The Thing, (1982) G.O.A.T.

On the twenty-eighth day of Halloween, the 80s gave to me: The Thing (John Carpenter, 1982)

In retrospect,there should have been a lot more 80s horror on this list. So many classic works in both sci-fi and horror came out of fashion’s worst era, and  yet this is the first one I’m mentioning. Luckily, the cool thing about holidays is that they come once a year, so I’ll have a lot to dig into next go round.

At any rate, I’ll probably end up doing a series later in the year centered around John Carpenter, because so many of his films ended up being formative for me as a kid. In fact, The Thing was originally on my list in my first series of reviews, which focused on my earliest horror movies. I ended up saving it for later, because The Thing is a heavy hitter and deserved a better spot on the list.

And so here it is, as a part of my list of G.O.A.Ts. This movie is simultaneously my wildest dream and my worst nightmare. On the one hand, it’s an incredibly tense, stomach churning gore-fest. On the other hand, it makes me think about whether or not I’d kill a dog to save myself. And it’s a really cute dog.

Plot:

A remote American scientific outpost in Antarctica is suddenly attacked by a Norwegian scientist, who appears to be trying to kill a dog. The Americans kill the Norwegian out of self-defense, but realize that something might be wrong at  the Norwegian base. Intending to offer aid, Doc (Richard Dysart) and MacReady (Kurt Russell) fly to the base, where they discover a scene of absolute carnage : the base is destroyed, and every team member is dead. Retrieving a mangled, irregular looking body from the wreckage, they bring it back to their base for examination, unsure of what to do. Placing the dog the Norwegian was apparently pursuing with the rest of the base’s dogs, things quickly go to hell. The “dog” sprouts tentacles and sheds it skin, and that’s not a breed characteristic I’ve ever heard of.  The crew quickly realizes that it’s what’s in the dog that is the danger, and that they might not be able to stop it.

I’M CALLING SHENANIGANS

What’s causing this nonsense?

aliens.jpg

Seriously. This is a brilliant alien film, one that has a blood-borne, shape-shifting organism at its heart. Not only is this creature grody, it’s wicked fucking smart. It’s a horrifying concept, full stop.

Also, let’s think about the physical location of the action: you are unconditionally and irrevocably fucked in the arctic. There is nowhere to go and no one coming to save you. The only way to keep yourself safe from this creature is to isolate yourself, and yet the only way to survive in the arctic is to band together. Yikes.

Carpenter builds up tension in The Thing with brilliant foreshadowing, from MacReady dramatically losing to the chess machine in a “checkmate,” to Nauls (T.K. Carter) loudly listening to “Superstitious” by Stevie Wonder.  The contrast between the deep blue of the cold and the bright red of the fire is beautiful, but coded for capital-D Danger.

While I’ll give The Thing’s gore its own subsection, one of the things I love about this movie is that it doesn’t necessarily rely on the gore. The Thing is primarily a tale about human drama: once the crew realizes how the organism travels, all bets are off as suspicion mounts and accusations fly. Trust is in short supply in The Thing, and it leads to a total social breakdown that has everyone looking over their backs. That’s what makes this movie a nail-biter; the gore is just the cherry on top. This organism is either gonna be forever, or it’s gonna go down in flames. There is no way out of The Thing, and it makes for one hell of a ride.

Let’s talk about gore ba-by / Let’s talk about thisdude’schest cavi-ty

I swear to god nothing turns my stomach more than the unrealistic, hyper-gory body horror of the 80s. I don’t know why, but for some reason this specific subset of special effects makes me want to actually vomit more than any other. Rob Bottin’s shit is next-level fucked up : those who’ve seen The Thing know exactly what I’m talking about. Dismembered heads sprout legs. Teeth are just everywhere. Tentacles for days. Spider legs on things that aren’t spiders. The cherry-red blood and shiny viscera.

There’s nothing like it in the world.

Warnings: nasty-ass body horror gore. Also violence against dogs. Laugh all you want at that warning, but tears well up in my eyes anytime I see a dog being hurt. Even if they are evil.

Kurt Russell’s ridiculous flying hat: a love story

This move is the perfect blend of FUBAR’d gore and genuine tension,  which is a rare achievement. I can’t vouch for the 1951 original or the 2011 “prequel”, but the 80s did good by this version. This movie is creepy and awful in the most wonderful of ways. Carpenter is the man, and The Thing is one of his greatest films.

Don’t watch this movie if you’ve got a weak stomach or are not fan of shall we say, creative gore. But if you’ve got a night to kill and want to feel claustrophobic and never want to be near another human again see a kick-ass film, get your hands on a copy of The Thing.

 

Just have a lighter on you.

 

 

5/5

 

 

—-Further Reading/Sources—-

Featured image source: http://tthk-18.tumblr.com/post/129351627158/film-posters-of-the-thing-directed-by-john

“Aliens” source : http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/35mlvr

It Waits, (2005)

On the third day of Halloween a forestry ranger gave to me: It Waits (Steven Monroe, 2005)

Today’s movie is part of my list of formative horror films (refer back to  Day 1’s post if you want more clarification), and It Waits is certainly one of them.

When I was in middle school I used to watch the SciFi/SyFy channel religiously, using the then-newfound DVR capability to record and watch all sorts of drivel. My mom loved shitty weather sci-fi, whereas I favored DinoCroc and the like. Honestly, that was basically all SciFi showed: outrageous disaster movies and creature features.

Once upon  a weekend, I was scrolling through the channel guide for SciFi, choosing what movies I wanted to record. It Waits was on the lineup, so  I recorded it on a whim and watched it after school the next day.

For some reason, It Waits stuck with me. I loved it, and I think I kept the recording for like a month until my mom got fed up with me hogging DVR space. I recently purchased my very own copy of It Waits, and the DVD proudly sits in my collection, probably thinking that it has done pretty well for itself.

To be quite clear, this movie is a few degrees short of a hot goddamn mess. It’s a very simple movie with poor attempts at character development, sub-par acting, and  awkward writing. But it holds a very special place in my heart, and on this list.

Something about a dam

A quick rundown of the positively riveting action:

Forestry ranger Danny St. Claire (Cerina Vincent) must deal with the emotional aftermath of the death of her best friend in her lonely ranger station, when shit starts to get weird. Concerned for her wellbeing, Danny’s boyfriend and fellow ranger Justin (Dominic Zamprogna) drives  to the station to stay with her. Stuff starts to go down- the jeep gets flipped and eviscerated, the satellite destroyed- and Danny quickly realizes that something unnatural is stalking her woods. All, of course, to the sounds of pseudo-acoustic 90’s slow jams. And there’s a parrot involved.

Like I said, few degrees short of a hot mess.

The plot is pretty simple, your average “something bad in the woods” stuff. It’s not thrilling, and the backstory behind the monster is similarly average, a generic, totally unspecific “Native American” demon. The writers also seemed hellbent on torturing Danny. Seriously, is this a monster movie, or a movie about everyone Danny’s ever loved slowly being brutally removed from her life? It’s a fair cop, to be honest. This poor lady gets dealt a pretty shitty hand in this film.

The one thing that actually bothers me is one of the issues Danny’s boss brings up to her. According to her superior, the dam she’s supposed to be monitoring is starting to crack and that she needs to be sluicing off millions of gallons of water a day to alleviate the pressure. Does this ever happen? No. So I ask you, what’s the real horror here, this hell-beast, or that fact that this dam is about to explode and no one remembers.

Anyway.

God bless Cerina Vincent

Cerina Vincent is a b-movie queen, and I love her for it. But her acting here is not stellar. To be fair, the writing is far worse: full of weird “one-liners” and no sense of build. The writers aimed for Deep and Dramatic, but mostly landed on Awkward and Strange. I honestly don’t think she’s a terrible actress, but It Waits is not this lady’s magnum opus. Nor is it Dominic’s. Or the director’s. You get the gist.

It’s got some good things though I swear

So this movie isn’t a totally bust! It’s solidly generic and average in some most aspects, but I honestly think it delivers with regards to the monster. We never get a full look at the thing until over halfway in- all of the other interactions with the creature have been glimpses and flashes. It’s the Jaws strategy, but it works.

Except unlike the Jaws strategy, I honestly think the creature FX in It Waits is quite good! The creature is kind of Charmed/Buffy/Angel looking, but pretty unique and creepy except for the shitty wings. They show it up close several times in the second half, and it’s a solid FX creation.

The monster is also particularly vicious- it’s intelligent, and routinely fucks with Danny, digging up bodies and artfully arranging them for her as a “treat” when she returns to the station. It goes above and beyond just “brutally murdering” and being creepy, and intentionally taunts its victims.  This demon is in it for shits and giggles, and that’s honestly terrifying.

The gore is pretty good too. Nothing inventive, but generally pretty convincing and splatter-y and fun. I also thought the set was cool: Danny’s ranger station is essentially a glass box, and all one room. She really has no shelter- it’s either the station or the woods.

IN CONCLUSION

This would be a good “Netflix and Chill” movie, because you don’t really have to watch the whole thing to enjoy the movie. As long as you are vaguely focused for some parts, you can be “otherwise distracted” for most of it and still enjoy the movie. It Waits isn’t spectacular, but it’s still a good time, and will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s cute to remember how I used to think that It Waits was gory.

L-oh-fucking-L, friends.

Tomorrow, I’m going to talk about a horror movie that is truly great, despite what people think. And whooooo boy, it ramps up the gore. So friends, for Day Four- hop in and take a ride on Ghost Ship.

 

3/5

 

—-Further Reading/Sources—-

Featured image source: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0430239/mediaviewer/rm2085033728

 

 

Feast, (2005)

So, Feast (John Gulager, 2005) and I have two things in common:

  1. We are both piles of garbage pretending to be other things. Feast is a pile of cinematic garbage masquerading as a movie, while I am a pile of cinematic garbage masquerading as a functioning human being.
  2. We may be garbage, but we are deeply self-aware piles of garbage. And that my friends, is what makes both Feast and I so much fun at parties.

Now let me set the record straight: I refer to this movie as garbage in the most loving, reverent way possible. Some of the greatest movies ever made are just piles of fancy cinematic refuse. When I call a movie “garbage,” I’m referring to the fact that it may be campy, deeply unoriginal, vulgar, unnecessarily gory, and just a rehash of tired, old, tropes. But guess what else can be described with literally all of the above words?

Shakespeare.

Billy-boy made plays using plot structures and themes that have been around since one person got into an argument with another person on a raised platform and called it storytelling. He also was a filthy bastard who played to a “common” audience and made what may in fact be the first recorded “your mom” joke (Titus Andronicus– look the play up if you’re unfamiliar. It involves cannibalism and is mega-gory). At any rate, Billiam took basic plots and buckets of blood and penis jokes and made pure fucking art out of them with his brilliant use of language. Like the shit demon out of Dogma, the Bard coalesced a lot of garbage into one lean, mean, shitty machine.

…Well, that’s actually probably a better allegory for Feast. Because Feast is closer to a literal shit demon than it is to art, whereas Shakespeare’s stuff is pretty great.

Jump in the Trashcan

Feast is garbage, in some respects. As stated earlier, it is not a terribly original movie. The dialogue between the practically 2-D characters is stale and unimaginative. A good chunk of the film is pretty forgettable, and I found myself getting bored. The basic plot (which is….actually just the plot, it’s blindingly simple) is that a bunch of bar-goers must barricade themselves in a dusty honky-tonk after they find themselves randomly under attack from strange, vicious monsters. The plot summary on IMDB is literally just, “Patrons inside a bar are forced to fight monsters.”

That’s it, kids. That is the whole damn movie. It’s simple, and no explanation is given for anything: and I’m not talking nit-picky plot holes, but like pretty basic questions like: “Where did the monsters come from?” Most monster movies attempt to at least superficially answer this question, but not so with Feast. This can certainly be frustrating if you go into Feast looking for an intellectual exercise, because it is not. But Feast knows that it’s not. And that’s what makes it so great. But! We will get to that later, because we are still waist-deep in the midden heap that is Feast.

On a more practical note, the editing in Feast is super jarring at times. Shots are incredibly short, and it often makes it hard to understand what you’re looking at, particularly as the shots are often full of frenzied movement. Certain sequences are brutally fast and hectic, which made comprehension difficult. To be clear, I understand the purpose of this style of editing, and I appreciated it at certain points. However, I’d also like to truly see what’s going on.

Okay, let’s talk guts: this movie is rife with them. And not even tastefully so. I’m talking Monty Python-esque arterial spray. Feast is so goddamned extra with its gore, and some of it is genuinely stomach churning. Think 70s/80s practical FX melty-face shit, but with the benefit of more modern makeup tech. It’s gross. Similarly, it is crude. If a tiny rabid monster-baby enthusiastically humping a stuffed deer head isn’t your type of humor, then stay away from this film. There is one scene that does in fact trump the aforementioned in terms of vulgarity but… we’ll get there. Preview: it also involves humping.

In short, Feast as a film is a thinly veiled excuse for wicked gore, halfhearted dialogue, and senseless violence. It’s campy to the max and uses every crusty trope in the book. I mean, Jesus, might as well name the sexy man “the Hero,” and not bother with names altogether.

If you’ve seen Feast, you know damn well that I am being an asshole, because that is literally what Gulager does. None of the characters have real names. They’re all named after their respective archetypes or roles (Coach, Bozo, etc), and are introduced as such with actual subtitles. These names even occasionally change as the movie advances, poking fun at typical plot progressions in movies of this sort. Feast makes it clear right off the bat that it knows what type of movie it is, and the type of people that are in these sorts of films. This is the poor man’s Tarantino, and it is god damn brilliant.

 

But it is a TrashCAN, not a TrashCANNOT

(full disclosure, this is joke off of tumblr, as I am not that clever)

In this respect, Feast’s self-awareness is where it becomes more than just a pile of poo, and rather a shit demon. This movie is openly aware of its genre, the expectations this genre produces in its audiences, and how entirely absurd the entire thing is. The first third of this movie takes this self-awareness and fucking runs with it. In fact, Feast takes the self-awareness ball and runs it past the first down line, into the touchdown zone, and then just keeps on running right out the damn stadium and into an entire other sporting event.

Bear with me.Beyond the introduction of names, each character also receives a “life expectancy.” Feast knows that we expect a certain amount of death in a film of this sort, and usually in a specific order. As one character’s “life expectancy,” reads: “losers and dorks go first…He’s both.” I’d go into all of them, but that would ruin the fun for future viewers. This movie may be trash, but it is metafucking-trash. Shit, Jason Mewes is in this film and he plays…Jason Mewes. He’s just in the movie, because eh, why the fuck not.

Feast openly explores is genre through the tropes it blatantly exploits, at one point saying that one of the characters would face “horrifying death in 70 minutes,” (read: the approximate length of the film). Of course, these survival estimates aren’t always accurate. For those who intend to watch the film, set a timer from when the Hero first appears (take note of his “Life expectancy”) and track his total screen time. Spoiler alert: it won’t take long.

Clearly, Feast deeply enjoys fucking with the audience. We’ve come to expect that the good looking and badass hero will be the lead in this film, but this assumption is crushed mere minutes after his introduction, leaving the traditional horror movie rejects to deal with this mess. In fact, damn near every traditionally “competent” horror movie archetype doesn’t last long. It’s a grand old time.

Feast uses all of our expectations against us, often killing those who always “survive,” (particularly those held to be traditionally innocent) and it keeps us on our toes. You can’t take anything for granted in this movie, at least for the first third or so. Like I mentioned above, after the first third it gets a little stale as it simply becomes a series of action sequences as the trapped characters try to get out of the bar. These sequences aren’t bad at all- they’re satisfying fight scenes. They’re just very standard, whereas the tone of the first third was intentionally not-standard. It’s a slight tonal shift, but it’s still entertaining.

Back to the flimsiness of the plot. Earlier, I mentioned how no explanation for these monsters is ever given, which can be frustrating to some viewers, and understandably so. However, Feast doesn’t care that you’re confused: even the Hero mentions that he doesn’t know where they come from. At one point, a terrified bar-goer asks “Grandma” if she knows what these creatures are, because she’s “old” and “knows stuff.” She doesn’t, swiftly eliminating the stereotypical “legend/folklore” explanation. The plot of Feast is merely a shell for  these “fast,” “nasty,” and “hungry,” creatures to attack. Feast  doesn’t try to make the cop-out claim that these creatures are “from space” or something along those lines, but rather cuts the shit and focuses our attention on the monsters. Feast knows why we’re watching this movie: for some scary shit. And so it delivers scary shit, with the superfluous shit trimmed away. This is all about the love of the game people, not the score.  Again, this flagrant disregard for things like “exposition” or “plot” is a stumbling block for some viewers; but for those of us who love trashy B-Movies, this is right up our damn alley.

Now, I promised to tell you about another humping scene, and I plan to deliver. There is a scene in this film that almost had me in tears the first time I saw it. It’s disgusting, 6th-grade boy-level type of humor, and it’s also genius. It’s not even a spoiler for anything, (because there is literally no plot to spoil) but this scene may or may not be the worst or best thing I’ve ever seen in a monster movie.  If you don’t wanna hear about it and rather experience the glory first hand, I’ll put it under a spoiler cut.

 

~~~***SPOILERS***~~~

 

 

So the group manages to kill a baby monster (the same one who humped the deer head) and hang it outside of bar in a misguided attempt to “scare” the monsters. Apparently these bastards are a family, as one of the monsters is seen tenderly cradling the baby’s body, as though in grief. The monster then of course eats the baby, and then proceeds to bone the other monster in the parking lot of the bar, setting off a car alarm. I shit you not, the lady monster (I’m assuming it’s a lady monster, but I don’t know shit about these monsters and their reproductive systems) then fucking craps out a fresh baby monster. Like I said: disgusting, 6th-grade boy-level type of humor. And it may be my favorite part of this film.

 

 

~~~***SPOILERS DONE***~~~

 

 

Going on, one thing that I truly do respect about this movie is its use of practical FX. As far as I can tell, everything is done with physical effects. Whether people in suits or the gore, the FX in Feast is top notch. I wish we got more time to focus on them within the film, but even so they look fantastic. The monsters are creepy and don’t feel cookie-cutter, managing to be fresh but not totally outlandish. The gore is also hella nasty and stylized, so major props for that too. Feast may be poking fun at its genre, but it takes its monster seriously and put a lot of work into them.

Results Not Guaranteed

Bottom line: if you come into this movie A) thinking that it is in any way, shape, or form “serious,” or B) have no experience with or affection for the genre this movie is poking fun at, then you will probably be disappointed, and rightly so. After all, the plot is meager and there is little in the way of character development. However, if you love camp, dark comedy, and gratuitous gore, then Feast could be a fun choice for your next night in. It’s not a monster movie per say, but rather a love letter to monster movies. The letter may be written in fake blood and sealed with an unidentifiable piece of an organ, but it is a love letter nonetheless.

 

3.5/5

 

And P.S.- Check out this music video. I’d watched it for years before realizing that it was part of a movie. Go figure.

 

P.P.S- There are apparently two sequels to FeastFeast II:Sloppy Seconds and Feast IIIThe Happy Finish. If that doesn’t tell you the tone of this film right off the bat….

Sources/Further Reading

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0426459/?ref_=nv_sr_1

http://mentalfloss.com/article/54442/10-shakespeares-best-dirty-jokes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titus_Andronicus

Featured Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feast_(2005_film)#/media/File:Feast_(movie_poster).jpg