Friday, June 17, 2011

The Thing: you could be one of them

A friend of mine recently revealed that the 1951 "The Thing From Another World" starring James Arness (rest in peace), is her favorite scary movie.

Unfortunately, I couldn't get a hold of a copy of that black and white classic. So I watched John Carpenter's 1982 version, instead.

"The Thing" has much in common with other genre fair: an isolated setting, a limited number of characters, a mostly hidden monster, and incredible special effects.

Isolation is a key component of a good horror film. When you can't call for help, whatever is going on seems worse. You don't get much more separated from civilization than being stationed in Antarctica. In that situation, there are only so many people available to whatever agent of chaos is at work.

Carpenter keeps the monster in the shadows, giving us hints at what is living inside a dog and waiting to get inside the men in the film. There's maybe a tentacle, perhaps some long, sharp teeth and, for most of the movie, that's it. Effects master Rob Bottin does perhaps his best work in "The Thing." If you've seen the movie, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, no spoilers from me.

Just remember, the monster could be anyone.

Carpenter lensed "The Thing" about 30 years after the b&w original. Which must mean it's time for a remake. Would you settle for a prequel?

That's right. "The Thing" is being prequelized and is set to be released in October 2011. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is playing the lead. She's had a few genre credits, to say the least. Winstead has been in "The Ring Two," "Final Destination 3," the 2006 "Black Christmas" remake, and "Death Proof." She'll also be playing Mary Todd Lincoln in "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter."

I guess this is a sign of progress. The 2011 version has a female lead. The closest the 1982 version had to a female character was Adrienne Barbeau voicing a computer. And the 1951 original? There was Margaret Sheridan as Nikki Nicholson. Remember her? Don't feel bad because no one else does, either.

You can count on Warning Signs seeing "The Thing" in theaters this October. We'll also keep trying to snatch up a copy of "The Thing From Another World." Until then, Carpenter's "The Thing" is always worth watching.

Threat level: RED. If this isn't John Carpenter's best movie, you tell me what is.

"The Thing From Another World," 1951, directed by Christian Nyby and Howard Hawks, based on John W. Campbell's short story "Who Goes There?" and starring James Arness.

"The Thing," 1982, directed by John Carpenter, stars Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, and Keith David. Rated R and available via Netflix Instant Watch.

"The Thing," 2011, is directed by Matthijs van Heijningen, Jr. and is scheduled for release on Oct. 14, 2011.

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