Sunday, September 1, 2013

My years in horror: 1982

1982 is an important year for me. It's the first year I can remember watching a movie. It was E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. That Spielberg gem isn't a horror movie, even with its sci-fi./horror overtones. If it was, it would definitely be the tops for the year. The year is not without its contenders, however, and some of them are classics. Friday the 13th Part III came out and is noteworthy for being in 3D and introducing the iconic hockey mask. Another third installment, Halloween III: Season of the Witch hit theaters without that franchise's top draw (but is vastly underrated). Spielberg also shepherded in Poltergeist with the directorial efforts of Tobe Hooper. We were also given the comic book-style anthology Creepshow from George A. Romero and Stephen King. Pretty good year, wouldn't you say? So it might come as a surprise to some of you that 1982's best horror movie was a box office dud.

  John Carpenter's The Thing tanked upon its release. Too weird, too gory, too... Kurt Russell. Carpenter was riding high after Halloween, The Fog, and Escape from New York. But The Thing was up against friendly alien E.T. and Blade Runner (was sci-fi king that year or what?). The film had a bleak setting and, thanks to the all-male cast, no traditional Hollywood tropes. The lack of a romance, even in such a dark film, really can kill a movie. (Take a guess at what sex the lead of the 2011 prequel of the same title was?) The movie cracked the box office top ten for three weeks then disappeared ...

Until smart horror/sci-fi fans realized how freaking awesome the movie is. The characters are strong, the story is tight, and the effects are, well, the best practical effects since An American Werewolf in London. Most of the effects, especially what is known as "the Blair monster" were done by Rob Bottin, who had taken over effects for The Howling from mentor Rick Baker when Baker skipped that flick to do An American Werewolf in London. Stan Winston, the 1980s and '90s other effects god, did the dog transformation effects. Those creatures alone make The Thing worth watching.

Yet there's more. Carpenter truly shows a master's hand in this film. The tension builds, we get a number of near climaxes before he pulls back and builds more. Th ending leaves us nervous like any unresolved narrative should. I really wish I had seen this in the theater, but my grandpa didn't show R-rated movies at the theater he managed. Besides, E.T. was doing too well to pull.

So that's 1982. I'm on vacation for the next three days and we'll pick up with 1983 upon my return. I think you'll be surprised at my selection.

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