It’s October, the month of Halloween and what would be more clichéd than doing a countdown of top horror films, so fully admitting to being a walking cliché, I will be doing a series of blogs running down the films in my own personal top 20. Here’s the previous blogs for numbers 20, Audition, 19, Night of the Demon, 18, Zombie Flesh Eaters, 17, Last House on the Left, 16, The Beyond, 15, An American Werewolf in London, 14, [REC], 13, Don’t Look Now, 12, Event Horizon , 11, Cannibal Holocaust, 10, The Wicker Man, 9, Halloween, 8, The Blair Witch Project, 7, Hellraiser, 6, The Evil Dead series, 5, The Exorcist, 4, Suspiria, 3, George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead/Dawn of the Dead/Day of the Dead and, 2, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
We come in screaming to the number one film on my list, and it’s John Carpenter’s The Thing.
I could just wrap this up with one sentence: I fucking love this film. I won’t, so here’s the blunt synopsis from IMDB for those of you who haven’t seen this sheer work of genius.
Scientists in the Antarctic are confronted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of the people that it kills.
The film adapts the John W. Campbell story, Who Goes There? for the second time after the Howard Hawks film, The Thing From Another World, a great film in it’s own right but it only loosely took elements from Campbell’s story whereas Carpenter goes back to the story and uses it to virtual perfection.
It’s a story about paranoia, plus it serves as an allegory for the then relatively new stories about the AIDS virus, but most of all it’s a brilliantly made horror film with spectacular effects from Rob Bottin with help from Stan Winston.
It’s also this work as well as the creepy paranoid atmosphere that helped doom the film at the American box office, though I do remember it doing better here in the UK. In fact it was one of the first X certificate films I saw at the cinema which is one reason why I love the film so much as if this is your first X film, it’s a cracker to start off with.
Why is this so good? Well, it’s smart. Locating the film in a remote part of the Antarctic means there’s no escape, and also, making the characters a mix of scientists and civilians who seem to have some sort of military experience means it’s not a bunch of naive teenagers we’re watching but experienced educated men making as informed a series of decisions as possible. It’s all logical as the survivors try to outsmart the alien creature which isn’t to say there’s no people walking into dark rooms, but it’s because they have to. Now there’s better critiques out there of the film and this isn’t really a critique rather than it’s me telling you, the reader, to go watch this film.
It’s got everything; good characters, great acting, fantastic direction, astonishing effects which look better than most film made today and a great score by Carpenter and Ennio Morricone. I should also say that I don’t think Carpenter has topped this film and he’s made some great films before and after The Thing, but this was a perfect storm. It’s just a pity there was such a negative reaction to it at the time of it’s release in 1982, though history has shown those of us who thought it was brilliant at the time to be right.
Go watch this film again. In the dark. Alone.
So here I am at the end, or am I? After all there’s no Hammer? No Cronenberg? No Alien, and where exactly was The Shining?
The answer to one of those questions is for next time with My Worst Five Horror Films Ever.