The Thing (1982)

The Thing
Directed by John Carpenter
Written by Bill Lancaster based on the story by John W. Campbell Jr.
(number 295)

A classic of the ‘monster picks off the cast one by one’ genre, and also of gross out alien genre, and also of everyone in this movie is a man genre? Okay, that’s not a genre. Mostly this is another of those movies which makes me want to play Geiger Counter.

Content warning for violence to animals in this movie, lots of cute huskies in danger 😦

I like how quickly this movie cuts to the chase. There’s very little scene setting or world building before things start going to shit and getting weird. The characters, again, unsurprising that they rely hard on stereotypes for characterisation, it cuts out world building time so nicely.

The alien thing is pretty Lovecraftian and in turn made me want to play the Time Stories playset I played with Luke and Sam based on a voyage in the Antarctic as well. Carpenter has said this is a potentially apocalyptic film because of the implications if this alien made it to a more populated area. I guess with that in mind it’s scary but I dunno, I find this movie so predictable, so run of the mill kind of.. I didn’t find it too ground breaking. Probably I should have watched it as a kid and had the crap scared out of me, but thankfully I didn’t.

The suspicion between the characters is realistic. I think it’s probably the strong point of this film, the way they all tell each other to watch each other. The question of how do you know who is human and who’s a perfect imitation of one just chilling and trying to blend in. The blood test sequence was probably the most tense of the movie for me.

I don’t like body horror, it’s a big squick for me. But the special effects here were so dated that it didn’t even bother me particularly. Maybe I’ve become cynical over the course of this movie watching project? But I think more realistically is just that movies have moved on so far since this that the stretchy neck or the alien spider head thing just seem plasticky. Movies like the Saw are far more visceral – you can imagine the pain of that better than the weird Thing mutations.

Does it make me love the people? Mehhh? I’m inclined to like Kurt Russel because he’s the one I recognise. I don’t think that’s any kind of strength in the script or acting, it’s just casting.

Bechdel test: Nope, no women in Antarctica.

Best line:

So how do we know who’s human?

State of Mind: I like that there were two whole black guys, not just the token one, and that they didn’t die first. Overall for me this movie didn’t live up to the hype I’ve had over the course of my life. So much refers back to this film and so many class it as a classic but…I dunno. It just seemed like so much of the focus was on the weird SFX or the horror of the bodies twisting into something new. I feel like if the focus was more on the suspicion and the breakdown of trust and the nature of humanity it’d be a lot stronger. It was a miss for me, and I’m disappointed that it was a miss.

Watched movie count

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Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

Big Trouble in Little China
Directed by John Carpenter
Written by David Z. Weinstein and Gary Goldman
(number 430)

This movie is so stupid. I mean. Really, really stupid. What else can you expect from a movie about Chinese mysticism written by two Jewish guys in the eighties, though?

Once more I find myself watching a completely average movie which almost certainly got on this list for nostalgic reasons. I’m getting less enthused about continuing this list, to be honest with you. I could put up with a certain level of this kind of movie, as long as I felt there was a genre balance. If for all the dumb actioners from the eighties there were an abundance of stupid romances or musicals or natural disaster films, but the 500 list skews so hard towards war movies and these kind of eighties actioners starring men who win feisty women after rescuing them and I fail to see the appeal. I should have expected, given the skew of the Empire magazine, and therefore of the people voting but… urgh.

Synth music, rubber monsters and evil Chinese stealing women into sexual slavery… all the mystic foreigner horror stories rolled up in one movie – the Chinese can hypnotise, make magic potions, levitate, ensorcel.. everything you can imagine. It makes me feel a little better about how far Hollywood has come by now, which isn’t saying much since they just white wash everything now.

Jack is our white collar, all American dude who drives a truck (most macho profession possible? Almost?) and likes to gamble in Chinatown. It’s entirely a Kurt Russell vehicle, much like later we’d have these same movies with Bruce Willis or Keanu Reeves. It has a couple of cute moments and a couple of funny lines but overall I was bored with how predictable it was.

Jack appears to be wearing a tank top with fan art of Lo-pan on it, so… what’s that about?

The monsters are so rubbery. Maybe because I’ve been watching lots of Face Off but I just got annoyed with how little movement the hairy demon suit gave the actor, the mouth could only open a tiny bit and it was a baked in expression. The hands were totally useless, which you could see when it had to chain Gracie up and basically the actor just flapped his arms and suddenly she had manacles on. Is it too much to ask for a suit that is useable? If I was directing this movie I would’ve sent that suit back… then again a lot would be different if I was directing this movie..

Does it make me love the people? Wang is probably my favourite character, then Egg Shen (awful name) and Gracie. I don’t feel much for Jack because he’s so two dimensional. The wise cracking tough guy who just can’t commit to the girl and gets annoyed with how much he likes her.

Bechdel test: Yes, Gracie and Margo have a conversation about whether or not they have to go into the White Tigress building. Margo says something like ‘do we have to? It looks so scary, but you know me, I’ll do anything for a story!” and they have a whole scene which is generally really poorly written but hey, it’s not about a man!

Best line:

[Jack and Egg fight for control of the umbrella]
Wang Chi: A brave man likes the feel of nature on his face, Jack.
Egg Shen: Yeah, and a wise man has enough sense to get in out of the rain!

Jack Burton: Feel pretty good. I’m not, uh, I’m not scared at all. I just feel kind of… feel kind of invincible.
Wang Chi: Me, too. I got a very positive attitude about this.
Jack Burton: Good, me too.
Wang Chi: Yeah!

State of Mind: Bleeeehhh. I watched this while home sick and cranky, maybe not the best time to be forgiving but… This movie is not interesting to me. It was like watching Indiana Jones all over again but with different actors, or Enter the Dragon made with less skill. Classic Carpenter jump scare at the end, but meh. I won’t be watching this again.

Watched movie count

Halloween (1978)

Halloween
Directed by John Carpenter
Written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill
(number 462)

Jamie Lee Curtis is the lead, a bookish, nerdy girl who gets the attention of an escaped psychopath. Mike Myers starts stalking her and her babysitting charge Tommy in a completely unsubtle but fully spooky way. I may have said ‘oh you creeper!!’ a bunch of times.

There are lots of beautiful long shots in this film, which is something I’ve loved in film since I watched all that Hitchcock years and years ago. Blair suggested it was to do with having a fast turnaround for the film and not much budget, bit of which are totally legit reasons for using the long shot.

The seventies clothes are amazing, all these huge chunky platforms, knee socks in yellows and dark colours and high waisted pants and skirts that are back in fashion now. The hair is mostly feathered, although sassy Lynda (my fave character) has a cute curly haired pigtails thing going on. The scenery is beautiful, all American suburbia with big old trees and a porch on every house.

The film riffs off, or possibly was the inspiration for, a number of urban legends my sister told me. The man on top of the car, scratching at the window, the call coming from inside the house, the babysitter in peril, an escaped psychopath on the loose, body of a boy strung up… it’s epic nightmare fuel, and despite the age of the film still intensely spooky and disturbing. Also the mask is creepy, but thankfully (to me) it’s not clowny or ghosty enough to be as terrifying as the masks in Saw or Scream. (I’m still too afraid to watch Scream.)

It’s also the earliest use of ‘Don’t fear the reaper’ by Blue Oyster Cult in a horror film.

Does it make me love the people? Yeah, you see enough at the start of the characters having their ordinary days to care about them and Donald Pleasance as Dr Sam Loomis is amazing. I was rooting for him right from his first scene.

Laurie is an exceptional heroine, resourceful and quick witted. She does everything in her power to protect the kids in her charge and refuses to give up at any time. She attacks the killer with a steel knitting needle, a coathanger and his own knife and although she’s terrified she keeps on trying to win – sending the kids to call for the police and fighting to the last possible moment.

Bechdel test: Oh yeah, pretty early on Laurie, Annie and Lynda talk about homework, what their plans for the night are and who they’re babysitting. Laura and Lynda both also talk to the little girl Lindsey and Laurie answers a question for a woman teacher, so it’s actually pretty great for this.

Best line:

Tommy Doyle: Laurie, what’s the boogeyman?
Laurie: There’s no such thing.

State of Mind: That was a solid, satisfying movie which didn’t traumatise me badly at all! I feel great! *locks all doors and never opens curtains again*

Watched movie count

A neat article on io9 about the Bechdel Test