Day 29 THE THING
Before sitting down to watch John Carpenter’s The Thing -- my favorite horror film of all time – I decided it was time for me to go back and rewatch Howard Hawks’ The Thing from Another World. Few people think of the Carpenter classic as a remake, but that’s exactly what it is. And it’s the best remake of all time, if you ask me. Based on a short story titled Who Goes There? 1982’s The Thing is actually the more faithful adaptation. The Hawks film is a fine, atomic era sci-fi monster movie that warned viewers to keep watching the skies. But there’s no sense of paranoia to the picture, no themes of disease, no sense of isolation, no overwhelming dread. The monster from the 1951 film is played by James Arness (Gunsmoke) and more closely resembles Frankenstein’s monster than the shape-shifting, slimy mess that Kurt Russell had to deal with in 82. The genetic makeup of 51’s monster is plantlike, and one character even compares the monster to a giant carrot man. Original though it may be, I can’t say it’s all that threatening. And other than using blood to feed its seedlings, the alien terror just fails to terrorize. I enjoy The Thing from Another World but I’ve just never been able to fully embrace it. I think this is partly because of how much I love Carpenter’s film and that I don’t understand the changes Hawks made. But even just taken as a classic monster movie, it’s overly crowded, too long, and lacking in scares. Happy I gave it a another viewing, but unlike the 1982 film I doubt I’ll be returning to it again very soon.
So, yep: 1982’s The Thing is my favorite horror movie of all time. The brief rundown is that an Antarctic research base goes through hell when dealing with an alien shapeshifter that’s been discovered frozen in the ice. It’s bloody, it’s gooey, it’s dark, and it pulls no punches. I enjoy watching the film over and over again, focusing on different background characters every time. As paranoia grips the crew, everyone suspects the man next to him and there’s a lot to pay attention to. I like how the film doesn’t hold your hand. The finale still inspires debate amongst fans 30 years later.
As a creative writer, I can safely say that there’s no other piece of fiction or film that’s influenced me more. Little pieces of code from The Thing’s DNA can be found everywhere in my work. I look back and think that my first book Brain Mold was me attempting a weird take on The Thing’s isolation themes and body horror.
Carpenter is one of my favorite storytellers of all time and The Thing is his finest work. If I’m ever stranded on a deserted island with a working TV and DVD player, The Thing will be one of the first things I pull out of the wreckage.
I was happy to buy The Thing on the new Scream! Factory Blu-ray. It was a tough Blu-ray to track down for whatever reason, but it’s totally worth seeking out for fans. Lots of goodies! If you like the film, the Scream! Factory Blu-ray is the release to get.
Day 30 THE WAILING
The Wailing is a new Korean horror film about a country village suddenly stricken with illness and strange crimes. No one knows the cause, least of all our hero, the dimwitted cop Jong-goo. The village’s more superstitious residents point their fingers at the Japanese man who just moved into town. And though Jong-goo’s slow to believe the rumors, the bodies keep stacking up and the Japanese man does seem to be linked to them in some way…
To say much more would spoil things. Also, I don’t really fully understand everything I just watched. Still digesting things.
It’s a tale of good vs. evil, where good is woefully unprepared for the fight and evil keeps so many secrets. It’s unclear at the start whether this is a case of human evil, biological evil, or actual evil. What’s interesting is how the film plays with those expectations. It’s actually a fun dark comedy at the start, where most the scares come from characters frightening themselves with their own overactive imaginations. Superstition and prejudice also have a part to play, as the lone foreigner in town is singled out to be the one behind it all. Right up to the end, we’re not sure where we stand or who to trust. It’s very tricky.
The Wailing is yet further proof that Hong-jin Na is one of the best directors working today. This is only his third feature film, but so far he’s gone 3 for 3. His cast is excellent, from the leads down to the bit players. Do Won Kwak is great as the bumbling hero. Jun Kunimura, who plays the Japanese stranger, is in so many movies that sometimes we forget how good he can be when he’s allowed to sink his teeth into a role. And one of Korea’s best actors, Jung-min Hwang, has a nice supporting role as a shaman who’s in the fight for all the wrong reasons.
The Wailing is a horror film that’s not easy to classify. It’s a slippery snake of a movie, always tempting you, tricking you. Very clever, dark, and strange. One of 2016’s most interesting films.
Tomorrow: THE WITCH.
Writer of horror, science fiction, and dark fantasy. Lover of fiction and film. Lifelong Godzilla fan. Reluctant blogger.
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