31 Nights, 31 Frights: The Thing

In observance of that autumn spell when we celebrate the primal, compulsive instinct of fear, Rainestorm highlights 31 days of spooky scares to season the eerie atmosphere of Halloween.

Reign of terror: 1982

Kurt Russell in 'The Thing'

That beard alone could kick alien butt.

The horror… the horror: After the successes of Halloween and Escape from New York, Director John Carpenter took a risk in remaking one of the most popular science-fiction films of the 50s. Though he used elements from Howard Hawks’ classic version, he drew most of his inspiration from John W. Campbell, Jr.’s novella Who Goes There? In the process, he created something that is as classic as the film that inspired it. With an exiguous, all-male cast, Carpenter deftly explores the human capacity for distrust and the propensity to turn on one another in times of crisis and uncertainty, as one by one the men fall victim to alien possession. This theme resonates even more powerfully in the post-9/11 world with the divide between ideologies as wide as ever. Rob Bottin’s creature effects are legendary, creating some of the most nightmarishly mangled and gruesome deformities ever put on screen, and have yet to be topped. Star Kurt Russell channels the machismo of Escape from New York‘s Snake Plissken, transforming him from anti-hero to reluctant hero in the character of MacReady, ensuring his tough guy leading man status from that point forward, and paving the way for the fantastic Jack Burton in his third Carpenter collaboration, Big Trouble in Little China.

Halloween haunt: McMurdo base in Antarctica, as desolate and isolate a place as can be imagined. The cold, cold winter nights infuse the science station with a climatic claustrophobia that offers no safety, no comfort and no escape.

Tastiest treat: The disembodied head that sprouts spidery legs and tries to make its escape.

Devilish discourse: “You gotta be fuckin’ kidding.”

Check the candy for: Carpenter’s then wife Adrienne Barbeau as the voice of the computer against whom MacReady plays chess.

Goes great with: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978). Another winning remake that covers similar paranoid territory as humans are progressively supplanted by dispassionate alien clones. It contains what is still one of the most shocking endings in cinema history.

  • Kat Stevens

    Frickin’ Rock Star Movie!!