The Thing (1982)

The Thing (1982) – IMDb

The thing

Briefly I would like to explain my absence and apologize for it. For the past three months I have been in Basic Military Training for the Air Force (hua!) and have been missing my currently small but meaningful followers. To pay tribute to my return I have decided to review an all time favorite of mine: John Carpenter’s The Thing. Recently, I purchased this movie for my third time off of Amazon. A long awaited Mondo’s Steelbook Collector’s edition that I have fallen in love with. With a haunting bleak cover of snow and blackness, and a ghostly mutated figure screeching upwards on the left side of the case – the words THE THING etched across it’s chest. And subtle, hidden words lie beneath this beautiful box: Man is the warmest place to hide. I gladly unwrap the movie and recall my favorite moments, and times I introduced this bad boy to fresh eyes. Much like when I told my friend he HAD to watch this movie upon it’s arrival a week after basic, hence, he does not like horror. And I told him if there were ever a horror to watch before you die it must be The Thing  (and given, a few others). He was quite hesitant until this day, today, I had the pleasure of finally showing him after weeks of anticipation. He’s a hard nut to crack, my friend, but has said it contained a good, enjoyable plot and good characters. Seeing 25 years is around the corner of it’s release, that it has stood the test of time and is a worthy addition for your shelf. However, he said, it seemed drawn out and some of the characters were not well developed. Is he right? Meh, to my degree of thinking HE IS WRONG. But I will explain later, ladies and gentlemen.

If you are reading and have witnessed this bloody awesome movie then I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have. If not, then you’re on the wrong ship. Those of you who still need to pop that cherry, I suggest, as a movie lover, watch it. Experience it. Take in the cold and bleak wasteland that is of Antarctica. Where everywhere you go is isolation. Where you thought the below 40 degree weather was the worst of your fears. Until you find out there’s a 100,000 year old UFO beneath the ice. A neighboring outpost is left burned and destroyed, inhabiting nothing but ice and dead bodies. What do you do? The radios are down. You have acquired a stray dog who appears to be normal. Then things happen. Abnormal things. Things you can’t explain. One thing leads to another thing. The characters begin to question each other. Without noticing, you start questioning them. Soon enough you question yourself, Are You Crazy? The thing creeps up on you, slithering it’s way to your brain, becoming absorbed, clouding your judgement. You start building a shanty spaceship out of scraps thinking escape is the answer, I’m telling you that’s not it. You’re infected. Take your last shot of J&B Scotch and burn yourself.

The thing about The Thing is that you begin asking questions from the start. Who are the Norwegians and what are they saying? What is the dog doing? Then more questions begin to form. I think what makes a good movie, specifically this one, is to keep the audience engaged. Have a setting that they become familiar with so they  have the feeling of isolation. Introduce characters we can relate to who can also represent the daily human being. Keep them diversified. Make their personalities stand out and make it seem they have been working with each other for months to the point they appear close. Now throw them in a situation that they need to survive within a stationary location. Where they are faced with unknown, terrifying threat and need to survive with little resources. Where their wits are their best weapon by a foe who takes over it’s host. But they become challenged, divided – their trust tested. This alone, is my favorite part of the movie. The psychological fear can be witnessed on each characters faces. Like the scene when the blood is tested to see who is really who. This scene is what sold director John Carpenter to be a part of it. It was really well done. I feel for the guy because his movies are great but at the time, if any of you know, critics and audience alike did not swarm to his movies let alone Halloween. This made most of his movies a box office flop, only to be picked up by fans in the later years. Carpenter was hit hard by the critics as well. Saying “He’s better suited to direct traffic accidents, train wrecks and public floggings.” Ouch. If it’s any compensation, Mr. Carpenter, we love your movies now. the growing popularity even grew another limb in 2011 entitled by the same name The Thing. Which was a prequel and was to say the least OK. It tried to explain some questions from the first but left out the amazing special effects from the original (1982, not 1951).

I’d like to go out on a separate limb here and comment on the simple but haunting score. Done by Ennio Morricone, using a deep three note bass cord. I thought what was more impressive is that it sounded like John Carpenter did it himself since he has scored for many of his own movies. It fit perfectly, giving Antarctica that lonely, ominous feeling.

Let’s not forget the hard working special makeup effects creator Rob Bottin, who worked himself to exhaustion. Stan Winston (Aliens special effects) stepped in to lend a hand for the dog kennel scene. What’s cool about the effects is it’s actually made and not computer generated like modern movies (i.e. The Thing (2011)). This is where most of the terror, I believe, s produced. The imagery is grotesque. Like pulling guts out from two deformed bodies entangled together creating this twisted freak of a monstrosity. Or when a body’s chest opens up and clamps down on the victim’s arms and tears. And the head dislocates itself from it’s body and forms into it’s own nightmarish creation. You truly believe every part of this thing wants to survive.

Now, to comment on something my friend said earlier. The Thing can feel slow but something is happening and it adds to the storyline if not the characters. It’s a quiet progression, like the cold environment it is set in. The slowness, like other films I have reviewed and said, draws you in and makes the shock value increase. And these moments here are bloody, holding nothing back. As for the characters, you get to know how each individual reacts under pressure and in the face of peril. You see who stands out as the leader, the follower, the strong and the weak. I found myself questioning who to trust and having to change my belief, as did my friend.

The Thing and Alien are among my most beloved films in cinema. They both follow similar criteria; isolation and a small crew against an impossible foe. The Thing is even watched annually June 21 in Antarctica by researchers and the like. Its becoming a forgotten film by the younger generation but I will spread it like an infection. Without it we wouldn’t have the many imitators it has today. It even spawned a chilling videogame in 2002 that elaborated on the ending with a rescue team arriving to the outpost to search for survivors. I played it many years ago and due to it being difficult and being frightened I never finished it. If there were ever going to another installment, I feel this would do justice. (Even though I think sequels/prequels have potential to lessen the value of it’s predecessor.) Since the ending leaves you in the cold to ponder did something survive? It’s the ending that completes this masterpiece. Whether or not a direct sequel will be touched upon only time will tell. Would it be worth the admission?

the thing3

 

 

 

 

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Bargain Bin 1

With so many movies releasing every year it’s hard to keep up. A lot of time is spent on which one to watch?  Hoping you wouldn’t regret your decision after the two hours are up. You may choose one through networking because a friend told you to watch it. Or this other flick was hailed by a bunch of critics. Or perhaps you decided not to listen to anyone and watch some random movie out of the mainstream or whatever the case may be. Well, here’s someone else not to listen to: me.

I have compiled a small list that shouldn’t take up much of your time to skim through; a random selection of movies on different budgets, languages, genres, and other rubbish you may find amusing. Whether whatever weather outside, you sit on fur or leather, this is your chance to be pickey-choosey for your pleasure.

Here you go:

Hunter Prey (2010)

This small film caught me off guard. Whilst i was binge surfing on Netflix I decided to give this movie a try. I knew nothing about it and was rather impressed. A small squad is traveling with a cloaked prisoner on a distant planet when he gets loose and they must find him. Simple right? Hunter Prey is really well done for what it sets out to accomplish. Even though the soldiers’ costumes look like they were borrowed from the Clone Trooper sweat shop, it’s easy to write off for it’s still believable and the make up is also well done. Just please, do not watch the trailer. You are better off not knowing anything since the trailer somewhat ruins the twist and makes it seem more like an action movie.

PS: If you liked Enemy Mine you’d like this.

13 Assassins (2010)

I love Japanese culture and their art style. I love samurai movies even more. Takashi Miike gives himself a break from his outrageous horror/gangster films and brings us a story about thirteen samurai who are set on taking down a corrupt, evil leader. And he is evil. The film is set up in two parts basically, the first is build up. This is when Shinzaemon Shimada collects the twelve other samurai on a suicide mission and in contrary, the evil lord shows us just how evil he is. For some, the first hour may seem slow as it really lets us get to know a little bit about each character. Those who are patient, however, will be rewarded. The last hour is nothing but blood shed as the thirteen face off the many in epic fashion.

PS: I love the wide range of colors presented in every frame. Most notably when Japan’s landscape is shown. 

Session 9 (2001)

A little known horror film that came across my way through a friend. This wasn’t a movie i thought he would even like in the first place so when i watched it I was surprised that HE was the one who found it. Session 9 doesn’t need jump scares, no need for gore, just the real Danvers Mental Hospital to film in. At first, everything seems easy enough for our asbestos cleaning crew in an eerie, haunting asylum. But not everything is what it seems in this psychological horror. Hiding secrets can result in brutal fatalitie. Brad Anderson’s editing, shots, and music is what really creeps up your nerves. As well as the session tapes. There’s something about this place that will leave you feeling mental.

PS: Even though the movie isn’t widely known, those who have seen the ending and were left scratching their skull were not satisfied for it’s rather ambiguous. This is a movie worth watching with some people who are open for conversation. I, myself, loved this film for it will have you thinking for days to come.

The Fisher King (1991)

What to say about this delightful movie? I blessed myself when i purchased this without giving it a first look and  it was the one of the best decisions i ever made. It’s a story about fate and moving on from the past. When a radio DJ (Jeff Bridges) who lost his fame due to assisting a woman’s suicide, crosses paths with a looney hobo (Robin Williams) with a tragic past, becomes a comedic tale of redemption and love. Jack (Jeff) befriends the bum hoping he can help him find his true love and aid his past. All performances  are top-notch giving Robin enough room to be weird and heart warming, and letting Jeff be the down-beat cool guy. A favorite of mine from Terry Gilliam.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

I’m a little butt hurt this movie isn’t more well known, or to my knowledge it is not. You have a kick a** cast and amazing one liners. Scrap that, the whole script must be heard. Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr are perfect together, seeing that Val nearly steals the show in every scene.  Their chemistry and delivery couldn’t be any more pluperfect. The story line is a little everywhere which will take you a couple times to re-watch this. That’s not a complaint though, do yourself a favor and have fun solving this jazzed up mystery. I couldn’t recommend it enough.

PS: Still reading? Stop, i found your movie. 

Identity (2003) – IMDb

via Identity (2003) – IMDb.

It was around my 4th-5th grade year when Identity came out. Once it was released on home video my dad rented it and one night I really wanted to watch it. This was during the time when I was exploring all sorts of movies, expanding my knowledge on such great films. After watching Ghost Ship (not so great) and found it a little scary I thought I could watch anything. So late one night my father placed the movie in and before pressing play he says: “If you have any questions, save it for after the movie”. Unfortunately he fell asleep and I was left mesmerized, scared, and contemplating the whole story with questions raining in my head. I went to school the next day and heard a friend say she watched it the night before as well, I sprang into action and proclaimed “wasn’t it awesome?! What did you think?” She didn’t understand it and so she didn’t like it which baffled me. Never have I seen a movie or experienced one like this at that time in my life; this movie marked my love for psychological movies.

The story starts with one small act of an event that causes a chain reaction for several strangers to confront each other in a small, deserted motel in the middle of a storm out in the middle of nowhere. But the weird starts happening, people start dying, one by one. Tension rises with clues and twists that makes everyone a suspect making your head tumble like in the drier just to figure it out. Identity even points the finger for you, playing with your head. You will keep guessing until the very end and questioning what really is going on. Is it supernatural? A dream? Or just some trick? Some will probably figure it out beforehand but it’s fun ride none the less, since something is always going on.

John Cusack did an okay job as the limo driver, it isn’t his best work by far. Although, I’d enjoy to see him in a horror flick; he has a dark, curious presence that fits. Ray Liotta did a fine job as the cop, as well as John Hawkes as the manger of the motel from *southern accent* Mulberry.Gary Busey was convincing as the con-man and Amanda Peet’s acting felt a little forced but was good. The motel itself, though, is a dark, suspicious place. A place that you would dream about and wouldn’t want to get lost in, in it’s cold and wet, creepy atmosphere. The motel is shot beautifully by James Mangold who was enthusiastic about this moody, mystery project.

Identity is a great psychological thriller with elements of horror. It’s fun the second time round watching it, but after that the experience wears down, unless you watch it with someone with fresh eyes just to see how they take it in.

Cannibal Holocaust (1980) – IMDb

via Cannibal Holocaust (1980) – IMDb.

 

It has been a week since I last saw Cannibal Holocaust. Needless to say the horrific images are still buried in my brain. 35 years after it’s initial release, this ‘video nasty’ still shocks viewers and I don’t believe that will end any time soon. Few movies have left me sitting long after the credits. Few movies have left the movie swirling in my head still as I think to myself: Wow, what did I just watch? or Gee, this movie was deeply disturbing, or better, That was a profound experience. Movies like The Living and The Dead, Irreversible, and The Hunt have all left me with this. Cannibal Holocaust will leave you feeling depressed and filthy. Like a tribesman just gutted you and packed you full of mud as you are helplessly tied, then he laughs as you watch him eat the organs he tenderly took away from you.

The reviews and trailers can not prepare you for this. Much like the film crew the movie is based around. The story is centered on a young documentary crew going to the Amazon to film a native cannibal tribe. This cannibal tribe, however, is in unmarked territory. But wait! They brought a guide, so of course they will be safe… They go missing. Another small team is assembled to go search for them. This is mainly how the movie begins. You meet this crew who are on the rescue mission, then meet the tribe and find the film entangled with human bones. After they retrieve the film, they proceed to watch in horror what really happened to the documentarians. The whole structure of Cannibal Holocaust is great. It’s probably my favorite part of the movie, just watching the events unfold and learn the natives’ costumes. Once you reach the ‘film’ it’s shot like a found footage movie. Way before Blair Witch Project there was this, and must say it was handled expertly. But this is much more than a horror movie, more than an exploration in a jungle. It’s a film that explores human beings in a primitive state posed to being civilized. But who is civilized?

Weren’t we once savages? Director Ruggero Deodato makes us ponder many different subjects coursing through the film’s veins. One major controversial question is ‘did the live animals need to be slaughtered on film?’ Maybe it would have garnered more of an audience if not so. The native cannibal tribe did not accept our modern currency so instead Deodato offered them animals. These animals are killed on screen. Most notably the turtle scene, which holds up to its own grotesque rep. Turtles are one of my favorite animals and it was sad to see it butchered on screen. This is probably the worst part about the movie, which keeps you from cheering at the end when the film crew get what they deserved. Yes, the crew deserved their life-sentenced-punishment. It’s not just found in the conclusion while watching the found footage cam; where you see these young people mistreat the natives and disturb the peace. It is shown and understood when you see the rescuers being accepted as visitors; only because they expressed a much more human side and respect, like being bare naked and wearing no fear. In a way, the two storylines are parallel. If you are brave enough, and are not squirmish and can take the pain the movie does so well of inducing, you will see what I mean.

I do think the landscape could have been utilized better. Like I wanted to see more of what the land was like there, above, below, in the trees. But the movie did a good job of making you feel like dirt.  In short, Cannibal Holocaust is a masterpiece. Not just as a horror but a social commentary drama. A much disturbingly, aching, nasty, raw masterpiece, standing on its own pillars. A few things I have learned, in our civilization we are focused on violence, very similar to how this movie is portrayed. Another thing I learned from this movie is that knowledge is pain. When the Professor (part of the rescue team) shows the editors back in the states the film clips that were uncovered, the editors wanted to see more and more of what happened. They wanted to distribute the footage for money, caring little for the lives that were lost. When they came to the end, the editors insisted on watching the rest and sell it to the world to eat up. So, the Professor put it on… Afterwards the editors looked at each other and walked away with out a word. One of them calls up the studio and tells them to get rid of everything. We are left with one final question: Who are the real cannibals?

Old Boy

On my way home the other night, I ran into an old friend and got into a conversation about movies. We came to terms on getting munchies and watching one of the movies I hyped my friend into watching. The movie was called Old Boy. Fortunately, this is not the American remake with ‘The Goonies’ Josh Brolin. I’m talking about the dark, twisted original Korean flick the Americans wish they have made. Basic premise is a man named Dae su is imprisoned in a room for 15 years and does not know why. He is released and meets a cute young girl who aids him. From here, Dae su is on a search to find the man who held him captive and more importantly Why? My friend was hooked from the start, asking that big question: Why? Ha, let me tell you, it is a ride. And I wouldn’t suggest it to the faint of heart; the movie is disturbing and will stay with you for a long time. That being said, I enjoyed it. If you are looking for something different, dark, and powerful look no further.