Smile Politely

The Thing: Imitation isn’t always the highest form of flattery

There’s a warmth, crackle and sizzle in the opening of the film. It’s the kind of comforting sound you find when you put on an old 45 passed down from your Mom’s high school years. The bass line thumps. That’s the extent of the comfort; it’s all uneasiness from then on. The original music by Ennio Morricone is an eerie, “rattle your bones” kind of music, as Sanford Hess puts it.

A mysterious spaceship lands on Earth and then the desolate chill and land take the forefront. Are stir crazy Norwegians getting cabin fever and going crazy? They say that “5 minutes is enough to put a man over” out there in the wilderness of Antarctica. After all, why would someone chase after a dog in a helicopter, shooting with desperation? Some “thing” is amiss.

Approaching the film with curiosity and naïveté makes it. It was my first time ever seeing it and I’m guessing that the new re-make won’t have the same impact on me. It’s an 80’s horror film that’s almost the same age as me and it holds up pretty well 30 years later. It feels like a classic while you’re watching it and not just because someone said it was.  You can sense it. The fear lies in the unknown. When Kurt Russell (warning: sweet beards, spoilers and gore) utters a line, you hang on it. It made me think of Jaws and some of the classic lines spouted out by Roy Scheider. They resonate. Hell, it’s even something to watch Wilford Brimley doing something other than hockin’ insurance. Sticking your arms inside an alien life form is much cooler than this.

Beware of the Thing’s first transformation and look away if you’re a dog lover. It’s reviling. The Thing digests and absorbs. The Thing does not flatter through imitation; it hunts. It seeks what it wants without remorse. It infects (the entire population within about 3 years (if I did the math correctly from the glimpse you see in the film). “It could imitate any life form on any planet.” It could look like your best friend. Be careful with whom you see it. Do you know who they really are?

Skip the release of the new re-make and catch Carpenter’s creation. The special effects are impressive, the cast is great and it just feels good. See what happens. Accept no imitations.

The Thing plays again tonight at 10 p.m.

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