I had never seen The Thing before. I messed up and rented the new film and watched it before I watched my borrowed copy of the original. Apparently, the new one isn’t just a remake; it’s a prequel. Oh well, I know that now, but I wonder if that affected some of my viewing experience (i.e. Nauls’ earring and the mystery of whether he was human or alien).
For some reason, I have avoided these movies. I’m not sure why--maybe, I had the wrong impression of them. They seemed more like sci-fi, alien-with-tentacles movies, and although I suppose they were, the alien had demonic attributes. In fact, the creature that merges in the prequel and becomes the conjoined burned corpse in the original resembles twine guards that become cenobites in Hellraiser Bloodline. The alien in The Thing was extraterrestrial, but it did not necessarily behave in an animalistic or even general alien manner. This pleasantly surprised me, finding an alien that seemed to be branching off mutilated limbs and skinless skulls just for the sheer thrill of terrifying its victims.
The setting in The Thing is important, an isolated scientific command post in Antarctica. The isolation and cold create a sense of anxiety, helplessness in viewers. I immediately think of and compare this to Silent Hill, Storm of the Century, Phantoms, and The Shining. However, I liked those settings more. They seem more gothic--abandoned human structures shrouded in darkness (or in the Stanley Kubrick’s version, shrouded in an abundance of light). The command post in The Thing seems too remote and unfamiliar to me, so I don’t get the chills as much. In these other stories, venturing into an abandoned small town or a resort gives me something I’m familiar with but takes me out of my comfort zone. These examples are like being in a school after dark. During the day, students understand that setting, but at night, it’s unfamiliar and leaves itself open to numerous possibilities. On the subject of schools, Lady in White is one of my favorite examples of atmosphere--a dark, empty school on Halloween. This film takes place in the 60’s, but the details are right, the decorations feel authentic, and the air is filled with tension and stale dust. Even though it’s not surprising and the effects are cheesy when a ghost comes out to play, I still get chills every time the protagonist gets locked in the coat room of his classroom because I can imagine myself in that situation and feel the anticipation of what I might witness.
Both versions of The Thing offer a similar scene--everyone playing and drinking in a rec room--and I suppose that was enough to familiarize me with the whole location. And despite the settings I didn’t care for as much, the movie was done so well that I didn’t mind; I enjoyed investigating the abandoned Norwegian outpost (even though I’d seen the prequel), and discovering the mini spaceship under the storage room outside. However, this setting just doesn’t lend itself as well to horror as abandoned public areas. For another example, I think of the Resident Evil series. In most of the games, you start in a residential/public area (a mansion, a city, a police station, etc), but after some time, you progress to a scientific research facility. I suppose this relates to the story and the plot, but sometimes I wish things could just stay in the original settings because I like them more. Maybe that’s part of why I like Silent Hill more than Resident Evil, as you progress, you progress into even creepier, yet still familiar, areas (private homes, amusement parks, boardwalks). Regardless, I’m sorry I’ve waited so long to see The Thing. I think this probably would have inspired me had I seen it when I was younger.
Since I’ve mentioned video games, apparently there’s a The Thing video game sequel to the movie--has anyone tried it? Also, a new Silent Hill is out and another one is due out within the month. Downpour is getting mixed reviews, but I’ve never met a Silent Hill I didn’t love. As for the one that’s still due out, it’s for PS Vita, and although I love Silent Hill, I cannot justify handing over the bucks for a new system just for one game.