Saturday, October 30, 2010

The First Ever FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #12: The Thing (1982)

Man oh man, is The Thing my kind of movie or what?  Science fiction/horror with nasty shapeshifting aliens and a very healthy dose of paranoia ... so much fun!

Set in an Antarctica research station - a location as alien and isolated as any space station or space ship - a group of American scientists are surprised when a Norwegian helicopter circles their camp, shooting at one of their sled dogs (Jed, a gorgeous wolf/dog hybrid) who's been out romping in the snow.  The Norwegians accidently get themselves killed before the Americans can ask them WTF, so our guys check out the Norwegian research station not too far away, and end up bringing back the partially-burned remains of ... something.  This thing that they've brought back is not from our planet and, worse, a live version has infiltrated the American research camp in the form of that gorgeous dog.  You see, the alien absorbs other life forms and assumes their shapes so you really have no idea whether you're with the real deal or the Thing.

The Americans, being scientists, figure this all out very quickly - watching the faux dog split open to reveal the grotesque and ravenous creature within brings them all right up to speed - and realize that any one (or more) of them could be infected.  No one trusts anyone.  And when one of the Americans sabotages all the vehicles and the radio equipment, effectively stranding them in the station until spring so that the Thing can't escape to infect the rest of the planet, then tension and paranoia are palpable.

What a great flick.  The Thing has an awesome cast, led by Kurt Russell (fresh off Escape from New York), and including Wilford Brimley, Keith David and Richard Masur.  With so many characters all dressed in parkas, it would have been easy for everyone to blend together, but the actors do a great job of differentiating themselves.  The setting is frightening even before the alien shows up: isolated, cold, snowbound - you can believe that it would have been a tense and slightly paranoid environment even without some extraterrestrial monster munching on people.  And the creatures are FANTASTIC, sprung from the crazy imagination of Rob Bottin (also responsible for special effects on The Howling, which I am eager to see).  Watching the dog Thing peel open and the tentacles come flying out was amazing, but my favorites were the upside-down head spider Thing; and the man Thing trying to devour the scientist head-first left me slack-jawed.  Awesome.

The Thing is a great, great creature-feature, and one that holds up well 20+ years on.  Check it out if you haven't seen it - you'll be glad you did.

Next: ...?  I'm in between DVDs so I'll have to check the DVR and see what AMC has left me.

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