Along with An American Werewolf in London this is the greatest advert for practical effects shots versus CGI in the world, ever, volume 4. I don’t hate CGI I just think that excessive and in your face use of the technology (on your feet, Lucas) disrupts the magic as you glance down to find, hang on! I’m not holding a controller. The practical effects shots in The Thing aren’t always spot on, but they have the reality of being physical and existing, if only for a frame at a time, that CGI can’t touch. That’s a real fake plastic razor sharp teethed stomach eating Doc Copper’s arms, I don’t need to see realistic chewing and swallowing followed by a comedy burp (LUCAAAAS!). The effects look great and have a physicallity, a dimension of hard graft and inventiveness as oppossed to ones and zeroes.
Another thing I love about this film is the way it develops charcters without stock ‘character moments’. You sometimes get this in ensemble films where the filmmaker feels the need to give each character their own moment or a couple of lines that have no relevance at the time but, hmm, I wonder if it’ll have some impact further down the line? You never know. Here you just get the feeling that they’re ‘just a bunch of guys’ and not ‘ what some hack hollywood screenwriter thinks a bunch of guys should be’ . I guess the fact that they’re not portrayed as wisecracking goofballs or macho stereotypes makes their descent into a paranoid melee all the more believable and inevitable. I love Palmer constantly picking on Windows (great name) for no apparent reason, “The lights went out, the power went out and Windows WHERE WERE YOU ?’ And the audience is none the wiser as to where loyalties should lie, the only respite comes with the blood test scene where true identites are revealed and el capitan gets to blow his top “I don’t want to spend the rest of the winter TIED TO THIS FUCKING COUCH!”
And with a great Carpenter film you get a great Carpenter score. Only, this time it’s the great Ennio Morricone that appears in the credits. If I hadn’t seen his name the first time I saw this I would’ve labelled the score vintage Carpenter.As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews it’s sometimes the little touches that make a film and The Thing is no exception. The running gag of MacReady calling the Norwegians Swedish (“You’re really worried about those crazy Swedes, huh?”, “Hey Sweden!”) cracks me up every time. Sitting around watching taped gameshows for the nth time. The noose in Blair’s shed/cell. And then there is the ending. I was fairly young when I first saw this on video and rewound the tape to make sure I hadn’t missed something. I hadn’t, and as far as I’m concerned now, they couldn’t have ended it better.
I love this film to pieces but I find I can’t end the review without bringing up the ‘alarmingly sophisticated computer software syndrome’ that pops up here and is a regular feature of motion pictures (also seen in Weird Science). I mean, I wouldn’t trust the computers in this to predict the chance of snow outside let alone how a previoulsy unknown organism is going to take over the world and how long it’ll take. Even now, 25 years later, I can’t get my computer to predict when the boss’ll walk into the room and automatically stop downloading shit, what kind of Mickey Mouse world do we live in ? And how come Scotty is such a good typist ? I don’t see any ‘quaint’ keyboards in engineering. What does he do ? Go to his quarters after a hard days over-estimating his workload (should’ve been a contractor) and start practicing for his RSA II? And it’s AL-U-MIN-I-UM not ALOOMINUM, transparent or not. Anyway, watch The Thing and accept that in a world where heads sprout legs computers can do all that shit.