Many years ago I caught a single clip of a movie. I did not know what film this was, it wasn’t even the film itself, it was another show talking about stuff and it showed one scene, and I had never seen anything so terrifying in my life.
A man was on a table, apparently having had a heart attack, an older man presumably a doctor brought out a defibrillator and was using it on the man to try and save his life. First nothing unusual happened, but then as he was about to use the defribrillator again the man on the table’s chest opened into a terrible mouth with an horrendous scream. The mouth closed ripping off the doctors arms as everyone including myself looked on in horror. Tendrils then erupted from the maw as a horrible creature, not some perfectly formed killing machine like the Xenomorph but something that had elements of man but twisted into this nightmarish form. As this Being was torched, the human head came off the body still on the table and grew legs as it attempted to escape.
Many years past and what I saw never left the back of my mind. Out of all this time, I never even knew the name of the film. For some reason I was intrigued by this film, haunted by that which scared me more than anything I had seen. I saw another scene, just a few seconds later on another show, a man running from something, as it tore up the floor chasing him, unseen, it was here I learned the name The Thing.
As I grew older the internet advanced into our homes and though the film was not what I was looking for in the early days of my exposure to the internet it never left the back of my mind. Watching people on YouTube talk about horror films The Thing often came up and eventually I found myself looking the film up once more.
I learned many things, the basic plot, the nature of the creature and all of it led to sleepless nights. Not nightmares, for I would seldom get that far. The moment my conscious mind began to fade the horrors that were held back by reason were unleashed and I was shocked back awake. Catching images of the creature both from the movie itself and the novel or production designs, they all led to sleepless nights; Cables on the floor, shrouded by the dark became the creature’s tendrils reaching out to absorb me. Yet still I looked on, disturbingly fascinated, called to look on and search out more, but still actually watching the whole movie was too much for me.
My searches had however yielded an unexpected result. I had learned that the film was in some ways a remake, I knew of the book to some detail but a movie in the 50s had been made based on it called The Thing From Another World, it turned out I knew of this film too. This was a version I could watch much sooner. The black and white nature, the age of the film, and the changes to the creatures nature made it a lot less horrific than the malformed being that could hide as anyone you knew until it was too late. There was horror, in fact the original Thing From Another World contains many stand out scenes including full body immolation, suspense as a door is opened only for its monster’s arm to smash through, and I loved it.
And yet I was still drawn to that 80s film, I had never seen it but I came to love what I feared, admire its amazing practical special effects, its tense story telling. What it achieved amazed me, even if I could not stand to watch.
And then came the prequel. I first knew about it from a trip to Edinburgh, I cannot remember what film I was seeing at the time but in the stands was the image of a human but with monster’s hands, naturally I didn’t see it. As I later read up about it, saw images, I was, unimpressed. Sure maybe the image of the monster chasing me through a hall would give me another sleepless night but I was not drawn to it like the 80s, in fact the more I learned the more I came to loathe it. What made The Thing seem so wondrous to me was absent. The practical special effects were replaced by poorly done CGI, the blood test removed in favour of checking for fillings, and the beast that hid until the last moment, now behaved like any other movie monster.
Sometime later I learned that the film originally had practical special effects and a much better story at the ending, giving us more info on how The Thing arrived on the Earth, but all these were removed by cold money-focused boards who felt they knew what people wanted. It’s rather poetic that those things that were put in because they felt people would like them better where the things people criticised the most.
Then finally, almost 2 decades after those first scenes that haunted me, after years of reading, watching other adaptations of the work, sequels, prequels side stories etc. I found the film on TV and I sat and watched. The film still horrified me, but in the right ways I enjoyed the tale, marveled at what had been accomplished and saw as 2 men sat in the cold, waiting for death.
Since then The 80s remake of The Blob has taken the place of The Thing as that film I can’t stand to see scenes of, I am not drawn to this one as the other though but am still impressed by the practical effects and haunted by them. The 80s really had the best horror movies when it came to effects. But yet my strange draw to The Thing is not an isolated story. The horror genre itself draws me, it its many forms. Sci fi horror as it tells us of tales of what may happen, bringing our fears of the future to life. The ghost stories that pry on our sanity and make us question what is what. And the cosmic horror, showing Man at its barest, nothing compared to what is out there.
I love the Horror Genre probably more than any other film genre, and over this October month, a month that in my lifetime has become dedicated to horror thanks to Halloween I shall look at the genre and my experiences with it. I will also look to the holiday that has now become quintessential with the genre. I welcome you to join me; after all, I have to do something during these sleepless nights.