invades your dreams, Jason knows his way around Camp Crystal Lake better than the sex-crazed teens, and The Thing could be standing inside the body of your best buddy, right next to you, and you won't realize it until his body splits open like a Venus fly-trap and some tentacles whip out and pull you into its gaping maw.  

You can't control it, that's the worst feeling of all - feeling helpless.  And you were just having an intimate philosophical discussion with him, though honestly he wasn't really keeping up his end of the conversation, and he did seem a bit sluggish, but honestly sometimes he likes to smoke a little pot, so how were you supposed to know that he was about to go all alien and eat your face?  If this film had been made during the 1950's, I'd say this was some sort of allegory for McCarthyism (your best friend could be a Commie) and if it had come out later in the 1980's, connections to the AIDS epidemic would have been easy to make (your lover may already be infected) and if it were made in modern times, no doubt people would see connections to secret Muslim extremism.  But no, it's 1982, so we have to deal with this at face value - your co-worker could be controlled by an alien parasite.  

Maybe there's a whole set of office management skills that can be parsed from the events in this film.  After all, in your average office there's probably someone who'd love to have your job, and just can't be trusted.  That person could be spreading gossip about you, or framing you for things you didn't do, meanwhile he or she just has no respect for the containers in the break-room fridge that are clearly marked with other people's names.  Take the advice of the men in this research expedition, and start bringing a flamethrower to meetings, you'll be glad that you did.  It's not paranoia if someone truly is out to get you.  

The makers of the 2011 sequel watched this film very closely, to make sure that their film tied in very well - every little detail from this film, right down to a single red axe stuck in a wall, was explained in the prequel.  This original film starts with a man in a helicopter shooting at a running dog, which is an enigmatic opening, unless you watched the prequel first, and then it makes perfect sense.  

Also starring Keith David (last seen in "Novocaine"), Wilford Brimley (last seen in "The China Syndrome"), Richard Masur (last seen in "Play It To the Bone"), Richard Dysart (last seen in "Being There"), David Clennon (last seen in "Syriana"), T.K. Carter, Donald Moffat (also last seen in "The Best of Times"), Peter Maloney, Joel Polis, Thomas G. Waites, Charles Hallahan (last seen in "The Star Chamber")

RATING:  5 out of 10 thermite charges

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