SPLINTER, which came out a few years ago and is a pretty minimalist horror movie that I can't imagine was made for very much money. And for me to say that it appears to have been cheaply-made is not a knock against the film in any way; it's a quality horror movie that looks great and has some awesome practical effects, but it's a very basic film in terms of characters, setting, and plot.
The two couples end up at the same gas station from earlier, and it's not long before one of them is attacked by the gas station attendant, who's now deformed and mutated with the aforementioned splinters protruding from his body. He kinda looks like the Brundle Fly, except, instead of a fly, if someone was genetically bonded with a sea urchin instead. The characters then book it into the gas station's convenient store and lock themselves in to keep from being attacked by this splintery zombie thing. Without giving too much away, I'll just say that the creature in the film has the ability to fuse its body to other victims to form a rather impressive-looking Voltron of flailing broken limbs that are twisted into unnatural-looking positions. And, with one of the main characters getting a laceration from one of the titular splinters earlier, the question remains as to how this character will be affected by the parasite and whether or not the others will be able to escape with their lives.
MACGYVER shit as they try to figure out how to either: A) kill whatever's terrorizing them, or B) distract it long enough to escape. That's all fine, but it isn't very exciting to watch. Aside from that small complaint, SPLINTER is a cool little horror movie with some outstanding practical effects that sort of reminded me of this movie...
THE THING is a movie that I've purposely avoided talking about on a public forum until now. It's universally loved by horror fans, and I feel like I would be criticized if I called it anything less than a masterpiece, but now I'm at the point where I don't really give a shit what anyone thinks. It's also one of those movies that's kind of pointless to talk about anymore because everyone's seen it and it's been widely covered on pretty much every horror website or reference book by people who know much more about movies than I do
THE THING is the first in what John Carpenter calls his "Apocalypse Trilogy", and it was also produced in the middle of one of the most impressive runs by any director in the history of cinema. EVER. If you don't know what I'm talking about, just hit up Carpenter's IMDB page and look at the list of amazing films he made in a span of about five years starting with HALLOWEEN. THE THING takes place in Antarctica and revolves around an all-male group of scientific researchers with impressive beards who discover a frozen alien corpse. They also take in a stray dog that belonged to Norwegian researchers who were stationed at another base. Unbeknownst to them, the dog is carrying a gnarly alien parasite that eventually forces itself out of the dog in a gruesome spectacle and proceeds to terrorize the members of the research team.
The manliest scientists ever make a series of disturbing discoveries throughout the film as they attempt to make sense of the craziness involving the dog, the alien corpse, and the team of Norwegians, who seemingly went crazy and died for whatever reason. They soon realize that this alien parasite that the dog was carrying can not only grow and manifest into a physical creature, but it has the ability to take over anyone's body and go unnoticed as it blends in with everyone else. Paranoia ensues, accusations are thrown in different directions, and no one knows who to trust. Everyone turns on each other as Kurt Russell's character basically assumes the leadership role and tries to maintain order. Even if you've seen this movie a hundred times and know who's in the clear and who's not, it always works because of the script and how well the ensemble cast carries the material.
Earlier I sort of alluded to possibly not being a fan of this movie, but that's not the case. I have always been a fan of THE THING, but I don't worship it as much as other horror fans out there. It's not my favorite John Carpenter movie, but a lot of that has to do with how consistent Carpenter was in putting out great films in the late 70's to the mid 80's. He has so many great movies to choose from, and it's simply a matter of preference for me. Also, I think a lot of the love that people have for this movie is part of what turns me off about it. In most cases, when something is universally embraced, I'll try to find a reason to not like it, but never for the sake of being argumentative or contrary. That's just how I am. That being said, THE THING is a beast of a film and one that I grow to appreciate more and more with each viewing.
Like most people who are fans, what makes THE THING a special horror movie for me is the spectacle of Rob Bottin's awesome practical effects. What's great about THE THING is that there isn't just one big reveal in terms of the special effects. There are constant displays of practical effects throughout the entire movie, and there's a perfect balance of storytelling, character interactions, and horror set-pieces. THE THING is like a cinematic museum of grotesque creatures and the ensemble cast are your guides who make sure you get to wherever you need to be. Tentacles, slime, twisted limbs, disembodied heads that turn into spiders, and giant mouths that protrude from unnatural places barely scratches the surface of the many surprises that this film has in store. As much as people lament over how CGI has become so prevalent in filmmaking, at least we'll always have movies like THE THING to go back to and marvel at.
As usual, cinematographer Dean Cundey brings it. Cundey and Carpenter are one of those magical DOP/director tag teams that always worked well together and perfectly complimented each other. In THE THING, Cundey uses some terrific blue lighting to highlight the snow, and occasionally some red is thrown into the mix to contrast the blues when the characters use flares during the nighttime scenes. A movie that takes place in Antarctica really has no business looking gorgeous, but yet this one does, and never in a way that doesn't seem too unnatural or distracting. As far as the music, it's one of the few early Carpenter movies that isn't scored by the director himself. Instead, he brought in one of the greats, Ennio Morricone, to do the music, and the result is a cross between a more "classic" sounding horror soundtrack and the ominous electronic music that Carpenter's films are known for.