Let's explore paranoia, kiddies...that overwhelming fear when you can trust no one.
With the preponderance of "re-imaginings" flooding our theaters of late, it occurred to me that I should offer my opinion on one "remake" (and I use the term only in an explanatory sense; read on) that I found to be a remarkably effective, groundbreaking, and genuinely frightening addition to my favorite cinematic genre.
John Carpenter's "The Thing" is an excellent film. It's unfair to call it a remake; Howard Hawks' "The Thing From Another World" was a groundbreaking film in it's own right, and one of my personal favorites. However, all Carpenter's film shares with it is the title and the short story that inspired them both, "Who Goes There?", by John W. Campbell.
Carpenter took a terrific ensemble cast and a wonderfully faithful adaptation of that short story and made a personal, psychologically terrifying film that is atmospheric and unsettling; he transmits a feeling of dread and paranoia that is only touched by "Alien" in the combined genres of sci-fi and horror. The remote setting of a scientific team at the South Pole, cut off from civilization and having only each other to rely upon, presents a sense of claustrophobic isolation that is suddenly and irrevocably shaken by the fact that the team soon realizes that they can no longer really trust anyone.
Rob Bottin's special effects were lauded and condemned at the same time by the critics of the day; they were visceral and at times hard to look at, but were effective in relating just how horrible the menace was that the men faced, and just how hopeless the situation had become for those characters. Without seeing the flick, it's easy to take the attention to the gore to an extreme and assume the film is an "effects" movie, but watch the movie and you'll see that the primary engine for the terror is the pressure exerted by the growing paranoia and inability to determine who is friend or foe. It's no surprise that is has gained somewhat of a cult following in the years after it's release, while it was by and large considered a theatrical failure.
It has moments that serve as a homage to the previous film from 1951, Carpenter and crew showing respect for what is one of his own favorite films, but the film stands on it's own by using it's stomach-churning horror to reflect humanity's own frailties and prejudices.
Highly recommended to horror fans, and anyone interested in a study of how humanity breaks down in the face of an unrelenting and seemingly unstoppable threat.
Don't store the dynamite with the flamethrowers, guys and ghouls, and maybe we'll talk again!