Friday, October 30, 2015

Top 20 Horror Movies - #3) The Thing (1982)

One of the things that I'm doing this month as I celebrate Halloween here in the Land of Way is taking the time to rank my Top 20 Horror Movies and my Top 20 Horror Novels.

I want to be clear that I'm basing these choices on my own humble opinion.  I'm not trying to rank these movies in accordance with their place in pop culture, but I'm offering up my take on the best horror films that I have ever watched and enjoyed.  There are some familiar candidates that I consider to be great pictures that didn't make the cut because there wasn't room, and there are some films that are widely regarded as great pictures that didn't make the cut because I feel that they are overrated.  There are also a few instances where it was difficult to determine whether or not a movie belonged to the horror genre (I said "no" to Aliens but "yes" to Jaws), and it may also be worth noting that this is largely a modern list (as long as you're okay with my classification of modern as anything after 1960) that only features one lonely creature from the so-called "Classic Monsters" films produced by Universal Studios.

Thus far, the list includes:

#20) The Fly (1986) 
#19) The Howling (1981)
#18) Night of the Living Dead (1968)
#17) Alien (1979) 
#16) Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
#15) Suspiria (1977) 
#14) Phantasm (1979)
#13) Evil Dead 2 (1985)
#12) Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) 
#11) The Descent (2005)
#10) Fright Night (1985)
#9) Halloween (1978)
#8) Return of the Living Dead (1985) 
#7) An American Werewolf in London (1981)
#6) Deep Red (1975)
#5) The Shining (1980) 
#4) Dawn of the Dead (1978)

My favorite director strikes again!  That's right, John Carpenter's back in the mix with his best horror flick, a picture that was savaged by critics and labelled a failure after it struck out at the box office.

Top 20 Horror Movies - #3) The Thing (1982)

John Carpenter is directly responsible for so many awesome movies.  Many were major hits, but he has also produced his fair share of cult classics.  That's why it should probably come as no surprise that his best horror film was so poorly regarded upon its initial release.  Arriving hot on the heels of E.T., this grim and gory monster movie was too dark for mainstream success in 1982, but over time more and more people have warmed up to it.  Kurt Russell is the star, and though this part is far more somber than the roles he played in his other pairings with Carpenter, he delivers another riveting performance.  The effects courtesy of Rob Bottin are outrageous and the main theme from Ennio Morricone (this is the rare instance where Carpenter passed the baton on that front) is a truly magnificent symphony of doom.  The locations give the movie the stark realism that it needs to draw audiences into a tense and horrific struggle that leads to a bleak conclusion with apocalyptic implications.  Carpenter's shot selection is superb and his dynamic vision yields a fantastic vision of isolation and desperation unlike any other.  Technically a remake, this epic creature greatly improves upon The Thing From Another World, a nifty gem from 1951.  Despite the downer nature of the piece, it remains one of my favorite horror films to watch.  The movie I have at #1 on this list is so damn disturbing that I rarely view it, but The Thing is a great movie to revisit whenever you want to see Kurt Russell rock cinema's gnarliest beard in John Carpenter's mindbending trip to Antarctica.  It's an immersive experience that slowly draws the viewer into a paranoia-fueled nightmare where brave men battle a wretched invader from beyond the stars.  It's The Thing, the biggest and baddest monster movie of them all, and I'm thrilled to include it here.

According to John Carpenter, Rob Bottin got the job on the basis of his kooky storyboards.  Once they got on set, John asked him how he was going to pull all this crazy stuff off and Rob basically said, "Shit, man.  I don't know."  In the end, he delivered in a big way, and his effects are a big reason why fans continue to flip out over The Thing.
Obviously, I've got mad love for Carpenter, and I'm also a huge Kurt Russell fan, so I should note that their work together may represent the best that each of these supremely talented individuals had to offer.

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