29 March, 2005
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Carpenter’s interpretation of the creature called Thing is as alien malevolence disguised in many forms, an amorphous essence that makes it into the kind of thing it is, an essence that makes it different from any other. The Thing is bit like an abhorrent version of the smile of Alice in Wonderland’s Cheshire cat in that it is everywhere and nowhere, and will pop up most unexpectedly with an ability to exist as so many disjointed parts, a mere smile with the ability to imitate other organisms at the cellular level. Like a mutant or early version of the Star Trek Borg, this Thing is not only in a constant flux, it is an interconnected, communal creature whose nature or essence is absorption, assimilation and change, this is what the Thing seems to be, the essence of changing adaptation and evolution. What you see is certainly NOT, what you get with this transforming Thing. When the Thing is metamorphosing, it is reactivity and mimicry of what it is absorbing implying that it does not have its own discrete creativity only imitation or forgery.
25 March, 2005
When discussing his film John Carpenter’s The Thing in The Terror Escapes the documentary on the making of the film, John Carpenter states, “This is an apocalyptic movie. This is the end of the world; it doesn't come from bombs dropping, it comes from within... and of course, the Thing is a metaphor for whatever you want to say; it could be disease, could be A.I.D.S., whatever, but it comes from within you. It’s also basically the lack of trust that’s in the world now, we see it all over; countries, people, we don’t trust each other anymore, we don’t know who to trust. We’re with someone who we may think they are our loved ones, and they attack us. And that’s what The Thing is; it has a lot of truth kind of dressed up as a monster movie.” (Matessino, M., John Carpenter's The Thing: Terror takes Shape, in The Thing: Bonus Material. 2003, Universal Studios: U.S.A.)
19 March, 2005
The shapeshifting Thing created by director, John Carpenter, and special makeup effects wizard, Rob Bottin as not quite a “remake” of the Howard Hawks' 1951 version, of The Thing From Another World is not only a metaphor for the numerous things like viruses, such as AIDS, advancing technologies or human paranoia. But also for humanities or the universal changing nature of given realities, which also encapsulates the reality of the creative force. Along with The Howling, and American Werewolf in London, The Thing is one of the climactic animatronic films before the CGI revolution. The Thing evolved from a movie and a book and will more than likely eventually be adapted into the recent CGI frenzy of movie (re)making. Carpenter reverted to the chameleon shapeshifter idea of the original John W. Campbell story "Who Goes There?” This gutsy film features visualizations of the unspeakable portraying the abjection of things being displaced and appearing where they should not be. Insides are on the outside, bodies that are torn apart, absorbed into the Thing, replicated and redesigned from oozing, KY jellied messes of blood and entrails along with assorted parts of people and animals that the mutating Thing has devoured or absorbed. Such effects excess grip the spectator by pulling the viewer into a visceral spectatorship. This excess often passes through its own physical limitations, and points to the incongruous nature of cinema enhancing the paradoxical emotional viewer response created by the film itself. These transformations are often said to rupture the narrative, appearing to work in a “natural,” non-linear fashion, ignoring rigid rules, following their own dictates creating a spectacular vision both heroic and strangely romantic physicality. But often these moments are intrinsic to plot rhythm, meaning and even characterisation. It is important to recognise that more and more theorists like Sobchack and Gunning are acknowledging that effects contribute to the construction of the narrative sense. Many theorists situate the turning point in the effects rebirth of contemporary cinema around 1977, the year that Close Encounters and Star Wars IV were released. The success of these two films revived a fascination with the use of spectacle of special effects as narrative tools. In the process, special effects technology was also revitalized and homage paid to Kubrick. Gunning sees “a medium like film where the ‘auteur’ rarely speaks through ‘his own voice,’ but rather indirectly through sounds and images assembled, performed and in some ways produced by collaborators,”(Gunning 2000) Films like The Thing are exemplary of such thinking.