Tag Archives: The Thing

Horror Survival Tip #27

Fire Is A Weapon But Fire Is Not Your Friend

Fire is often touted as a potent weapon against all manner of evil. Seen as a cleansing agent, fire has been used in attempts to vanquish the big bad in more movies than I can count. Many of these movies show fire being used successfully. The villain goes down in flames – so to speak – the survivors go home, everyone’s happy again. Yay.

Not so fast. Kill It With Fire often doesn’t work, or shouldn’t work. Fire is a dangerous element. So dangerous in fact our societies have an entire branch of civil servants dedicated to the eradication of fire. We teach fire prevention, keep fire extinguishers in our homes, and tell our children to never play with fire.

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So why is fire considered such a powerful weapon?

Lies. Lies told by movies. You have to admit, and I will as well, that fire looks cool. Explosions look cool. Volatile gases mixing with oxygen is cool. There is also an entire encyclopedia of cultural, mythic and biblical reasons everyone loves fire but I’m not opening that can of worms.

What’s the Reality? 

Reality is that fire won’t do the job against a serial killer, xenomorph, zombie horde, shark, or any number of deadly movie monsters. Allow me to explain.
  • Guy is burned to death in his boiler room. BURNED TO DEATH. What happens? He comes back more powerful than they could have possibly imagined.
  • Nancy pulls him out of the dream and sets him on fire a second time. What happens? He follows her up the stairs then goes and kills her mother, THEN goes off to make six more movies. Seriously who are we kidding.

Freddy vs. Jason

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  • After watching Jason kill his friend the drunk party guy throws a pitcher of high proof alcohol on Jason lights him up using a tiki torch. What happens? Not only does it not slow Jason down, it makes him more fearsome. The partygoers see a flaming Jason (eh..a Jason on fire) and lose their shit, scattering into the corn field. What’s more, when the beer keg cools him off his hockey mask isn’t even singed.

Alien/Aliens

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  • Captain Dallas takes a flame thrower into the access tunnels to flush out the alien. What Happens? Dallas dies pretty damn quick. The Alien clearly doesn’t give a crap about his makeshift flamethrower.

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  • Colonial Marines carry flamethrowers with them when they enter the hive in Aliens. Furthermore, the flame unit is the only one they are allowed to use. What happens? All but three marines die and that’s only due to three soldiers disobeying orders and using their guns anyway. To make matters worse, when Ripley the badass hero flames the eggs in the queens chamber she clearly feels compelled to use nearly an entire magazine of pulse rifle ammo just to be sure the eggs are dead.
  • One of the helpless victims in a last ditch effort to fend off attack sets the shark on fire. Not a great plan given shes in a boat…on the ocean, but she gets points for being bold. What happens? The shark ends up with a nasty burn scar on the right side of it’s head but is otherwise uneffected. It goes on to kill a bunch of teenagers and scare the shit out of the rest.
  • At the end of the movie Dr. Loomis detonates a room full of explosive gas in an attempt to kill Michael Myers once and for all. What happens? Well Loomis and Myers certainly go out with a boom. As if to emphasize just how unnatural the Shape is, Lori sees him coming walking out of the room completely engulfed in flames. He stumbles, falls and dies. Or so we think he dies… Halloween 4 happens and it turns out not only did the fire NOT kill Michael Myers, it didn’t even kill Dr. Loomis! Hell, he looks pretty good for a guy engulfed in a fireball.
  • Before you start screaming about how fire is the only thing that can kill The Thing let me point something out to you. Fire really doesn’t work consistently at all, throughout the entire movie. The slit-head corpse they bring back from the Norwegian Camp along with the burned dogs are the specimens Blair uses to determine their is still cellular activity. They burn Bennings, Palmer, Norris, and Windows. What happens? All of the burning seems to work until it quickly becomes apparent the situation is so hopeless. We never really know if fire is the end-all-be-all weapon against The Thing because no matter how many Things they burn more Things keep appearing. Furthermore, exploding and burning are two different things. Palmer and Blair both explode, we have no way of knowing if all those little pieces of them actually died. The only fire related death in the entire movie that we know for a fact works is Fuchs – and he most likely burned himself!

Salem’s Lot (1979)

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  • Ben Mears and Mark Petrie set fire to the Marsten house at the end of the movie in an attempt to cleans the town of the vampire horde. What happens? The wind catches the fire and sweeps over the town driving all the vampires from their hiding places. How is that a good thing? Now the vamps are homeless, pissed off and hungry. Mears and Petrie really didn’t think it through and as a result not only are they being hunted but a lot of people in their wake probably got butchered and turned who might not have otherwise.

The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms

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  • The military blast a hole in the beast’s throat releasing a prehistoric virus that kills a whole bunch of additional people. Next they plan to set the beast on fire. What happens? Fortunately they are smart enough to realize setting fire to the beast could release the contagion worldwide (awesome science) and instead use isotopes. Moral of the story – fire would have made shit worse.

Zombies

Zombies get their own section for a couple reasons.

First, the term zombie is used very loosely today. I’m not going to be picky here, I’m just throwing them all together.  Dead, slightly dead, brain dead, undead, and dead-alive. Rage zombies aren’t really zombies but since they act and hunt like zombies it’s easier to lump them into the group as well.

Second, with such a broad group containing so many sub-classifications the examples begin to pile up quickly and I want to make it clear that use of fire against this group of monsters generally has the same effect on all of them. Or in this particular case the results could be explosive.

 

The Walking Dead

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  • There are a whole bunch of examples but let’s just go with the opening episode to season 5. Carol blows up the fuel tank as part of her master plan to free the group from Terminus, in the process setting numerous walkers on fire. What happens? The walkers don’t die. They walk right into the compound and start eating/attacking the living. Lighting zombies on fire while they are still mobile only makes them more dangerous, not to mention smell worse.

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

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  • While trying to start the emergency generator in the parking garage the group is attacked by ‘fast-moving’ dead zombies. After getting boxed into the cage around the fuel station they decide to spray gas on the zombies and light them on fire. What happens? Well, the movie cheats is what happens. It works for narrative purposes but they never actually show the zombies burn long enough to stop being a threat. The fact they are fast moving zombies means they should be 10x more dangerous once set ablaze. This is an example of the divine hand of editing, otherwise the movie would have been a helluva lot shorter. A drop-kick might have been more effective. 

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  • In 28 Days Later Jim is pursued by a group of infected, Selena and Mark use molotovs to light them on fire. What happens? The infected don’t even slow down. They continue to pursue Jim until Selena and Mark blow the entire petrol station to hell. Considering the infected aren’t truly dead the fire probably would have worked, and much more quickly than if they were dead, but not until after they caught Jim. What’s worse than being attacked and infected? Being attacked by infected and set on fire all at once!

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  • In 28 Weeks Later the U.S military calls in the Air Cav to firebomb the secure zone of downtown London. What happens? They light London up like a Christmas tree and still fail to contain the damn infection. Seriously, it’s their first decision and it fails. We’re not even talking about undead zombies who could mill around for god knows how long while burning. The infected are still alive which means they would succumb to fire damage much more quickly, but once again fire fails and the world goes to hell.

Conclusion

Unless you’re a pyro or have absolutely no alternative, fire isn’t a great option when fighting the big bad. It’s a tempting option due to it’s area of effect, especially when it’s weaponized in the form of a molotov, napalm, or flame thrower. Unfortunately it’s just too unreliable in most situations and too difficult to control. Lighting the bad guy ablaze you’re just as likely to set fire to other people, items or locations you never intended.

Special note for zombie hordes – during a zombie attack fire is incredibly destructive. Once on fire the horde is likely to spread said fire to anything and everything in the area. This is how you end up with scenes in movies like this one:

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Raw Review: The Thing (2011) – Remake, prequel, or stand alone?

The Thing prequel where the thing eats more humans. Bloody horror cgi mess.

In 2011 Universal Pictures released a new movie version of John Carpenter’s ultra classic horror/sci-fi film The Thing. When the initial announcement came out a few years prior that Universal was looking to remake the movie, fans and the press collectively asked first – why, when the 1982 film is so exceptional, and second – what can a remake bring to the story that Carpenter hadn’t in his version?


Any consideration of revisiting John Campbell Jr’s original short story ‘Who Goes There?’ or the 1951 film ‘The Thing From Another World’ at this point is pretty much moot. John Carpenter created such a dark and thrilling version of the story that any remake discussion must consider his film to be the start of the canon.


Why remake a movie? The standard answer is money. Studio execs jobs are on the line for every movie they greenlight so the safe bet is on a remake rather than original concept. Of course remaking the best sci-fi/horror film ever made has it’s pitfalls, namely it can’t be remade with the expectation it will be better than the original. And before you say the 1982 movie is a remake, keep in mind that if the original film was made prior to 1975 it doesn’t count. Why doesn’t it count? Because we said so!


At some point someone involved in the project at Universal came to the conclusion that a remake was a bad idea given the fanatic fan base Carpenter’s version still has. So the only alternative was to either make a sequel or a prequel. Well a sequel was considered for awhile. A screenplay was even written for it and is readily available on the web. Click here if you want to read it. It’s not terrible but not great either. Problem with a sequel is there’s no way to pull it off without undermining the ending of Carpenter’s version, which is without a doubt the best open ending in horror film history. So what’s left but a prequel; and what do you base a prequel on? Well the Norwegians of course, because everyone is just dying to know how they found the ship, unfreeze the Thing, and all die horrible deaths. I know I haven’t been able to sleep for the last 30 years not knowing this.  [Insert copious amounts of sarcasm at any time during the last sentence]


So what’s the verdict on The Thing 2011?


Well the movie is good. The movie has a decent story line. The movie has o.k. special effects. The movie did a pretty good job with continuity (a few major issues excepted). The movie holds up on it’s own…    until you realize it’s a prequel.


Listen this review isn’t going to bash the movie simply because it’s a prequel or a remake. I’d review Episodes I-III of Star Wars or I Am Legend (2007) if that were the case. No, this review going to be critical because the film made several serious mistakes in what was otherwise a smart and fun horror story.


We all the know the story in Carpenter’s The Thing. If you don’t, then move out from under the rock you’ve been living under and go see the movie right now. The 2011 film tells the story of the alien ship discovery and the destruction of the Norwegian camp. Simple right? Not really. The prequel handles the little continuity details well but creates some significant problems with the big stuff.  


The state of the Norwegian camp when MacReady and Copper arrive in the 1982 film is expertly reconstructed in the 2011 film. Every detail is accounted for – the explosion holes in the building, the location and state of the dormant thing they find, the ice block, etc. All done very well.


What isn’t handled well is the entire plotline involving the alien ship. Some may think this nitpicky but it isn’t. We can all imagine the conversation that lead to the choice to show the ship outside and inside, Two development executives, a screenwriter, maybe a potential director. All discussing how they stay true to Carpenter’s film while offering something new to the audience. They kick around lots of ideas but continually end up back in the same place – we wanted to see more of the ship back in the 80s when we saw the film as kids, so that’s the WOW factor we can add to this film. Can you see it? Picture it? Hear the discussion?


Only problem is it still doesn’t work. Carpenter’s version showed the ship under the ice. Showed them plant thermite charges and blow the ice layer over the ship. Shows them waving to the camera while standing around the ship. Showed a map of where the crash sight is…in the middle of nowhere.


The 2011 film didn’t address any of those things properly. In fact it seemed to just gloss over those details for the sake of making the screenplay easier to fit together. The crash site is right next to the camp? There is an underground cavern where they can access the ship with no problems? They don’t blow it up to get to the ship, because um they don’t have to, so it’s blown up to try and kill the Thing?


For all the work put into  the little details it’s unfortunate they chose to ignore major continuity concerns so they could fit the narrative into a predesigned outcome.


Next issue. Visual effects. Creature effects. CGI. This blog will forever argue that non-digital or computer generated effects will always look better than full CGI for anything biologically related. The monsters in the 2011 film look cool and they certainly were creative in their design, but they also look like CGI. It’s cheaper to do CGI for monster effects and saves a lot of time on filming, sure sure, but watch the 1982 film and tell us those monsters don’t look awesome. Slimy, wet, juicy, nightmarish. You can see the liquid whatever squirt off them when they pop. See the residue on the floor when they move. The spider head is uncanny.

1982 – Look how juicy and wet that sucker is!

1982 – Not juicy but definitely standing in the same room as the actor.

2011 – Looks cool but obviously CGI.

2011 – Again, looks neat but is clearly computer generated and way too clean. If two heads were merging together don’t you think a little blood would get on the floor?

2011 – Another digital monster. Looks neat graphically, but no blood, no fluids, no juices. I mean the guy split open for cryin out load!

1982 – Ah here we go. Super juicy! Slimy, and the tentacles are slowly slithering across the torso, taking their time as is discussed in the film. 

You don’t get this with the 2011 film. Instead you get some cool looking monsters that don’t look real in the setting. You also get way more monster scenes. And yes, that can be a bad thing. The tension built in between scenes is kinda what sells the notion of a monster that can clone people. You don’t know who is the monster. The 2011 film was able to throw a lot more monster into the film by virtue of CGI, so any tension built up between scenes is lost too quickly. It’s kinda like blowing your load too early when you’re really enjoying everything.


Finally, Americans. Really? Just shoehorn in some characters who have absolutely no reason to be at a Norwegian base in Antarctica. Stop. Before you say anything think this over. Antarctica is a very sparsely populated continent. there are a number of national research bases there, but all enter and exit the continent through McMurdo station. You really think if several Americans were working with or for the Norwegians it wouldn’t be mentioned in the 1982 film? Again, an addition done purely for narrative requirements and to make the film more marketable to US moviegoers. Face facts, the movie would have crashed had the entire film been subtitled in Norwegian.  


Wait, wait, wait. So that’s a lot of words but what’s the point? This…


Movie is decent (not great) if you forget it is a prequel to Carpenter’s film. The movie falls apart if you treat it as canon. So there.


Q: Should I see it?
A: Yes. It is a sci-fi horror and there aren’t enough of those films made. It’s also fun and fairly decent film, if you treat it as a stand alone.


Q: Good date movie?
A: Sure, just don’t tell your date it’s better than the 1982 film. You’d be surprised how many people are part of the secret ‘Carpenter is god’ club.


Q: Purchase or not?
A: Fry’s has the blu-ray on sale for $4 right now. At that price just about any movie is worth buying. Or you can click on the picture above and buy it from Amazon.

Raw Review: The Thing (2011) – Remake, prequel, or stand alone?

The Thing prequel where the thing eats more humans. Bloody horror cgi mess.

In 2011 Universal Pictures released a new movie version of John Carpenter’s ultra classic horror/sci-fi film The Thing. When the initial announcement came out a few years prior that Universal was looking to remake the movie, fans and the press collectively asked first – why, when the 1982 film is so exceptional, and second – what can a remake bring to the story that Carpenter hadn’t in his version?


Any consideration of revisiting John Campbell Jr’s original short story ‘Who Goes There?’ or the 1951 film ‘The Thing From Another World’ at this point is pretty much moot. John Carpenter created such a dark and thrilling version of the story that any remake discussion must consider his film to be the start of the canon.


Why remake a movie? The standard answer is money. Studio execs jobs are on the line for every movie they greenlight so the safe bet is on a remake rather than original concept. Of course remaking the best sci-fi/horror film ever made has it’s pitfalls, namely it can’t be remade with the expectation it will be better than the original. And before you say the 1982 movie is a remake, keep in mind that if the original film was made prior to 1975 it doesn’t count. Why doesn’t it count? Because we said so!


At some point someone involved in the project at Universal came to the conclusion that a remake was a bad idea given the fanatic fan base Carpenter’s version still has. So the only alternative was to either make a sequel or a prequel. Well a sequel was considered for awhile. A screenplay was even written for it and is readily available on the web. Click here if you want to read it. It’s not terrible but not great either. Problem with a sequel is there’s no way to pull it off without undermining the ending of Carpenter’s version, which is without a doubt the best open ending in horror film history. So what’s left but a prequel; and what do you base a prequel on? Well the Norwegians of course, because everyone is just dying to know how they found the ship, unfreeze the Thing, and all die horrible deaths. I know I haven’t been able to sleep for the last 30 years not knowing this.  [Insert copious amounts of sarcasm at any time during the last sentence]


So what’s the verdict on The Thing 2011?


Well the movie is good. The movie has a decent story line. The movie has o.k. special effects. The movie did a pretty good job with continuity (a few major issues excepted). The movie holds up on it’s own…    until you realize it’s a prequel.


Listen this review isn’t going to bash the movie simply because it’s a prequel or a remake. I’d review Episodes I-III of Star Wars or I Am Legend (2007) if that were the case. No, this review going to be critical because the film made several serious mistakes in what was otherwise a smart and fun horror story.


We all the know the story in Carpenter’s The Thing. If you don’t, then move out from under the rock you’ve been living under and go see the movie right now. The 2011 film tells the story of the alien ship discovery and the destruction of the Norwegian camp. Simple right? Not really. The prequel handles the little continuity details well but creates some significant problems with the big stuff.  


The state of the Norwegian camp when MacReady and Copper arrive in the 1982 film is expertly reconstructed in the 2011 film. Every detail is accounted for – the explosion holes in the building, the location and state of the dormant thing they find, the ice block, etc. All done very well.


What isn’t handled well is the entire plotline involving the alien ship. Some may think this nitpicky but it isn’t. We can all imagine the conversation that lead to the choice to show the ship outside and inside, Two development executives, a screenwriter, maybe a potential director. All discussing how they stay true to Carpenter’s film while offering something new to the audience. They kick around lots of ideas but continually end up back in the same place – we wanted to see more of the ship back in the 80s when we saw the film as kids, so that’s the WOW factor we can add to this film. Can you see it? Picture it? Hear the discussion?


Only problem is it still doesn’t work. Carpenter’s version showed the ship under the ice. Showed them plant thermite charges and blow the ice layer over the ship. Shows them waving to the camera while standing around the ship. Showed a map of where the crash sight is…in the middle of nowhere.


The 2011 film didn’t address any of those things properly. In fact it seemed to just gloss over those details for the sake of making the screenplay easier to fit together. The crash site is right next to the camp? There is an underground cavern where they can access the ship with no problems? They don’t blow it up to get to the ship, because um they don’t have to, so it’s blown up to try and kill the Thing?


For all the work put into  the little details it’s unfortunate they chose to ignore major continuity concerns so they could fit the narrative into a predesigned outcome.


Next issue. Visual effects. Creature effects. CGI. This blog will forever argue that non-digital or computer generated effects will always look better than full CGI for anything biologically related. The monsters in the 2011 film look cool and they certainly were creative in their design, but they also look like CGI. It’s cheaper to do CGI for monster effects and saves a lot of time on filming, sure sure, but watch the 1982 film and tell us those monsters don’t look awesome. Slimy, wet, juicy, nightmarish. You can see the liquid whatever squirt off them when they pop. See the residue on the floor when they move. The spider head is uncanny.

1982 – Look how juicy and wet that sucker is!

1982 – Not juicy but definitely standing in the same room as the actor.

2011 – Looks cool but obviously CGI.

2011 – Again, looks neat but is clearly computer generated and way too clean. If two heads were merging together don’t you think a little blood would get on the floor?

2011 – Another digital monster. Looks neat graphically, but no blood, no fluids, no juices. I mean the guy split open for cryin out load!

1982 – Ah here we go. Super juicy! Slimy, and the tentacles are slowly slithering across the torso, taking their time as is discussed in the film. 

You don’t get this with the 2011 film. Instead you get some cool looking monsters that don’t look real in the setting. You also get way more monster scenes. And yes, that can be a bad thing. The tension built in between scenes is kinda what sells the notion of a monster that can clone people. You don’t know who is the monster. The 2011 film was able to throw a lot more monster into the film by virtue of CGI, so any tension built up between scenes is lost too quickly. It’s kinda like blowing your load too early when you’re really enjoying everything.


Finally, Americans. Really? Just shoehorn in some characters who have absolutely no reason to be at a Norwegian base in Antarctica. Stop. Before you say anything think this over. Antarctica is a very sparsely populated continent. there are a number of national research bases there, but all enter and exit the continent through McMurdo station. You really think if several Americans were working with or for the Norwegians it wouldn’t be mentioned in the 1982 film? Again, an addition done purely for narrative requirements and to make the film more marketable to US moviegoers. Face facts, the movie would have crashed had the entire film been subtitled in Norwegian.  


Wait, wait, wait. So that’s a lot of words but what’s the point? This…


Movie is decent (not great) if you forget it is a prequel to Carpenter’s film. The movie falls apart if you treat it as canon. So there.


Q: Should I see it?
A: Yes. It is a sci-fi horror and there aren’t enough of those films made. It’s also fun and fairly decent film, if you treat it as a stand alone.


Q: Good date movie?
A: Sure, just don’t tell your date it’s better than the 1982 film. You’d be surprised how many people are part of the secret ‘Carpenter is god’ club.


Q: Purchase or not?
A: Fry’s has the blu-ray on sale for $4 right now. At that price just about any movie is worth buying. Or you can click on the picture above and buy it from Amazon.