Tag Archives: the thing

1. The Thing: A Study of Paranoia

The premise in The Thing (from 1982, not to be confused with the prequel from 2011) seems simple enough: An alien spacecraft crashed in Antarctica millions of years ago. Present time, an Arctic expedition. The alien creature thaws from the ice after his long hibernation, and starts attacking. The humans need to defend themselves, led by the alpha male himself: Kurt Rusell.

What makes the premise more interesting is one crucial aspect:

Paranoia

The Thing starts off with a dog in the snow fields, being chased by two Arctic scientists, one of them shooting with a rifle. Already in the first five minutes, the sense of panic and urgency is apparent. The “dog” arrives in a neighboring science station, where the scientists shelter it, before things starts to go haywire. Soon, it is discovered that the dog actually is the alien creature, who is is able to copy any life form, to perfection, in a matter of hours. Except for a blood sample, there is no possible way whatsoever to recognize the “copy.”

Therein lies the horror. The copies are exact copies. Every single expression, every single sentence, every single behavior – everything corresponds exactly to the “original.” It’s not just that the creature lies and tries to act like someone else. It literally becomes the original. The only method in the movie

In many works of fiction, there are certain phrases that always carries a certain sense of security. Phrases that a viewer is supposed to rely upon:

  • “Look into my eyes. Have I ever lied to you?”
  • “We’ve known each other for years. Would I ever put you in danger?”
  •  “I promise. I give you my word.”

The Thing just spits on such phrases. The copy is just as convincing and reliable as the original. Just as eager to help to solve the situation. Paranoia poisons and creates uncertainties. In a hostile, isolated, dark environment, those feeling becomes intolerable. And blessings such as reliability, trust and friendship becomes something meaningless.

And let’s not forget the creature, “The Thing”, itself. Does it deserve paranoia? Well, there are scenes where we see part of the transformation process, and where it tries to defend itself, so the actual monster is not “out of view.” However, when it does show up, the effect of the parasitic creature of staggering. There are more than enough reasons to be afraid that your best friend standing right beside you actually looks like this on the inside…

So what happens when the paranoia poisons people in The Thing?

Well, I’m not particular fond of spoilers. So unfortunately I will not present you with anymore revealing details.

Let’s just say that even though the ending is a pretty final one, the paranoia lingers still…

John Carpenter: A Study of Ideas

Have you ever heard a story that sounded like it had potential, but it turned out to be kind of empty? Or seen a movie that had a great idea, but not well-executed? Or read a book that lacked some kind of “substance” that could have made the plot richer? You get the feeling that something is missing?

That is the sense I get from John Carpenter.

Carpenter.2

He is considered one of the classic masters of horror, a movie director who’s been active since the 1970s. His most famous achievement in the horror field has to be Halloween from 1978, which was one of the contributing factors to the creation of the “slasher horror movie”, before the genre went haywire decades later, with one pathetic cliché “teenage slasher movie” after another.

Carpenter has done a number of movies during the years, the ones in the 70s and 80s being the most commercial successes. However, time has been able to “reinstitute” some of his newer works in the film canon of impressive works of film horror. Personally, if I were a movie director, I would see that as kind of annoying. That my movies needs years of pondering and valuation before they are considered passable!

There’s nothing lacking in Carpenter’s stories, concepts and ideas. However, I find that the final pictures always contains a number of flaws. The idea starts out good, but doesn’t get a jump-start, or isn’t evolved to fit the story. Instead of a painting, you get a frame. Also, the characters tend to be too one-dimensional in order to drive the plot to its full potential. To me it’s just frustrating. All this potential, just within reach! A movie that could’ve been perfect is just “good”!

john carpenter dvdNonetheless, I enjoy every one of his movies. His directing is well-paced, there’s never any lack of atmosphere, when he’s contributing music to his own music the result is awesome, and the “worlds” he’s building up are always interesting to visit. And most of all for the entertainment value, and of the aforementioned ideas and concepts, which can inspire your own imagination, as well as giving the audience something to talk about when the movie is over.

Details, and some aspects of the basic premises in the stories, are often left in the dark. This can be a bad thing as well as a good one. In Carpenter’s case, I think it’s mostly a good one. One thing people often forgets is that horror is about atmosphere, and in order to achieve that you have to leave behind question marks. Carpenter always provide with answers, but still leaves behind a few question marks here and there.

In this series of posts, I will focus on some themes and ideas I find interesting. Plus, I do not intend to do a repertoire of his entire filmography. Instead, I will focus on his so-called “Apocalypse Trilogy”, which includes the movies:

The Thing (1982),

Prince of Darkness (1987),

and In the Mouth of Madness (1994).

carpenter blood

So, without further ado, I guess it’s about time I actually started DOING what I promised a long time ago. “For the next few days” my ass…

Anyway, like I’ve said before…

I’m not going anywhere!