Original vs. Remake [Part 2]: The Thing (1982)

John Carpenter

Kurt Russell - R.J. MacReady
Wilford Brimley - Dr. Blair
Keith David - Childs
Donald Moffat - Garry
Richard Dysart - Dr. Copper
Richard Musur - Clark
David Clennon - Palmer
Charles Hallahan - Vance Norris
Joel Polis - Fuchs
T.K. Carter - Nauls

Genre - Science Fiction/Horror/Aliens/Remake

Running Time - 109 Minutes

In Part 1 of this month's Original vs. Remake post, I reviewed the 1951 sci-fi Howard Hawks produced/"directed" film, THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD. It's a film that still holds up quite well after 60 years, being truly influential in how other science fiction and horror films would be made later on. Like I mentioned in that post, Ridley Scott was greatly influenced by THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, creating an influential and classic sci-fi/horror film of his own in 1979 called ALIEN. As we know, ALIEN would become a huge franchise that would eventually merge with the PREDATOR franchise for their VS. films. But another high-profile horror director was also influenced by this film. His name is John Carpenter.

John Carpenter, now considered the "Master of Suspense" by his peers, is a huge fan of Howard Hawks, inspired by his films enough to become a filmmaker himself back in the mid-1970s. In fact, Howard Hawks' classic western, RIO BRAVO, was the main template for Carpenter's vision for his 1976 film, ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13. Carpenter is also a huge fan of THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD. In the slasher classic, 1978's HALLOWEEN, THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD was the film that Tommy Doyle and Lindsay Wallace watched on "The Night He Came Home". With later works such as 1980's THE FOG and 1981's ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK increasing his profile, it was obvious that Carpenter was building up to something huge. What he built up to is what many consider Carpenter's masterpiece work in cinema - his version of THE THING.

Unlike Hawks however, Carpenter took the source material, John W. Campbell's short story, "Who Goes There?", and interpreted it much more closely than Hawks ever did. With the help of a bigger budget and greater knowledge in Special Effects [here done by the great Rob Bottin], Carpenter was able to take the story and give it the interpretation that was lacking in the original. Because of this, THE THING plays out more of a different adaptation of this short story rather than a literal remake of THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD. In fact, many fans believe that Carpenter made THE THING sort of a psuedo-sequel to its 1951 predecessor, using reenacted clips from the original film to build a new story based on the original's events. Whether the case for THE THING's "remake status", there's no debate about Carpenter's version: it's a must-see film for any science fiction and horror fan that's the epitome of how a truly perfect remake is accomplished.

In a tundra in Antarctica, a Siberian Husky is being chased by two Norwegian scientists, who try to shoot the dog from the air. Unfortunately, the duo is unable to kill the dog when members of a nearby American remote research facility kill the Norwegians, seeing them as a threat. Pilot R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell) and Dr. Copper (Richard Dysart) fly in a helicopter towards the Norwegian camp for some answers, only to find that the camp is empty. The two investigate, finding evidence that these Norwegians found something frozen in the ice - something not entirely human.

As the Americans ponder whether the evidence of an alien life form is true, there is hell going on inside the dog pens where this Husky was put in. Apparently, the Husky wasn't a dog at all, but an alien that's able to absorb other living beings in order to replicate them convincingly. With the knowledge, paranoia sets in with the group - all convinced that one or more may be one of those Things in disguise.

The issue becomes more grave when Dr. Blair (Wilford Brimley) figures out that the reason The Thing is on Earth is to take over the world by infecting and absorbing everyone on the planet. With the frozen weather cutting off communication to the outside world and the level of distrust growing among the Americans, is the hope of stopping this Thing slim to none?

THE THING, in my opinion, is the greatest horror "remake" ever filmed. It does exactly what any remake should do: tell a similar story from a different angle, fix the flaws that hindered the original to create a more effective watch, and create a new experience for a modern generation while keeping enough of the source material to bring in fans of the original film. THE THING is bigger, stronger, and more memorable than THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD could ever be, which shows the strength of the source material, the technology of the time compared to the original, and its director John Carpenter.

THE THING, while considered a classic piece of horror/sci-fi cinema today, was a pretty huge bomb when it was released in June of 1982. This was not a reflection of the film itself, obviously, but of the timing and marketing of the film's release. In 1982, telling a story about deadly alien force wasn't something the mainstream audience was willing to present themselves with - especially since two weeks prior to THE THING's release, Steven Spielberg's classic, E.T., gave audiences a family friendly tale of a loveable alien who was a victim of ignorance and opportunity. When presented with either a bleak, psychological story about an alien outbreak or a family film with an alien who has a catchphrase and loves Reese Pieces [not to mention a young Drew Barrymore raising the cute factor], the audience was obviously going to go with the more upbeat E.T. The box office failure really hurt John Carpenter's career in terms of budget [this film cost $13.7 million to make], as studios weren't confident in allowing Carpenter to create his vision with a lot of money they felt would not gain a profit. In fact, STARMAN and BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA [two films with sizeable budgets after THE THING's release] also bombed box office wise, even though both have gained a huge cult following due to home video and cable. I think if THE THING had been released earlier in the year or much later, like in October, the film would have done a lot better financial wise. It also would have raised Carpenter's status for studio heads.

That being said, while E.T. is a great film in its own right, THE THING is really the more compelling and cerebral of the two films. The film has so many things going for it, including the fantastic screenplay written by Bill Lancaster [son of actor Burt Lancaster]. Like I mentioned, Carpenter's version of THE THING is more faithful to the John W. Campbell story. With the help of a good-sized budget, Carpenter and Lancaster were able to really capture the essence of the story that the Howard Hawks production was unable to due to the times. Unlike The Thing in the 1951 film, this version of the alien is more like the one in "Who Goes There?", as well as being a major focus of the film that turns the narrative on its head and creates dramas for the characters as well. In a lot of ways, Carpenter intended to do the opposite of what his mentor did in the original. Hawks used the alien as a way to bring the protagonists together, giving them dimension by having them try to deduce how to stop the alien and his pods from spreading outside their base. Carpenter decided to use the alien as a way to separate the protagonists, getting into their heads. Fear and paranoia motivates these characters rather than trying to figure out how this alien can be destroyed.

And that's why I believe THE THING is a better film than the original. It plays on the emotions of the characters more realistically than the original did. Having a life form being easily able to absorb your cell structure and make another version of you is a frightening thought. The idea of twins and seeing one's reflection of themselves has always been a common motif in literature and cinema. It makes us question ourselves about our appearance and about the ways we conduct ourselves. It also makes us lose a sense of individuality when someone else looks like us. What if this other "me" does things better than I can? Where does that leave me? That sort of conflict comes across as very interesting and scary when the right people are expressing it.

The Thing is a visual form of the fear these men have to deal with. They're isolated at the coldest region on the planet. There's no women around to please their sexual urges. Even though they work together, they already feel rifts of their crumbling relationship with one another due to cabin fever, wondering why this person is in charge and why aren't they doing anything to make their escape from this place quicker. They constantly sit around, getting drunk just to pass the time. There's no question as to why this alien would make things worse for them. The fact that they don't understand where it's come from and why it's there with them just adds another layer of conflict for our characters, which is something that's shared with the original film [the fear of the unknown]. But the act of watching this alien transform into a dog they've been caring for, or one of their trusted colleagues, just takes things to a whole 'nother level. This generates the layer of distrust, causing this group to separate rather than unite against the alien. Are these people who they say they are? How can they figure out who's real and who's an alien? Can any of them survive this invasion? How will they survive when they can't communicate with the outside world and escape their bunker? This creates questions not only for the characters in the film, but for the audience as well. It creates tension and suspense on a human level rather than it being expected and forced. That's why THE THING still resonates strongly today - while most of us will never be in this situation, watching it and putting ourselves in the shoes of these scared characters will make us paranoid about those around us. While the alien is the villain of the film, the real monster of THE THING is the human mind. If friends can't trust each other, who can they trust?

THE THING does get a lot of flack for not being a strong film for character development. And it's true - the characters in the film aren't as developed as the ones in THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD or other films similar to it. We really don't know the backstories to any of these people and/or how far their friendship with each other goes. While that does hurt a lot of films, it actually helps give THE THING its strength. It's a good thing we don't know their backgrounds because it really doesn't matter all that much for the narrative to succeed and move ahead. This film isn't about past experiences and how it effects the characters' futures. This film is about the moment - about the now. This alien doesn't share history with any of these characters. We accept the fact that these characters work with each other and must have some level of respect being cooped up in the middle of nowhere. We know enough about each character to understand what their role is in this story and how each person relates to the other, making their struggle to trust each other while trying to stop this alien threat from spreading effective enough to keep us interested in the end result. The fact that The Thing can make these characters so afraid of each other so quickly shows how close these men really are to each other - which is not very much to begin with apparently.

It's been said that John W. Campbell was inspired by his mom and her twin sister, who disliked John because he couldn't tell the two part. The Thing represents the fear of not knowing who someone you're supposedly close to really is. Ironically, The Thing can be a representation of a female presence that's threatening to destroy these men by making them turn on each other. These men, while obviously having their own agendas, were easy to get along with before the alien [who can reproduce and create offspring] invades their space, causing nothing but conflict for the men. It's almost as if The Thing is sexual in nature. It has the ability to take one's DNA and create something that not only looks like you, but is a part of you in a way. The whole blood test deal, where if you add heat to a person's blood to see if the chemicals react [if they do, you're an alien], feels like a test for HIV. None of the men want to do it, afraid of what it will reveal about them. There's no level of trust. Everyone wants control because they're afraid of losing their sense of self. THE THING works on so many levels, both beneath and above the surface.

Speaking of above the surface, the special effects and make up by Rob Bottin [the dog kennel scene was done by SFX master, Stan Winston, to amazing effect as well]. are just fantastic to watch. Sure, the slow motion animation and the effects themselves may look dated, but I prefer these practical effects over CGI any day of the week. First of all, the effects are pretty gross even today, so they are not for the faint of heart. But watching the dogs begin to transform, to the scenes where The Thing itself runs around with a human head of an infected protagonist, and to that classic moment where defibrillator paddles leads to a stomach opening up and biting the hands off one of the characters are still grand spectacles in the genre. I also love the fact that The Thing never looks the same every time we see it, as it constantly morphs into something or someone else with ease. Bottin [and Winston to an effect] help give this monster life and personality that the original film couldn't due to budget limitations. You believe that this alien exists and it's quite frightening to look at. It's one of the best monsters ever created in cinema.

The direction by John Carpenter is brilliant. I know I've said that HALLOWEEN was his best work as a director, but after watching THE THING again, I need to take that back. While I still love HALLOWEEN and it's still my favorite film ever, THE THING is really Carpenter's masterpiece and his peak as a filmmaker. Watching this film, you can tell right away that Carpenter had every frame, every shot, every sequence planned out to perfection. Every inch of the frame reveals something important, which increases the replay value. Carpenter loves using the framing and composition to reveal information to the audience that the characters can't see or understand, creating a high level of dramatic irony that one has to appreciate. The scene where The Thing escapes as the head of one of the characters after MacReady sprays the poor guy with a flamethrower is a great example, leading up to a classic moment where the classic line, "You gotta be fuckin' kidding me" is recited. I also loved the use of recreated footage, like the men forming a circle to reveal a flying saucer from THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD. THE THING feels like a follow up to that film, which I kind of like.

The screenplay is strong, but the visuals give it the power to truly create fantastic piece of cinema thanks to Carpenter. Carpenter also uses the setting to great effect. The characters are stuck inside a cold, snowy, dark place where there's no other life but themselves and The Thing itself. The locations are bleak, depressing, and almost sinister in terms of structure. Dean Cundey, Carpenter's favorite cinematographer, does an amazing job giving the Antarctic setting a life of its own. The editing is excellent. The pacing is perfect. The tension [especially during the blood test scene], mood, and atmosphere is off the charts. And the soundtrack by Ennio Morricone is just fitting in every way. THE THING is a visual masterpiece and probably John Carpenter's finest work as a filmmaker.

The acting is fantastic as well, fleshing out these one-dimensional archetypes into believable people. Kurt Russell, who had done films for Carpenter previously such as ELVIS and ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, is just perfect as MacReady. He's funny, heroic, and just all around confident in the role. He's an everyday man who just happens to be a bad ass. Plus the beard is just epic in itself. One of my favorite Russell roles.

Keith David, who would later star in Carpenter's THEY LIVE, is great as Childs. He keeps a steely-eyed stare and seems like a man in control of himself and the situation. But through David's performance, we eventually see it's all a facade and the man is really scared about The Thing's presence. It's a truly convincing performance. Wilford Brimley is good as Blair. He does portray the character over the top at times, but if I had to deal with an alien who wants to absorb me to make a clone of myself, I'd probably be dramatic too. He does stand out a bit because the other actors play their roles in a more subtle way, but Brimley is memorable because of it. The other actors are great as well, especially Richard Musur as the creepy dog lover, Clark, and David Clennon as Palmer. Each actor fits their role really well and create characters that feel real within a surrealistic situation.


- MacReady plays Chess on tthe computer, getting beat every time. Well he may lose to Chess, but against a computer, he'll always win at boxing. Cheating bitch...

- The Norwegians were willing to do anything to murder that sled dog. It must have scared "The Living Daylights" out of them if they were that desperate in "Hunting High and Low" for it.

- The Thing, in the guise of a dog, wanted to replicate itself and the other dogs inside the kennel. I wouldn't be surprised if Michael Vick was somehow behind all this.

- The group couldn't find Blair. It's probably because Mrs. Garrett needed Blair after she fallen and couldn't get up. The Facts of Life are pretty hard to swallow.

- One of the replicated heads of The Thing used its tongue to get away from getting burned from the rest of the corpse. Gene Simmons needs a blood test to prove he's not an alien...or that he doesn't have an STD.

Even though it was a box office failure back in 1982, 29 years have been very kind to THE THING. It's just an incredible film on every level and a must see for anyone who loves science fiction, horror, or cinema in general. Usually, I would pick a winner between the original and the remake. And as much as I prefer this film over to THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD by a drop, the only true winner of this Original vs. Remake is the audience for having one story adapted in two entirely different ways by two men who know how to make captivating and exciting films. I may be in the minority, but I'm kind of looking forward to the prequel in October. Will it be as good as these two films? I guess we'll find out in a few months. And even if it isn't, at least we still have THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD and THE THING to keep us satisfied.

SCORE4 Howls Outta 4


Original vs. Remake [Part 1]: The Thing From Another World (1951)

Christian Nyby
Howard Hawks

Kenneth Tobey - Captain Patrick Hendry
Robert Comthwaite - Dr. Arthur
Douglas Spencer - N
ed 'Scotty' Scott
Margaret Sheridan - Nikki Nicholson

James Arness - The Thing

Genre - Science Fiction/Horror/Aliens/B-Movie

Running Time - 86 Minutes

When trying to think of this month's Original vs. Remake post, there was no other choice but to tackle 1951's classic THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD and its 1982 highly-regarded THE THING remake. These two films have been heavily requested by a lot of peeps who drop by on this blog, especially since I started the whole Original vs. Remake segment, so it was an easy decision. Plus the timing couldn't have been better, with the trailer for this October's THE THING prequel, starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, being released a few days ago to a mixed reaction from horror fans.

So I took the time to watch both films the past week after many years of having not seen either one of them. And after watching both, I realized that reviewing both films in a single Original vs. Remake post wouldn't do either of them justice. Why's that? Well for starters, even though both films are based on John W. Campbell's story, "Who Goes There?", both films adapt from the source material in very different ways. Also, both films are held to such high standards [and rightfully so] that it would be unfair to group each film inside a single post. So THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD and THE THING will receive their individual review posts so I can discuss them in fair length.

Still the question remains: which version of "Who Goes There?" is superior? Is it the 1951 original or the 1982 John Carpenter remake? In part 1 of this special Original vs. Remake, we'll take a look at the influential Howard Hawks produced [and allegedly directed] THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD and how after 60 years later, it's still a must-see film for science fiction and horror fans.

A group of Arctic researchers working for the United States Government believe a meteor has crashed nearby in a frozen tundra. To their surprise, the group realizes that they've stumbled upon a flying saucer with an alien (James Arness) frozen inside. After the saucer is accidentally destroyed, the researchers manage to maintain the alien, digging it up and taking it back to their camp. One of the researchers stands guard, being a dumbass by putting a heat blanket over the block of ice holding the alien, releasing this unknown lifeform within the facility of the camp.

Warned about the alien's escape, the researchers encounter this Thing killing their sled dogs and some of their officers. After gathering some DNA from The Thing, scientists discover that the alien is a humanoid vegetable whose spores will create new Things through other life forms. Will these researchers stop The Thing from spreading its seed like a cheap whore?

THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD is one of the most cherished, influential science fiction films ever made. It was one of the highlights of the 1950s B-movie sci-fi cinema era, as well as influencing directors to create their own epics like John Carpenter and Ridley Scott [THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD was highly inspirational in the creation of the ALIEN franchise]. While some may consider the film a bit hokey due to being made at a different time for a different audience, it's still a very watchable and fun film to watch.

Like I mentioned earlier, THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD was adapted by John W. Campbell's story, "Who Goes There?". Unlike the 1982 remake, which is a very faithful take on its story source, the original 1951 is very different from "Who Goes There?" due to budget constraints. While the film does keep the concept of having a group of men in an Antarctic base being killed by a mysterious alien, the alien of "Who Goes There?" [an organism that can replicate whatever it devours to hide itself while reproducing more organisms in other creatures] is replaced by a vegetable that looks like a man. While it's completely understandable as to why this was changed, it still feels kind of lame to see James Arness in make up fighting dogs and staring at the protagonists who want to kill him and experiment on him. Should this be held against the film because it couldn't do what the bigger budget THE THING could? I really don't think so. In fact, the screenwriting uses The Thing character quite well in keeping him off-screen for majority of the film and only having him appear to create much needed tension after some lighthearted and character-driven moments. In fact, a lot of The Thing's appearances, regardless of knowing he's just James Arness with make up, are pretty eerie. In a lot of ways, the way The Thing comes across in the film was obviously influential to horror filmmakers later on, who used some of the character's scenes to create jump scares, especially in the slasher sub-genre. So while the look of this "creature" is kind of disappointing compared to what the actual story illustrated, at least he's used really well to drive the story forward.

In fact, THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD shouldn't be judged by its hokey title character. It should be judged by its social commentary that has stood the test of time. The Thing itself is based on the fear of the Nuclear Age, the rise of UFO sightings, and the fear of strangers taking over what's considered normal and right [i.e. the fear of Communism]. The Thing is a new threat that none of these characters are really able to understand, even Dr. Carrington, who sees The Thing as a project that could explain life beyond Earth. Unlike in some films, like FRANKENSTEIN where the monster is clearly a sympathetic figure, The Thing is nothing but a device for evil and destruction. It doesn't have remorse. It just wants to kill everyone around him to spread more of itself around to conquer Earth. It wants to take away everything we understand and know, which back then was a huge no-no. The film doesn't hide the fact that the researchers are the heroes here, as they do everything they can to destroy this alien before it causes major damage. The fear of the unknown is still an issue that many people even today struggle with, building that wall of ignorance brick-by-brick. The Thing is bad because we know nothing about it other than the information Dr. Carrington gives out. With that fear, acceptance is not that easy to grasp to.

Another concept THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD does well is also that fear of being alone in a strange place, especially with something or someone that could cause imminent danger to those involved. It's bad enough to be isolated with an alien from another world that wants to kill you. But to be trapped in a frozen area where no one can see, hear, or save you with a dangerous unknown presence is a stuff for nightmares. It completely works in this film. It still works in other films where the concept was recycled, such as 1979's ALIEN. I think that's why this film really stands the test of time - the film may be dated but its ideas are still relevant even today.

The screenplay, written by Charles Lederer, is also well-executed. Unlike the remake, which focused more on the paranoia, atmosphere, and tension, the original is more of a character piece. The title character is never the forefront of this film, even though it's the catalyst that drives the film. For majority of the movie, we're focused on the human characters as they bicker, support, and enjoy each other's company in midst of this alien invasion. In fact, the film feels like a Howard Hawks movie but in a sci-fi/horror setting, which gives credence to many believing that Hawks was the true director of this film, but I'll give to that soon enough. But for a horror film, there's a lot of wit and slapstick comedy going on that may turn off some viewers, even though I think it's why the film is still charming after all these years. The characters seem to be making fun of the situation they're in quite a bit while taking it seriously at the same time. Moments like when The Thing is called a "giant carrot" after finding out its a vegetable, to one of the men saying he's going to read a "nice, quiet horror story" while guarding The Thing, to the sexually charged scene [that was cut out of the film for many years] where Nikki Nicholson has Captain Hendry tied up in a chair while seducing him. All these moments flesh out these characters and even provide some sort of background about them. It makes them interesting to watch and has the audience favoring them over the monster.

THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD also showcases the thought process of how the military and scientists were perceived at the time. The military were seen as heroes after World War II, where their actions were always considered the right actions. Scientists were still seen as men and women who tried to play God [and going against God] by changing the thought process of the world and going against what was taught in Church. In the film, the military are the level headed characters who always have a plan in action to destroy The Thing, while the scientists are loose cannons who want The Thing alive to experiment on it and learn from their research. And while Dr. Carrington does give off certain vibes that fit well within the mad scientist archetype, his character is fleshed out enough for the audience to realize that his actions are slightly justified. He's not afraid of the unknown - instead, he's excited about the prospect of learning something new. The quest for knowledge is within all of us, so it's understandable as to why he feels the way he does. However, the fact that he would risk human life just experiment on The Thing makes him more of an antagonist than the alien itself. His want for learning isn't a job anymore, it's an obsession. He's not evil, just misguided in his actions. This issue of military vs. scientists would later be huge in other films like ALIEN and George A. Romero's DAY OF THE DEAD, where the scientists were more heroic than the military in a strange turn of events.

In fact, the military issue has an effect on the Ned Scott character. As a reporter, this discovery of The Thing makes Scotty excited enough to want to report on it. However, the military stops him because they were government clearance first, believing the story will cause worldwide panic. This is an issue that still exists today. While we do get a lot of news about events all over the world, we're never sure is all of the news is being told to us. The Government tries to limit what the world should know due to what they call 'public security' - only releasing certain information that they feel the public can handle, even though it goes against the First Amendment. For a 1951 movie, it's held up quite well due to still maintaining relevant issues that effect people today.

The direction by Christian Nyby, or Howard Hawks if you believe in the strong rumor, is excellent. Now before I get into the actual direction, I must comment on the director issue. While Nyby is credited as the director, many feel that Hawks used Nyby as a placeholder to maintain his A-list status in Hollywood. After all, a man like Howard Hawks would lose his reputation for directing a low budget sci-fi B-movie. Nyby, who was an editor for many of Hawks' films, was believed to have given director credit so he could be part of the Director's Guild, while Hawks was really the driving force behind the project and directed most, if not all, of the film. It doesn't help that THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD has many of Hawks' trademarks scattered throughout [like the witty dialogue, quick pace, understanding the conventions of its particular genre, etc.], making the argument stronger.

Regardless of who directed the film, he should commended for how they treat the subject matter. The way The Thing is presented throughout the film is fantastic, as it's mainly in the shadows until the end. We see glimpses of it here and there, mainly in silhouette, until we learn more about it [making his presence more visible because of it]. This creates a bit of tension and suspense as this cat and mouse game plays out between The Thing, the military, and even the scientists who have their own agenda. The lighting and the isolated sets manage to conjure up a creepy feel, especially with those shots of really long corridors that seem to be swallowed up by shadow. It reminded me in some ways of a Val Lewton production, where the shadowy set locations and dim lighting would create the fear rather than the monster itself, due to budget constraints. The editing is excellent, the print still looks great after all these years except for a few scenes that look washed out, and the music works well to build the feel of danger that surrounds these characters. The pacing is quick and the film never wears out its welcome. And scenes, like where the researchers form a circle in the tundra to reveal the size of the flying saucer [which would be recreated in THE THING '82] and the fire attack on The Thing inside the corridor are great and memorable for all the right reasons. I'm one of the many who believes that Howard Hawks was the true director of this film, as his trademarks are all over the place here. But whatever the truth is, the film is excellently directed period.

The acting is great. Kenneth Tobey comes off great as Captain Hendry, bringing a commanding presence to the film while handling the more comedic moments well as well. Robert Comthwaite as Dr. Carrington was believable as the misguided scientist. A lot of actors could have played this role in a really over-the-top manner, but Comthwaite gives the character's kookiness some subtlety. Douglas Spencer was the comic relief as Scotty, as well as being the voice of the public when his urge to reveal the news of The Thing kept getting rebuffed. Margaret Sheridan played Nikki Nicholson as a strong female who can handle her own rather than a weak woman to serve the men around her. In fact, she comes across stronger than most of the military personnel, which is something not seen in films back in the 1950s. I'm sure the Ellen Ripley character from the ALIEN franchise was inspired by Nikki. The Mary Elizabeth Winstead in the 2011 THE THING prequel is based on this character, from what I read. And James Arness, who would go on for 20 years playing Marshal Matt Dillion on the television classic, Gunsmoke, does his thing [no pun intended] as The Thing. Not much I can really say about his performance. He fights off dogs, bursts through doors, and tries to look intimidating in his costume. This probably scared people in 1951 but it sure doesn't in 2011.


- A bunch of researchers are having a convention at the North Pole. Santa Claus and his elves always have the best parties with the top supply of ho, ho, hos.

- The military crew enjoyed coffee on their airplane. Even though it was frowned down upon at the time, I'm sure one of the crew members liked their coffee black, like their men.

- The military and scientists spotted a giant something frozen underneath them. The fact that this Thing is trapped under ice means two things: he's a Metallica fan and hates Napster.

- The Thing was throwing around and killing dogs. Looks like there is some Asian influences on his home planet.

- The Thing is considered a "giant carrot" that feeds on blood. Ben Grimm considers the description a bit rocky, yo.

THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD is still a relevant piece of science fiction cinema after 60 years of its release. While some of the film may feel slapstick to some and The Thing itself won't frighten a fly, the film did a lot for horror and science fiction that ought to be respected and appreciated. While I do prefer the remake, which I will discuss in the next post on this blog, THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD still stands tall and fans of either sci-fi or horror should check this gem out if they haven't already. Now where's my V8?

4 Howls Outta 4


The WTF? Worst Films Extravaganza Presents: Exit 33 (2011)

Tommy Brunswick

Kane Hodder - Ike
Antoinette Nikprelaj - Angie

Jerry Reid - Matt

Maria Hildreth - Eva

Paul Elia - Dax

Virginia Bryant - Wife

Christian Koza - Boy

Genre - Horror/Slasher/Psychological Thriller/Indie

Running Time - 83 Minutes

A group of friends have a five-year high school reunion planned. As they travel to the location of this reunion, each friend takes a pit stop at the Last Chance Gas station owned by Ike (Kane Hodder), which is known for its home made beef jerky thanks to hunters in the area. What these hunters don't know is that the "beef" jerky is made with a special ingredient - an ingredient only these friends can supply. It seems Ike's lost his wife in a shooting accident, causing him to kidnap female clients and remove their eyeballs. Ike will also kill those who figure out his hobby, proving that high gas prices aren't the worst thing that can happen to any driver.


I have three words for EXIT 33:


STORY - EXIT 33 has been picked by Breaking Glass Pictures' horror company, Vicious Circle Films. Unfortunately, I think Vicious Circle should have picked another film to distribute because EXIT 33 isn't worth the trip or the pit stop to see it. It aims itself to be an old school type of horror film, but I feel it just falls flat on its face.

EXIT 33 is a mix of a slasher film and a psychological thriller. However, it doesn't really succeed in either sub-genre. The slasher deal doesn't really work because we know right from the start that Ike is the killer, losing any sort of mystery or suspense. He also doesn't really stalk his victims, instead tricking them by sending them to faulty gas pumps in order for their car to break down and initiate his attack. And even though we do have a Final Girl [sort of], her characterization doesn't really hold up to the standards of what we look for in that type of character.

As for the psychological thriller aspect, the film isn't thrilling at all. In fact, it's absolutely repetitive with the same situation playing out four or five times within the span of an hour. A female stranger enters the gas station, Ike tells them Pump 9, she uses Pump 9, car breaks down on the road, Ike trails her, offers to help, and attacks her. Rinse and repeat over and over again. Instead of waiting for the next kill, you're bored looking for something out of the ordinary. The only interesting thing about the psychological aspect are the flashback scenes with Ike and his wife that reveal what drove Ike to do what he currently does and why he continues to see the spirit of his wife with a missing eye. Other than that, there's not much really going on with the story that ought to keep much of your interest.

The characters in the film aren't developed at all really, save Ike. Most of the characters, especially the female ones, come across as bitchy and conniving, making you want Ike to torture and murder them horribly. Also, the Final Girl character, Angie, doesn't get much screen time to begin with and only really appears in the Final Act of the film. Even then, she doesn't have much substance other than wanting to survive Ike's wrath, save her annoying friend, and use a dirty bathroom without putting toilet paper on the shitty, or bloody, toilet rim. Angie's boyfriend, Matt, is also pretty likeable, but he doesn't do much to really move the story forward.

Ike, by default, gets the most attention because he's the killer who's dealing with some trauma issues. He's a gas station owner. He's a hunter. He's a father. He makes beef jerky. He sees his dead wife. He likes pulling out eyes and punching women so they can stop screaming. He can also take quite a beating and not even flinch, which takes away a lot of the suspense and tension in terms of defeating Ike. Also, how does Ike lead a normal life for years while killing people, yet no one seems to notice them missing or all the deserted cars left on the road? It's kind of implausible. It's an interesting concept for a film but the execution is very flawed.

DIRECTION - Tommy Brunswick seems like a genuine horror fan who wants to make a good feature film, but EXIT 33 could have been a lot better than it was. Like I mentioned earlier, there's barely any tension or suspense. The film isn't scary at all. The editing was okay, but the pacing was off due to the film's repetitive nature, making the 83 minutes feel twice as long. A lot of the scenes felt like their purpose was only to promote the music that plays through the film by local indie bands. There was also a funny moment where two characters are driving to the gas station, but the background is obviously a green screen effect. It reminded me of that scene in AIRPLANE! where Rex Kramer drives to the air tower and there's a bunch of funny scenes going on behind him due to a green screen. I realize the film is low budget and it's hard to do a driving scene like that without the right equipment, which costs money. But if you know you can't do that, don't make your film look cheaper than it actually is. Either cut the scene out of the film, or have them have a conversation outside of the car. This is both a direction and screenwriting flaw in my opinion. It's obvious Brunswick knows how way around films, but EXIT 33 is just a bad movie and not at all interesting visually.

EDGE FACTOR - EXIT 33 has a decent amount of gore. We get animals getting cut open in montages. A girl has her back skinned. Several eyes are cut out of victims. We get stabbings, shootings, and necks getting broken or sawed off. It's one of the two reasons why EXIT 33 isn't a total bomb. For a low budget horror film, the gore was pretty good. As for language and sexuality, both are pretty tame for the most part.

ACTING - Kane Hodder is really the saving grace of EXIT 33. While his character could have been written better, Hodder does what he can with the material and creates the only sympathetic performance in the film. Yes, he's the villain of the film and he's not a great guy. But seeing him portray a family man in the flashbacks really helps Hodder give Ike a two-and-a-half-dimensional performance. It's not the greatest acting anyone has ever done, but considering the other performers in the film, I'll take what I can get. As for the other actors, some were better than others. Antoinette Nikprelaj and Jerry Reid were okay in their respective roles. Everyone else either annoyed me or didn't really do much to impress me.

EXIT 33 was truly a disappointment. I am a fan of Kane Hodder and his previous work, and this film didn't do him much justice at all. The story isn't great, the direction is boring, and the acting is hit and miss. At least the gore was more than adequate and Kane Hodder performed well. If you're a Kane Hodder fan and want to see him murder stupid characters, then EXIT 33 is possibly worth your time. Otherwise, just make sure your tank is full so you won't have to make a stop here at EXIT 33 where you'll be watching Ike...

1 Howl Outta 4


Cold Prey [Fritt Vilt] (2006)

Roar Uthaug

Ingrid Bolsø Berdal - Jannicke
Rolf Kristian Larsen - Morten Tobias
Tomas Alf Larsen - Eirik
Endre Martin Midstigen - Mikal
Viktoria Winge - Ingunn

Genre - Horror/Slasher/Foreign

Running Time - 101 Minutes

After reviewing films based on CGI killer animals, barbarians, Ninja Turtles, and zombies, it's nice to return to the good ol' slasher film. I miss the days where this blog was mainly about a costumed killer butchering idiotic characters with my two cents added in between. Hell, I miss the days where good slasher films were around period.

Luckily, Stacie Ponder of Final Girl fame decided to pick a modern slasher as her Film Club choice for July. But she didn't pick just any slasher film. No, she picked one from Norway. A-Ha would be proud, Stacie. FRITT VILT, or COLD PREY to those who don't speak Norwegian, was a pretty big hit in Norway when released in 2006. That allowed the film to be distributed within other countries, including the United States, where it has received some decent praise as well. The question is if this praise is warranted because the film is different from American horror films or because it's actually good? Even though COLD PREY isn't the most original slasher film out there, it still manages to be pretty effective even with its massive amount of predictability. Let's see why slasher fans should get a bit warm by COLD PREY...

A group of five friends take a trip to the snowy mountains [in the middle of nowhere] for a skiing and snowboarding adventure. One of the friends accidentally snaps his leg in two, causing the group to help him and find shelter at some hotel that's apparently been abandoned for years. After drinking, clowning around, and taking a tour of the hotel, the group soon realizes that someone else is staying at this hotel. This person, dressed in Eskimo gear, begins killing them one by one with a pick-axe. Will there be any survivors, or will everyone be snowed in?

COLD PREY, even in a different language and location, is still your typical slasher film through and through. For those who may have never seen a slasher before, this will be a more than fine start into a very cool, if not formulaic, sub-genre of horror. For those who have seen a slasher film, it's nothing new at all. All the elements are here intact, even if American filmmakers had nothing to do with this film directly.

The narrative is your basic slasher formula. We have a group of friends going to a certain deserted location. We have a killer connected to this location. Both parties end up meeting up, making the situation messier than it should be. There's nothing really new here at all. The Final Girl is set up right away and she does what a Final Girl is supposed to do. We have the stereotypical friends of the Final Girl such as the Boyfriend, the Best Friend Who Likes The Final Girl, The Shy Girl, and The Douchebag. We have a killer who's backstory is connected to the motel these characters are staying in. The killer also has a trademark weapon [the pick-axe] and a costume to hide his identity. It's just very formulaic and extremely predictable. You'll know who'll survive longer than most if you've watch a few slasher films in your time.

Even though you can see everything happening in this film from a mile away, I can still appreciate the fact that it's a slasher film through and through without trying to be something else. COLD PREY isn't trying to use self-referential humor to entertain horror fans. It's not using the story to lead up to some sort of weird twist ending to get some buzz and open itself up for a sequel [even though there is a sequel for this film]. COLD PREY knows what it is, does what it's supposed to do, and does it quite well. Is it original? Hell no. But I knew what to expect going into it and it didn't disappoint me. It uses the slasher formula well and I was never bored by the film.

One of the reasons COLD PREY stood out at the time of its release, besides its country of origin, is the setting. I'm sure there have been other slasher films that take place in some sort of tundra where there's all snow and hardly any civilization to help the protagonists. But a snowy setting is pretty rare for a slasher film and I thought the way the whole isolated mountain area was used in the film was done really well. It actually reminded me of THE SHINING for a bit, with the hotel in the middle of mountains of snow. I think it's a pretty creepy setting and it made the protagonists' attempt to survive more of a challenge. It's easy to hide within the woods or a suburban neighborhood. But how do you hide within miles of snow without freezing to death? Either way, you're in trouble. And since I know nothing of Norway, it made COLD PREY more effective.

I also liked the fact that the characters are more developed than you would expect in a slasher. I'm not saying I know everything about them. In fact, Jannicke and Morten Tobias were probably the two most fleshed out characters while the others were still portrayed in a "cannon fodder" way. Still, it's nice to see slasher characters bonding over drinks and music, and actually having conversations with each other that doesn't involve arguing and sacrificing one another just to survive. They all come across as real people with real feelings, doing real things that I can believe. Even the Douchebag guy was believable because he was never portrayed as over-the-top. I actually kind of cared about these characters and that's pretty rare for a lot of slashers, especially modern slashers. It gave their struggle for survival more tension than I was expecting.

I do wish the killer was fleshed out more, which is probably the biggest flaw about COLD PREY. I knew who he was just by what was presented before he appeared, but that's about it. We don't know his motivations. We don't know how he survived for so long in this area. There are a lot of questions that needed to be answered about this villain that weren't.

The violence in COLD PREY is very tame. We hardly see any gore in this film. We do see blood trails and there is one moment where one of the character's torso gets visibly impaled by a pick-axe. We also get a neck being snapped and stabbings. But most of the kills are off-screen, which doesn't really matter since they're done in a generic manner anyway. And for a slasher, there's no nudity either from anyone. I guess this part of the formula got lost on its way to Europe.

The direction by Roar Uthaug is actually quite good. The film looks extremely polished as it was shot on Super 16mm. I thought the outside cinematography [by Daniel Voldheim] showcasing the snow was really stunning. The look of inside the hotel was beautiful as well. Everything was pretty much blue-grey and dim - which set up a gloom feeling from the start. The editing is solid. The tension and suspense is there somewhat. I'm not sure how much the budget for this film was, but it wasn't wasted in the least. Just a really nicely directed film. It's obvious Uthaug has seen a few slasher films in his time because he filmed a pretty decent one.

The acting in the film is excellent. I won't go into every actor, but Ingrid Bolsø Berdal is fantastic as Jannicke. She's likeable from the beginning, giving probably a one-note character on paper a lot of dimension that was appreciated. She was my favorite for sure. Rolf Kristian Larsen as Morten Tobias was also strong. He had to act like he had a broken leg for much of the film and was actually pretty funny at times. I tend to like characters that are portrayed as the underdog - in this case, he had feelings for Jannicke that weren't recipocated. Larsen played the character well. If I had to point out another actor, it would be Endre Martin Midstigen as Mikal. He played the douchy, bad boy of the group who just wanted to get laid. He had a good performance too because I liked him and hated him at the same time.


- Morten's soul mate is his right hand. 90% of the male population feel the same way.

- This group of friends enjoy hitting the slopes. So do Courtney Love, Lindsay Lohan, and Charlie Sheen.

- Mykal got startled by a red stained bath tub. Looks like Carrie White didn't get to clean her mess after her mom tried to murder her and stuff. Lazy bitch with her dirty pillows...

- Never argue with a girl who says the room is too cold during sex. It's a great excuse in case you have a small penis!

- With just one bullet in a shotgun, Jannicke was afraid to blow her opportunity in shooting the killer. That's why you need Arnold Schwarzenegger around. He never misses a target. Just ask his 9 children [4 of which he knows nothing about]!

COLD PREY is a pretty standard slasher film, but it's a well-made one and worth a look for anyone who loves slasher films. The characters are likeable, the direction and acting is solid, and the setting definitely compliments the film. It won't completely rock your socks off but it's more than serviceable nonetheless.

3 Howls Outta 4


The Howling: Reborn Trailer

Above is the new trailer to THE HOWLING: REBORN, which will apparently reboot the very debatable werewolf franchise. What are your thoughts? Is still a good move? Or should things have been left alone? I honestly thought this was a preview for the next MTV Teen Wolf episode. My bad!

The Defiled (2010)

Julian Grant

Brian Shaw - Yar
Kathleen Lawlor - Janice

Alden Moore - Hak

Almir Limaj - Stabber

Genre - Horror/Zombies/Infected

Running Time - 100 Minutes

In a post-apocalyptic world, a virus outbreak has infected much of the human population, turning them into something like cannibalistic zombies. The government is hunting down those infected, killing them in order to solve the problem they probably created.

We follow one infected family headed by Yar (Brian Shaw), who tries to keep his pregnant wife (Alden Moore) and two children safe from being captured and killed. Knowing his family wants some human flesh, he goes hunting, finding a body inside a tent, not realizing that there are radioactive warnings all around the corpse. He lets his family take the corpse for dinner while passing on it and drinking from a liquor bottle the corpse had on him instead.

The next day, Yar finds out that his family are now incredibly sick, to the point that each one of them dies. Yar does manage to save his newborn son by literally extracting him from his wife's corpse. Yar realizes he's his son's only hope for a better future, leaving his family behind and looking for some sort of haven. Along the way, he saves an uninfected woman named Janice (Kathleen Lawlor), who was about to be murdered by two infected humans. Although they both seem untrusting of each other at first, Yar and Janice come to sort of a truce as he lets Janice help him with his son. Will these three be able to start a new family? Or are their fates doomed?


STORY - THE DEFILED is an interesting take on the overused and overexposed zombie film. Presented in an arthouse sort of way, THE DEFILED focuses on the zombie's [or infected person's, in this case] point of the view of the situation rather than a human. Instead of survivors scrambling together to make sure they survive the outbreak while bickering on a good plan, THE DEFILED lets us in on the world of the infected themselves, making us witness what they need to do in order to survive. They communicate like cavemen [losing all intelligent speak], hunt for human flesh, and eat it to survive. They also have to hide from those who created them, knowing that they're hunting them down like dogs. It's an original and fascinating concept that I'm really surprised other filmmakers haven't latched too much on, although some have created more intelligent zombies that interact like humans would [like in DAY OF THE DEAD, FIDO, and LAND OF THE DEAD].

THE DEFILED is also strong due to the fact that it has an infected character teaming up with a healthy human as they go on the run to protect themselves and Yar's newborn. As humans, we know another human is capable of love, protection, and the willingness to sacrifice themselves to save someone we deeply care for. But Yar's portrayal is more profound as, in a lot of ways, lost a lot of his human side due to this disease he's suffering from. His mind and behavior has degenerated into nothing but instinctual knowledge and feelings. He's like an animal in a lot of ways - doing anything to survive while remaining loyal to his family. The fact that Yar still has human feelings of compassion and love for his son is a great character trait and makes the audience support him throughout the film. It also makes his alliance with Janice more effective as even though they're now different, they both have the same feelings for each other and for the baby. It's a great display of showing that two different people, one diseased and the other not, are both the same. This gives the hunters more of a villain feel since they want to destroy this due to being afraid of the outbreak spreading, even though they were probably a part of it or working for those who were.

THE DEFILED also has to contend with the fact that there is no actual dialogue in the film at all. We do have music and the characters do grunt and yell at each other, but no actual words are spoken for 100 minutes. It's a big challenge to keep an audience invested in a story that doesn't involve emoting with words. Instead, the acting has to really make up for this. And while sometimes, dialogue could have helped during duller moments in the film, I appreciate the boldness by Julian Grant to let the visuals do the talking rather than the characters making up the film.

I will say that THE DEFILED did bore me a bit at times, especially after the hour mark where Yar and Janice are walking around to different places that don't really move the story forward. I understand these scenes were kept in to show what society and civilization now looks like due to this horrible outbreak, but the film wouldn't have changed much if taken out. In fact, I feel as if this great concept would have been more effective as a shorter film. With less focus on establishing this world and more focus on the character's journey for salvation in a desolate civilization, THE DEFILED would have gotten better praise from people. But the film does lose its momentum for a while in the second half, although the final act does make up for it somewhat. Still, trimming maybe 25 minutes wouldn't have hurt the film at all.

DIRECTION - Julian Grant does a really excellent job bringing his vision to life. While I already mentioned the uneven pacing with certain dull scenes that could have been edited out, the rest of the visuals work better than one would expect from a film like this. THE DEFILED is shaded with a blue-grey tint to give off a look that was inspired by NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) and CARNIVAL OF SOULS. It actually gives the make-up work and special effects done for the infected [created by Robert Kurtzman] a more old-school, creepy look that looked pretty convincing of their condition. There is a moment where the film does go into a reddish tint, but it's during a dream or flashback sequence or something. The cinematography and camera work is very nice. The editing is solid, although Grant likes to fade-in and fade-out a lot, which can be a bit distracting and annoying. I would have loved a dissolve every now and then. I do have to give credit to Grant for taking on an ambitious project and making it work for the most part. It'd be interesting to see what he can do with a bigger budget and some dialogue.

EDGE FACTOR - Language is N/A. There is a sex scene, but nothing that's graphic at all. As for the violence, there are gunshots and physical grappling. But it's pretty tame stuff considering the other opinions out there in this very sub-genre.

ACTING - There are really only two main actors in the film. Brian Shaw was excellent as Yar. His role involved a ton of body language and he used it really well to convey every emotion he had to portray without speaking. I thought he carried the film like a champ. Kathleen Lawlor was decent as Janice. She had good moments, but I wished she'd show more expression with her face. She usually had the same face for much of the film. But I thought the two had nice chemistry as they worked well off of each other.

SPECIAL FEATURES - The DVD for THE DEFILED comes with a few features. One is a feature-length commentary track with actors Brian Shaw and Kathleen Lawlor, pretty much giving audiences information about the film's production and discussing their time filming the movie. Other stuff includes "Slide Show", which is a 4-minute slideshow of stills from the film, "Home Movies", which is 2-minute test footage that's not really explained. And of course a trailer for the film itself.

THE DEFILED is a film that's high on ambition and meets it for the most part. I still feel that this film would be stronger as a short, as the second half does drag on a bit without dialogue. But the film is unique and interesting enough for me to recommend it to those who want to see something different and more artsy done with the typical zombie film.

SCORE3 Howls Outta 4


Press Release: Insidious Offers Fans Live Q&A with Director James Wan and Screenwriter Leigh Whannell on Facebook

, the current number-one horror/supernatural film of 2011 [starring Rose Byrne, Patrick Wilson, and Barbara Hershey] is coming out on DVD and Blu-Ray on Tuesday, July 12th. If you haven't seen the film and like you like movies such as POLTERGEIST and THE ENTITY, it's a must buy or at least worthy of a rental. I haven't reviewed it on the blog, but I did see it opening weekend. It's definitely worth the time and money. When I see it again, I will share my thoughts with all of you on it.

INSIDIOUS' fanpage on Facebook will be hosting a live Q & A on Monday, July 11th around 9PST/Midnight EST where you, as fans, can ask questions to the director, James Wan and screenwriter and star Leigh Whannell, whom you remember created the SAW franchise. If you go to the page and leave a question or comment on the UStream tab with #InsidiousLIVE, you'll be automatically entered for a chance to win a FREE COPY OF INSIDIOUS on DVD or Blu-Ray.

If any of my readers have a question for Mr. Wan and Mr. Whannell, please leave a comment on this post so I can share it with the moderators of the Q & A.

Here's the link to INSIDIOUS' page on Facebook: Insidious on Facebook

Enjoy the weekend!



WHO: Insidious Director James Wan and Screenwriter Leigh Whannell

WHAT: Fangoria will host a FREE screening of Insidious for fans directly followed by a Q&A with Wan and Whannell that will be streamed live for fans nationwide. Fans are encouraged to send in questions for the director and screenwriter in advance via Facebook and Twitter using #InsidiousLIVE. Questions will be answered as part of the LIVE stream at www.facebook.com/InsidiousFilm.

WHEN: Monday, July 11
Screening begins at 7:30PM
Live streamed Q&A starts at 9:00PM on Facebook at
www.facebook.com/InsidiousFilm (Check in early online for event!)

WHERE: Los Angeles - Silent Movie Theater
611 North Fairfax Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Nationwide – www.facebook.com/InsidiousFilm

Described as the “the scariest horror film since Poltergeist” (Jason Bene, KillerFilm.com), the hair-raising horror film Insidious debuts on Blu-ray™ and DVD July 12th from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Director James Wan and Screenwriter Leigh Whannell will be available for interviews following the screening of the film.

For more information on Insidious on Blu-ray™ and DVD, visit www.sphepublicity.com.
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