Friday FabOoolousness: The Fear of the Unknown

Catie Rhodes and I are back with our new blog collaborative series where we each review an original movie and it’s more recent remake.  This month, we discuss the psychological horror film/s, The Thing.

Despite the fact that Catie agreed to review the 1982 film version of The Thing starring Kurt Russell, I scheduled the DVR to record it and watched it as well.  What better research for my blog post than to watch both films practically back-to-back, right?

For an early ‘80s film, The Thing is really terrifying.  I had seen it before, but still managed to jump in my seat on multiple occasions and cringe at some of the special effects — not because they were outdated, but because they were so well done and gory beyond belief.

The 1982 movie poster

After reading Catie’s post, I knew exactly why I was so impressed: The Thing was directed by none other than John Carpenter himself.  I may not be a “Level 3 Nerd” fan like she is, but I too believe the man is genius and knows horror (I am a big fan of Halloween; thank you, Mr. Carpenter).

I am also glad Catie mentioned the hotness of Kurt Russell.  Even with a full-on beard, the man had it going on in The Thing.  And if we’re being honest here, the main reason why I wanted to review the 2011 remake of The Thing is because of another cutie on my radar – Eric Christian Olsen (NCIS: LA).

He's not a bad reason to watch a movie, right?

So I keep saying remake, but this is not correct.  I had heard in passing that the 2011 film was actually a prequel to the 1982 movie, but like usual decided that I must first see it to believe it.

It is.

Based on the novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, writer Eric Heisserer begins the story with the Norwegian and American scientists who discover The Thing.  Not only do they discover the alien life form, but they also find its spaceship buried deep beneath the Antarctic ice.    The Norwegians contact a doctor (Ulrich Thomsen) about the discovery and he immediately makes plans to travel to the base.  But he first needs someone to assist with the dig.

The doctor remains hush-hush about the find when he hires a paleontologist to assist him (Kate, played by Mary Elizabeth Winsted).  Together with the doctor’s assistant (Olsen), the three travel to the Antarctic not knowing what BIG discovery they will unearth.  It doesn’t take long for their eyes to bug out in disbelief when they see firsthand what they are dealing with.

Kate immediately gets to work, and with help from the scientists removes a large chunk of ice surrounding the alien.  They return The Thing to the Norwegian base and the Mister-Know-It-All-Doctor demands a tissue sample from The Thing, even though Kate highly recommends against it.

The group later gathers in the common area and celebrates the find – they will forever be associated with the team that captured the first alien life form known to man.  While they party, the alien breaks through the ice and escapes.

Or does it?

Burn it! Burn it!

After capturing and burning the alien life form, Kate learns from a tissue sample that the creature’s cells have yet to die.  Instead, these cells have the ability to imitate another’s cells perfectly: a human’s cells.

Much like the original film, panic and mass paranoia spreads across the camp like a wildfire in hot, dry, and windy conditions.  The search for The Thing yields many dead bodies (and a dog, which I could have done without).  But luckily for the group, Kate discovers a crucial tell-tale sign about The Thing — when it imitates a life form, it cannot absorb any metal — therefore no dental fillings, no earrings, and no metal rods replacing bones from previous surgeries will absorb in the mutation.  Knowing this will later prove to save her life.

I'd be looking behind my shoulder too...

The 2011 movie ends just as the 1982 movie begins.  The transition was very well done, even matching the music and the burned Norwegian camp with the dead body inside (the man slit his throat rather than die at the hands of The Thing).  The film also answers how The Thing escapes camp to continue its slaughter of human lives after MacReady (Russell) arrives – the alien is the dog (again with the poor dog).

Unlike the 1982 movie, the prequel (ha, notice I didn’t say remake this time) didn’t get great overall reviews.  But it’s really not that bad.  I particularly liked the fact that one doesn’t have to watch the films sequentially in order to understand what’s going on.  I also applaud the fact that even though the 2011 film is a prequel to the 1982 version, they didn’t take us back in time with ‘80s clothes and other retro images.  Or if they did, it wasn’t distracting.  It’s not that I have anything against the ‘80s (I’m actually a proud child of the ‘80s), but sometimes the effort to create a certain time period takes away from the rest of the story.

Having watched both films, and truly knowing what to expect, I still jumped in my seat…on multiple occasions.  I even looked away at times.  That to me is good horror.

What do you think?  Have you seen either the 1982 or the 2011 The Thing?  If you’ve seen both, which do you prefer and why?  I’d love to hear from you! 

Remember to stop by Catie’s blog discussing the original if you haven’t already.

Friday FaBOOolousness – The Boo Factor: Halloween

Who can get through the Halloween season without watching the spooky 1978 film, Halloween?  Not this horror movie fan!

The House

The Mask

The Scream Queen

Michael Myers

The movie opens with a young Michael Myers stabbing his teenage sister to death in 1963.  He is admitted into Smith’s Grove Sanitarium where he spends the next eighteen years undergoing treatment from psychiatrist Dr. Samuel Loomis.  But, on October 30th 1978, Michael awakens from his catatonic state, escapes the hospital, and steals a car.  Where’s he going?  He has unfinished business in Haddonfield, Illinois

The next morning, we’re introduced to Laurie Strode and her best friends Annie and Linda, a happy group of teenage girls walking to school.  The three friends agree to babysit later that night, Halloween night, despite the fact that Laurie feels like someone has been watching her all day – a man in a dark jumpsuit wearing a weird, white mask. 

Later that night, Annie’s boyfriend calls for a ride, so she drops off the little girl she is watching with Laurie who is conveniently babysitting Tommy Doyle across the street.  Alone in the car waiting for her boyfriend, Michael sits up from the back seat and kills Annie.  Tommy watches as the “Boogie Man” carries Annie’s lifeless body back to the house, but Laurie shrugs off Tommy’s antics as a Halloween scare. 

Next, Michael discovers Linda and her boyfriend Bob having sex in the house.  What are the rules of horror movies?  Never have sex.  Have sex, and die. 

Michael sets his eyes on his true target – Laurie.  After very suspenseful scenes, Laurie barely escapes Michael’s grasps and manages to hide the children before crawling deep into a corner of an upstairs closet.  Just as Michael finds her, Dr. Loomis finally catches up to his patient and shoots him.  Michael falls from the bedroom window; however by the time Loomis looks out, he is gone. 

Queue The Music

Ever wonder why the film is referred to as John Carpenter’s Halloween?  That’s because John Carpenter wrote the screenplay (with Debra Hill), produced (with Hill, and others including Moustapha Akkad) and directed the movie, and created the original music.

In October 2010, the Biography Channel aired Halloween: The Inside Story, and my appreciation for the original film of the Halloween franchise grew.  Not only did the film captivate audiences, but the movie’s success came with an extremely low budget, even for the 1970s. 

Carpenter took the small financing and hired a ton of no name actors, including the now famous, Jamie Lee Curtis to play Laurie Strode, Michael’s main target.  He approached famous actors to play the part of Dr. Samuel Loomis, but after multiple rejections, Carpenter finally found an English actor interested in the role, Donald Pleasance.

The other cast members had a few film credits to their name, but many were considered “B” movie actors: Nancy (Loomis) Kyes played Annie; P.J.  Soles starred as Lynda; and Nick Castle played “The Shape” – or Michael Myers as we know him.

Keeping within the small budget, Carpenter selected areas in California for filming the fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois, and he tasked the actors with gathering and dropping the fake fall leaves over and over again during the twenty-one days of filming.  The most astonishing of all the Halloween facts learned while watching Biography’s special, was the fact that the Michael Myers’ mask is actually a Captain Kirk mask painted and tweaked just a bit so that it wasn’t recognizable as the popular Star Trek character.

Originally the The Babysitter Murders, Carpenter’s movie saw extreme box office success. The approximate $300,000 film made over $47 million at the theaters.  The Halloween franchise remains popular today and consists of ten films, including two recent remakes by rocker, Rob Zombie

Pleasance and Curtis have remained loyal to the franchise; Pleasance filmed a total of five Halloween films and Curtis four.  The Halloween movies have also featured a few familiar faces over the years:  Danielle Harris (Halloween 4, 5, and both of Rob Zombie’s remakes); Paul Rudd (The Curse of Michael Myers); Josh Hartnett, LL Cool J, Michelle Williams, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Adam Arkin, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (H20); Sean Patrick Thomas, Tyra Banks, and Busta Rhymes (Resurrection); Malcolm McDowell and Scout Taylor Compton (Zombie’s 2007 and 2009 movies).

Halloween III: Season of the Witch is the only film in the franchise that doesn’t tell Michael Myers’ story, and is by far my least favorite.  So which one is my favorite?  The original, of course.  But, I’ll watch  Halloween: The Return of Michael Myers, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, and Halloween: H20 anytime I can!

Did the original 1978 Halloween scare you?  Did you ever think twice about babysitting on Halloween?  Which of the Halloween movies is your favorite and least favorite?  Who wins – Michael / Freddie / or Jason?  I’d love to hear from you!

Happy Halloween!