As part of my MFA program, I’m taking a class on monsters in the horror genre. I watched the movie The Thing, directed by John Carpenter, as an assignment for that class. The below blog post may contain spoilers.
I was unimpressed by this movie. In a way, it reminded me of a story we read earlier this semester, Rawhead Rex. Something I noticed in Rawhead is blown up even larger in The Thing: blood and gore and shock value do not equal a good horror story.
In this movie, an alien known as simply “the Thing” massacres a group of researchers in Antarctica after being dug up from 100,000-year-old ice. The Thing imitates other creatures, presumably so that it can kill them for no apparent reason. It doesn’t seem particularly interested in eating the other creatures; it just likes to imitate and kill in odd ways.
It annoyed me that the biology of the creature seems to change with each person it infected. For some victims, all the inner organs remain intact. For others, the organs seem to be replaced by green stringy stuff. In one scene, the doctor is using the defibrillator, and the monster suddenly develops teeth in its torso to bite the doc’s arms off. According to other scenes, the monster needs time to imitate a being, yet it can suddenly develop giant torso teeth at will. I ain’t buying it! It seemed as though the monster’s biology in each scene was selected for maximum gross out, as opposed to being based on telling a cohesive story.
When the blood-and-wire test proved one of their group was infected, the infected person started to bleed from the face, as if proving the point. He made no immediate attempt to run or kill. Instead, he got all gross. What was the point of this except shock value? I love horror that is intelligent, and I found no sense in this moment.
Let’s jump to the climax scene: The Thing emerges from the floorboards in all its glory. It has tentacles, a human head, random face teeth, and half of a dog all combined in one being. The combination of parts in the scene didn’t scare me; rather, it made me cringe because of its sticky, slimy grossness. All those parts would make sense if they each put up a fight. The dog and face teeth could bite. The tentacles could strangle and pull. The human could … I don’t know. But do something.
Instead, in an anti-climactic moment, MacReady blows the whole thing up without much of a fight on the monster’s part. So as far as I could see, the monster’s appearance at the end did nothing but gross me out.
This movie gets glowing reviews. I believe it’s a cult classic. But it didn’t work for me. Gross is no substitute for scary.