Richard Kaufman has a great post at BoingBoing today about seeing John Carpenter’s The Thing on opening day:
The tone of The Thing is one of isolation and dread from the moment it starts. By the time our guys go to the Norwegian outpost and find a monstrous steaming corpse with two merged faces pulling in opposite directions the audience is shifting in their seats. Next comes the dog that splits open with bloody tentacles flying in all directions. The women are covering their eyes.
Various bits of mayhem and horror ensue until eventually one of the characters (the innocuously named “Norris”) has a heart attack. The doctor brings his hands down to defibrillate him, whereupon Norris’s chest bursts open revealing an enormous toothed maw which promptly chomps the doctor’s arms off (stumps and blood squirting everywhere). And now people are screaming. And not in the pleasant way they did at Dawn of the Dead where the crowd would chant “Eat ‘em up!” every time a zombie bit someone. THIS was something no one had ever seen before, and it was revolting and terrifying.
I first saw this movie during its initial cable run on HBO in the early 1980s. I was in fifth or sixth grade, and a bunch of us were staying overnight at a friend’s house. Hopped on Coke and Doritos, we had watched a late-night showing of Twilight Zone: The Movie. As the credits rolled shortly after midnight, we checked the listings to see what was up next. What’s this? A monster movie with an alien? Sounds great!
In retrospect, we had really no business at all watching The Thing. I think we all sort of realized that, probably almost as soon as the ominous synthesizer music starts playing over the bleak opening scene. Watch it we did, though, and none of us was going to be the first to admit to being scared. My jaw as on the floor when the dog exploded into a mass of seething tentacles, and I don’t even remember what I was thinking by the time the defibrillator scene rolled around.
The Thing remains one of my favorite movies to this day. I strongly endorse Kaufman’s closing suggestion:
Because on Halloween you really must turn off your cellphone after the trick or treaters have gone, let’s say about 10 pm, and pop in the blu-ray of The Thing and watch it in hi-def on your TV. Turn off all the lights and turn up the sound.
No pee breaks. No pausing for snacks. No conversation. Just keep your ass nailed to the couch if you can … it’s worth it.