The Thing about the Cinema

John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ (1982)

'The Thing' (1982)

What a magnificent piece of horror cinema ‘The Thing’ is, one of Carpenter’s best and one of Hollywood’s finest remakes. I wont bother writing a review here as you no doubt know the movie well, as did those lucky enough to attend a big-screen cinema screening of which I was one. Watching ‘The Thing‘ on the big screen was a wonderful example of the power of cinema, and proof of  the old adage that movies are at their very best when enjoyed in the darkened comfort of the cinema. Here are some of the standout highlights of watching the movie how it was truly intended:

  • The Burning Logo: Along with the lovingly huge white 80s opening credits a sheer feeling of glee and menace passed over the audience as ‘The Thing‘ logo burned its way seemingly through the screen itself. The famous logo is of course borrowed from the Howard Hawks 1951 original and is a highly recognizable piece of horror iconography. But seeing it emblazoned across the screen in ten-feet high lettering was a fabulous sight for genre fans.
  • The Landscape: Like Speilberg’s use of the horizon in ‘Jaws‘ (1975), Carpenter’s framing of the vast bleak Antarctic landscape is bought into sharp focus when watched upon the big screen. A television set, no matter how big, just doesn’t do justice to the feeling of beauty and isolation conveyed by the cinema.
  • The Practical Effects: Rob Bottin’s splendid special effects are as impressive as they are vividly nausiating. Only watching the limb bending, visceral flesh and goo on the big screen can you get a feel for what it must have been like to have whitnessed them in a theatre back in 1982, some three decades ago. No CGI will, or can, match the gut-churning effects achieved by Bottin’s most memorable work, described at the time by Roger Ebert as “among the most elaborate, nauseating, and horrifying sights yet achieved“. Stand-out moments such as the twisted remains from the Norwegian camp, the inside-out husky, the spider head, and the chest mouth were met with rapturous approval from the audience, enjoying every second of the outlandish body horror.
  • The Composition: In places ‘The Thing‘ features some of Carpenter’s best moments of framing and cinematography (so you also have to give props here to Cinematographer Dean Cundy). The grip work that tracks the husky at the beginning is wonderfully playful, and the slow tracking shots through the corridors and various rec rooms are incredibly atmospheric.

Of course ‘The Thing‘ is a great viewing experience however you watch it, however, catching these great genre classics on the big screen truly enhances your favourite films tenfold. I’ve been lucky enough to experience retrospective cinema screenings of ‘Alien‘, ‘Poltergeist‘, ‘Ghostbusters‘, ‘Friday the 13th‘, ‘Jaws‘, and now ‘The Thing‘, amongst others, and I highly advise you to look into it too.

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3 thoughts on “The Thing about the Cinema

  1. I don’t know how I managed to miss it, but I’ve never seen the Thing- I guess I’d better rectify that!

  2. Rick says:

    I’m really glad that you brought up the landscape because it’s a technique that many beginning horror fans pass up. I think it’s brilliant how Carpenter uses the landscape to show pure isolation and barrenness. Also, take note of the white snow… it’s ironic considering white usually means sterile when it’s not. As time progresses, a storm picks up with turbulent winds; perfect for how the story progresses.

  3. I actually saw “Alien” on the big screen when it first came out (sold-out showing, in fact), and I do recall it being substantially more powerful. Sadly, I was only in 3rd grade, and seeing that movie on the big screen, during the much more sedate era of 1979, and at the tender age of eight, just about drove me insane. One of the most terrifying experiences of my life (the only cinematic experience that came even close was seeing the original “Evil Dead” in a classic “grindhouse” setting, in what was probably early 1983 (at the age of 12).

    I must be one of very few people who saw “The Evil Dead” in its original release. It had no marketing or public awareness what-so-ever. I went to it solely because it sounded more interesting than “Slumber Party Massacre.” I suspect I made a wise choice…although that film also drove me nearly bonkers from sheer fright.

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