Friday, 11 July 2014

The Thing (1982)

An Antarctic Research station is infiltrated by a alien lifeform which is able to absorb and then mimic other creatures.  The 12-man crew must find a way to prevent the creature from replacing them all and making it to the outside world.

Short version of this review: unless you're completely disinterested by the concept above, you should see this film.

There you go.  Done.  You don't need to read any more.

What?  You want the longer version?  Fine.

Films that try to build tension and dread often falter on one of two flaws.  The first is that they assume that tension ends when you deliver on the threat.  They're probably remembering Hitchcock in this, when he talked about a bomb exploding being only a moment of excitement, whereas showing two characters talking, then showing the bomb beneath them, and cutting back and forth, could draw out that experience much better.  The problem with this, of course, is that they often turn into movies where nothing really happens for a long, long time.  And it's very easy for that to tip over into tedium. Yesterday's review is a good example of a movie that fell into this trap.  Not so The Thing: the script kicks off at a strong pace and keeps the shocks and thrills coming, without ever quite letting things boil over.  Good stuff.

The second common flaw is the 'idiot ball': elements of the plot that require the characters to act in grossly stupid ways in order for the threat to continue.  Again, The Thing successfully navigates this danger.  The actions of the characters generally feel organic and natural given the situation in which they find themselves.  They make mistakes, but they're believable ones in the circumstances.

The skilled artisanry of this film extects to the technical aspects, as well.  The effects still stand up well today, and show a ghoulish inventiveness I really enjoyed.  The acting is all good, too.  Kurt Russell is the lead, and he shows that he can tone things back from the almost goofily badass Snake Plissken of Escape from New York, really conveying the sense of a man just doing his best in a situation he really can't control.

This is good stuff from top to bottom.

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