Son of 31 Nights, 31 Frights: The Thing From Another World

Son of 31 Nights, 31 Frights

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

For those who tuned in last year, I subjected you to a daily dose of diabolical dread and devilish distress. Just as every good horror movie deserves an inferior sequel, I offer this follow-up of also-rans, not bads, and perhaps a couple of you’ve-gotta-be-kidding-mes.

Unleashed: 1951

'The Thing From Another World'

"I could’ve been a contender!"

What evil lurks: One of the heralds of the science fiction-peppered horror films that peppered the 1950s. The inherent fear these films were exploiting was the paranoia of an outside influence on America by a sinister foreign entity—the same paranoid that would fuel the notorious Red Scare. In fact, The Thing from Another World, along with many others (notably, Invasion of the Body Snatchers) is largely considered to be a direct metaphor of communist invasion. Horror films were expected to have a monster face on their metaphor at the time, and the most believable monsters came from outer space.

While science fiction had been a staple of literature for decade by the time Christian Nyby and Howard Hawks gave us The Thing from Another World, it was largely untapped for film—probably because of special effects limitations. By the time the 1950s came around, however, the collection of classic villains that had been used by Hollywood had become passé, unbelievable, and was not attracting audiences. The embrace of science fiction proved horror’s saving grace, and The Thing from Another World’s success was a key in that formula.

Highlight from hell: An unforgettable scene in which the monster is set ablaze—an extremely dangerous antiquated stunt performed by Tom Steele.

Terrifying trivia: The scene where the scientists form a circle around their discovery of the flying saucer buried in the frozen Antarctic wastes was actually filmed in the scalding heat of the San Fernando Valley. No fun for actors encumbered by heavy coats, boots, and gloves!

Diabolical dialogue: “No pleasure, no pain, no emotion, no heart. Our superior in every way!”

Son of: The 1947 Roswell Incident. Ok, so this isn’t a film, but The Thing from Another World, along with The Day the Earth Stood Still, was the father of the alien invasion film phenomenon that would grip the nation in the 1950s. The incident at Roswell, an incident that has conspiracy theorists rambling to this day, helped fuel the fear of invaders from the cosmos.

Shoddy sequel syndrome: The Thing from Another World is a product of its time, with able-bodied, red-blooded Americans joining forces against a foreign enemy. The John Carpenter remake completely turned this theme on its head to make it fit the cultural climate of the 1980s. In the remake, our protagonists regarded each other with the greatest suspicion.