Culture

Sgathaich: The Thing

‘man is the warmest place to hide’

Well with our talk of maddening horrors at the worlds end from last week (Sgathaich: The Mountains of Madness – Graphic novel), it seems very appropriate we should continue that idea. The mountains weren’t the only frozen horror in that cold land.

John Carpenter’s The Thing is a movie with a great history for me, to the point it started my October series of Sleepless Nights (I’d be doing more but IRL stuff… not that kind is getting in the way).  But I feel I should invite a friend to watch this tale of horror, Nephrite! Do you want to talk about The Thing with me?

Umm sure! Wait a minute…You already did the fun 1950s version. That means… OH NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO! NO WAY! *door slams*

To be honest I expected that result.

The Thing is a remake in sorts of the 1951s “The Thing From Another World”. I say sort of as its more a re-adaptation to make a work closer related to the original novella “Who Goes There” which saw an Antarctic research team uncover a alien life form that turned out to be alive and more nightmarish than they had ever imagined. The creature was a shape changer that could absorb and replicate its victims, meaning if it ever got off the frozen lands it would mean the end of the world.

In the 50s they altered it to be a plant monster but with this adaptation they go to the original idea of the shape changing monster in its full nightmarish implications though dropping the design of what it originally looked like.

While the horrific (in the sense they do a great job of making these things look like the stuff of nightmares) practical special effects do make the creatures memorable ( you will have trouble sleeping) the chilling tale is more of one of paranoia. Because no one can truly know who is human now and some descend into madness as the full implications of the creature are realized.

Another great element of this chilling tale is the cold. This is a tale at the bottom of the world and you can feel it. They are in a place where they have this entire place to go, but yet nowhere to. So ultimately the base they stay in is the only place they can go, and slowly that too no longer becomes safe.

While at first the nature of the film horrified me, as I eventually watched it I came to appreciate the master work it is. Indeed from the very first scenes it starts to place elements that come into play later. We are introduced to Macready by him playing chess against a computer only for him frustratingly to break it. When we go see the Norwegians base we see that a war had basically gone on, giving us also a foreshadowing to the end state of the American’s base (don’t watch the prequel).

After the nature of the creature is revealed it is used sparingly. This helps build up the tension as you are in the same state as the characters, not knowing who is human a fact that remains till the very end of the film. This actually leaves a very interesting situation in that becomes one of the few horror movies that might be scarier watching with people.

But I must now talk about those special effects. As mentioned the creature is a shape changer, but the way it changes is in a fleshy manner. You see blood and fluids bone and flesh as it changes form a form we recognized to one designed to bring about its sinister ends. This may gross out some people but it makes the monster feel all the more real, which since it is practical special effects and not CG means there really was The Things that they made in the room, just think about that when you see some of the forms it takes.

This is a truly scary movie and its horror has held up to this day, to the point that attempts to recreate that fear using current technology have failed. But I do warn you unlike some of the films I have reviewed this shall give you nightmares.

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