Thursday, February 11, 2016

I'd like to come back inside now

John Carpenter's The Thing is very nearly a perfect movie. It's creepy, it's funny, it's tense, it's well-written, it has amazing practical effects, all the actors are wonderful, the setting is a great combination of beautiful and haunting. Fuck, this is just such a great, fun movie to watch.

It also has scared the crap out of me for a large part of my life.

I don't know if I've made it clear enough on this blog, but my parents are huge movie geeks who raised my sister and me to be just as geeky as they are. And sometimes they accomplished this through actions that might be considered, well, perhaps going a bit too far.

I was about 12 the first time I saw The Thing, which would have made my sister about 10. We'd seen the poster hanging up in our house, and had looked at the back cover of the laserdisc on our shelf (again, my dad is enough of a movie geek that he adopted the laserdisc format for image/sound quality AND the fact that most laserdiscs had extra features before DVD was a thing) and the images were pretty spooky. We were excited about seeing the movie but nervous too. So when our parents announced that we were going to watch The Thing one night my sister and I huddled up under a blanket on the couch together and got ready to be spooked.

(Spoilers? This movie came out in 1982. It's 34 years old. Get over yourself and go watch it.)

It worked - the best part of the film is the slow, mysterious build of tension. From the suddenness of the opening scene you move into a molasses-paced exploration of these characters and their conflicts on their isolated Antarctic base. The languid conversations, minor arguments, disputed music, and dim lighting, always surrounded by an inhospitable hellscape, makes it clear that these people are ripe for an explosion. And of course as you're getting to know these folks, and realizing that they'd all kill one another in a heartbeat ANYWAY, there's that creepy fucking dog.

The whole situation blows up and blows up beautifully. The tension of the first act is supplanted by the aggression of the second, with everyone mistrusting everyone else and about half of the cast immediately turning into gruesome monsters, and builds to a crescendo of explosions in the third act with the realization that defeating the titular thing means that basically no one in this story gets out alive. It's a tragedy in that it ends with a lot of death but it's also a triumph because the crew had made the ultimate sacrifice to save the world.

Well. It turns out that my parents had decided THAT was the perfect night for us to watch the movie because my mom had found stuffed toy huskies that sat in the same position as the creepy thing-dog when it was first started infecting the other dogs. So my sister and I went to our rooms after watching this creepy-ass movie and found stuffed huskies calmly staring back at us, just waiting for the lights to go off, because my parents are evil. But in a really awesome way.

And it's not like that scarred us in any way. My sister still has her stuffed huskie and I still distrust anything that could potentially spread infection and take over the planet. No problems there.

So anyway, I was super excited when The Thing came on TV the other night, and I giddily watched the whole thing while clutching my dog in my lap and hiding behind her during the scary bits. (For reference my dog is 15 inches tall so this wasn't very effective hiding.)

     - Alli

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