Tag Archives: John Carpenter

30 Days of Madness, Day 31 — Ranking the 30

by Tom Kapr

This has been an interesting month of film viewing, made far more enjoyable by the friends who voted on the movies I watched.

I’ve had dragons, witches, vampires, werewolves, Nazis, serial killers, beast people, alternate realities, zombies of every variety, at least two alien invasions, at least two foiled armageddons, about half a dozen mad scientists, at least half a dozen cases of possession, and at least half a dozen disembodied hands (seriously, did I watch a single movie this month where someone’s hand didn’t get proper mangled?); as well as killer ants, cars, cats, klowns, plants, goats, beavers, Drew Barrymores, and one really big octopus.

I’ve been including my Flickchart rankings with each film, so I thought as a wrap-up, it would be fitting to list again the 30 films I watched, in order of their placement on my chart. I’ve re-ranked each film to see if hindsight has had a significant change on their placement.

Here are the 30 films, by ascending rank, with a comparison to its original placement. I’m ending this month of October with 3275 titles ranked on my chart, which includes 32 more than I ended September with (I saw two new movies at the theater), so numerical rankings and percentages are always fluid.

 

-30-
ZOMBEAVERS (2014)

zombeavers

Original rank: 3202 (2%)
Adjusted rank: 3166 (3%)

Zombeavers is now 1% less terrible.

 

-29-
KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE (1988)

killerklowns3

Original rank: 3081 (5%)
Adjusted rank: 3081 (6%)

Interesting that Killer Klowns ended up at the same numerical rank but falls 1% relative to a list that is now 32 titles heavier.

 

-28-
DEATHGASM (2015)

deathgasm

Original rank: 2863 (12%)
Adjusted rank: 3036 (7%)

I actually expected this to come out higher than its original rank. Deathgasm was such a great movie for the first half. I tend to rank movies lower if they build me up only to knock me down so hard by the end.

 

-27-
Q: THE WINGED SERPENT (1982)

qwingedserpent

Original rank: 3193 (2%)
Adjusted rank: 3019 (8%)

Which is probably how Q managed to rise above Deathgasm. No goodwill built up, so less disappointment at an ending that was just as bad as the rest of the film.

 

-26-
FIRESTARTER (1984)

firestarter

Original rank: 2612 (20%)
Adjusted rank: 2643 (19%)

Here, on the other hand, Firestarter is a slog for much of its running time only to suddenly race full speed ahead with a hell of an ending. Not enough to save it from dropping a bit, though. I covered two Stephen King adaptations this month. One was a good movie called Christine. The other was Firestarter.

 

-25-
ROAR (1981)

roar

Original rank: 2634 (19%)
Adjusted rank: 2512 (23%)

I expected Roar to rise a bit, and won’t be surprised when it eventually breaks out of the bottom 25%. It might even breach the 2000 mark. I have a feeling the bizarre and singular nature of the film, coupled with the fact that it really is well shot, will cause it to appreciate over time.

 

-24-
PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987)

princedarkness3

Original rank: 1629 (50%)
Adjusted rank: 2049 (37%)

Prince of Darkness was my biggest disappointment based on expectations going in. Those expectations being that John Carpenter is a favorite director of mine, and this was made when he was in his prime (1978-1988). I didn’t expect it to drop quite so far on the re-rank though, and I am sure it will rise back up to around the middle of the list over time.

 

-23-
THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1960)

littleshop2

Original rank: 2553 (22%)
Adjusted rank: 1906 (42%)

Little Shop has one of the biggest leaps of all the films on the re-rank, a 20% jump, freeing it from the bottom quarter. I’m not totally surprised, as this one had already been slowly creeping up my chart.

 

-22-
BLAIR WITCH (2016)

blairwitch

Original rank: 2186 (33%)
Adjusted rank: 1706 (48%)

Blair Witch is another I expected to rise somewhat in the ranks, simply because I found it to be mediocre but not terrible. It definitely has some excellent sequences, and I suspect that if I watch it again on a small screen in a dark room, it will be more effective.

 

-21-
IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955)

itcame2

Original rank: 1588 (51%)
Adjusted rank: 1612 (51%)

It Came from Beneath the Sea manages a 24-spot jump but doesn’t shake its 51%. This is another one I found disappointing, certainly not by its special effects, which are still awesome thanks largely to Ray Harryhausen; but because the story framing them was much less well done than other favorite Hollywood creature features of the 1950s like Them! and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.

 

-20-
EVIL DEAD II (1987)

evildead2

Original rank: 1510 (51%)
Adjusted rank: 1531 (53%)

Evil Dead II has been in and out of the “gateway” position into the top half of my chart; that is, when I add a new title, this is the one it often comes up against, being at the middle. I honestly don’t know which way this one will head over time, but the 2% indicates an appreciation in hindsight. Sam Raimi’s ingenuity and Bruce Campbell’s campy, cult-status-cementing performance will be the deciding factors.

 

-19-
PHANTASM (1979)

phantasm

Original rank: 1206 (63%)
Adjusted rank: 1425 (56%)

Phantasm probably doesn’t deserve to have fallen even further, and I think it’ll probably rise back up a bit over time.

 

-18-
CAT PEOPLE (1942)

catpeople

Original rank: 1607 (51%)
Adjusted rank: 1297 (60%)

Cat People managed to rise a couple hundred spots, thanks in no small part to the fact that it’s just a technically well-made film. It’s my aversion to some of the norms of the time period (xenophobia and animal abuse being unfortunately among those crimes) that will keep it from making a showing in the Top 1000.

 

-17-
XTRO (1982)

xtro

Original rank: 1894 (42%)
Adjusted rank: 1261 (62%)

Another 20% leap, this time from the bottom half well into the top half. Xtro is the one that has appreciated the most in my mind, and rather quickly. It may have been the tug-of-war between my awe at its visual effects and my repulsion to those same visual effects. I’m sure it also helps that this has become somewhat of a favorite in the past month among my fellow horror aficionados. It’s a strange film to bond over, but hey, if it works, it works.

 

-16-
GREEN ROOM (2015)

greenroom

Original rank: 1230 (62%)
Adjusted rank: 1031 (69%)

Green Room is another I expected to appreciate a bit, though I don’t expect to see too much greater movement.

 

-15-
MAY (2002)

may

Original rank: 761 (77%)
Adjusted rank: 887 (73%)

I was actually surprised to see May drop out of the top quarter on the re-rank. This is one that will always have favor based almost entirely on its wonderful lead performance by Angela Bettis. That will be the deciding factor anytime it’s up against a film of similar quality.

 

-14-
TRIANGLE (2009)

triangle1

Original rank: 782 (76%)
Adjusted rank: 885 (73%)

Triangle. I’m still not sure what to make of this film. It will definitely take a second viewing to know how I feel about it. For now, I expect it to bounce around the top middle quarter of my chart.

 

-13-
I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (1943)

walkzombie

Original rank: 919 (72%)
Adjusted rank: 884 (73%)

Zombie rose a bit, and no surprise. Sometimes a film’s effective qualities stick more than its ineffective ones, and this one is a slow-build of a scary film that overcomes its bad narration and the hard-to-swallow romantic relationship at the center. It also has the distinction of introducing me to the work of producer Val Lewton, whose catalog I wish to complete.

 

-12-
HUSH (2016)

hush

Original rank: 804 (75%)
Adjusted rank: 876 (73%)

Hush is the one that I was second-guessing the most on whether it deserved the A I gave it, or if it was really more of a B. It works far more often than it doesn’t, but some of those things that don’t work stick with me. This will probably be one of those films that is always just on the verge of being knocked out of my top 1000.

 

-11-
ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (1932)

islandlostsouls

Original rank: 877 (73%)
Adjusted rank: 826 (75%)

Another film that manages to overcome an inauthentic romantic entanglement with a genuinely horrifying story, a strong heroine, and an iconic villain courtesy of Charles Laughton, Island of Lost Souls manages to climb to the brink of the top quarter on the re-rank.

 

-10-
CHRISTINE (1983)

christine

Original rank: 511 (84%)
Adjusted rank: 666 (80%)

Christine dropped just enough to land at #666. So, yeah. Devil car.

 

-9-
THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961)

pitpendulum1

Original rank: 438 (87%)
Adjusted rank: 615 (81%)

Pit seems to have dropped a bit, but I won’t be surprised to see it claw its way back into the top 500. Of the two Roger Corman pictures I covered this month, this was the good one. (The other was The Little Shop of Horrors.)

 

-8-
TRICK ‘R TREAT (2007)

trickrtreat2

Original rank: 614 (81%)
Adjusted rank: 595 (82%)

Trick ‘r Treat was a pleasant surprise and a great film to end on. Full disclosure: this is the second time I re-ranked this. The first time, it came up against Fargo, which was inexplicably low and kept it from even breaking into the top 1000. After re-ranking Fargo (which jumped way into my top 250), Trick ‘r Treat was able not only breach the top 1000 but the top quarter of the list.

 

-7-
HALLOWEEN (1978)

halloween

Original rank: 397 (88%)
Adjusted rank: 417 (87%)

Halloween has been on my Flickchart for years. It had started out in the 500s before I saw it on the big screen this month. The re-rank didn’t hurt it much, and I expect it to be a staple of my top 500.

 

-6-
PHASE IV (1974)

phaseiv-1

Original rank: 751 (77%)
Adjusted rank: 383 (88%)

Phase IV was probably the greatest surprise of the month. What I expected to be a cheesy 70s creature feature turned out to be a thoughtful piece of sci-fi. No great surprise that it jumped a few hundred spots on the re-rank. Sometimes it just depends on what films it comes up against.

 

-5-
THE BODY SNATCHER (1945)

bodysnatcher

Original rank: 177 (95%)
Adjusted rank: 318 (90%)

Again, sometimes it just depends on what it comes up against. I didn’t expect The Body Snatcher to drop as far as it did, but nor do I expect it to depreciate over time. Even if it weren’t an excellent film, it would be kept afloat by Boris Karloff alone. But this is a great film that will continue to haunt my 300s.

 

-4-
THE WITCH (2015)

thewitch

Original rank: 329 (90%)
Adjusted rank: 316 (90%)

The Witch was another pleasant surprise: not surprise that it was good, but because it was nigh impeccable. I think the only thing that keeps it from climbing any higher is its extremely disturbing subject matter. The higher on my list we go, the more likely we are to see films that emphasize the beauty in life rather than the horror. But The Witch is about as beautiful as a truly disturbing horror film gets. It had its general release in 2016, and I expect it to be on my year-end top 10 list.

 

-3-
GOJIRA (1954)

gojira

Original rank: 347 (89%)
Adjusted rank: 270 (92%)

Gojira makes the leap to the borderlands of my top 250. This was a film that actually got more engaging as it progressed, and has appreciated quite a bit in my mind.

 

-2-
EYES WITHOUT A FACE (1960)

eyesface4

Original rank: 389 (88%)
Adjusted rank: 178 (95%)

While Eyes Without a Face, with the benefit of some time to process, leaps effortlessly into my top 250. I was considering compiling my list of the best horror film of each year, only to realize that it would have to be between this and Psycho. That’s not a decision I want to make, but it does speak volumes about how good this movie is to challenge an established favorite.

 

-1-
ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (2013)

onlylovers

Original rank: 150 (95%)
Adjusted rank: 145 (96%)

I knew this was going to be the top spot. I was pretty sure about it even when I watched it on day 4. I was expecting Only Lovers Left Alive to be a challenge to sit through, but it is such a beautiful, engaging, life-affirming film–about vampires. It’s funny, heart-warming, shimmering with music and art. I certainly didn’t expect it to take a place among my  favorite films, but now that it’s there, I don’t see it leaving any time soon. Thank you, Jim Jarmusch.

And thank you everyone who read and commented and voted and helped make this such an unpredictable movie-watching adventure for me.

30 Days of Madness, Day 28 — Prince of Darkness (1987)

by Tom Kapr

Wherein I attempt to watch one new-to-me horror film every day of October till Halloween and write a quick review. I will end my review with a letter grade like we do on our podcast (A, B, C, D, or F–pluses and minuses are for the non-committal!) and with the movie’s rank on my Flickchart.

princedarkness3

“Say goodbye to classical reality, because our logic collapses on the subatomic level into ghosts and shadows.”

Written & directed by John Carpenter.

Starring Donald Pleasence, Victor Wong, Dennis Dun, Alice Cooper for about a minute, and a bunch of white people with bad hair.

In my last review of Christine, I lamented how unfairly forgotten and underrated it was compared to Carpenter’s other work. With Prince of Darkness, I get it.

The slow build toward apocalypse is good and tense (at least when Mustache McGee and Lady Hockey Hair aren’t making out and having inscrutable conversations), helped along by Carpenter’s soundtrack and the acting talents of Pleasence as a priest from a secretive Catholic sect and Victor Wong as an eccentric quantum physicist. But then about halfway through it kind of stalls and just plateaus. The freaky things that start happening are undercut by underreaction from characters almost across the board. It starts to crescendo again, but then there are weird scenes that go nowhere, leading to a pretty trifling “apocalyptic” climax. It doesn’t help that the screenplay’s grasp of theology is tenuous at best, so it all feels rather silly.

As with any Carpenter flick, a lot of the special effects are really well done, but the philosophy behind the homeless zombie horde was a bit insulting. Every homeless person in the vicinity of this parish immediately becomes part of a hive mind, but not the scientists or students, because, what, they have better brains and aren’t susceptible? Not until they get physically infected, anyway. There’s even a conversation about it when the physicist is comparing their behavior to that of the ants, which do have a hive mind, and the other bugs and creepy crawlers that start showing up. It just draws an uncomfortable parallel, as if the homeless are on the same plane as the other vermin. It’s not Carpenter’s most nuanced writing.

And that’s too bad, because the idea of crossing the usual Judeo-Christian religious traditions with quantum physics in an apocalyptic plot is unique, and would be fascinating, if the religious part of it was treated with as much respect as the physics part. If only the entire script was as good as that excellent line from Victor Wong’s character that I used at the beginning of this review.

I also said in my Christine review that this would fill the remaining gap in what I consider the “classic Carpenter” era–1976 through the 80s. That is, the era beginning with Assault on Precinct 13, which put him on the map and allowed him to make Halloween, which catapulted him to being one of the premiere directors in Hollywood working in the horror, sci-fi, and fantasy genres. Through the 80s, he made film after film that cemented him as a cult classic director.

I didn’t start watching R-rated horror and sci-fi until the late 90s. I was in high school, and Escape from L.A. was my introduction to Carpenter, though I didn’t know who he was at the time. I wasn’t even fully aware that it was a sequel. But I developed a kind of affection for that film and for Snake Plissken as a character. I had already been a fan of Kurt Russell. In college, I saw Vampires, and by the time I saw Ghosts of Mars I knew Carpenter’s reputation and had already begun familiarizing myself with The FogThe ThingStarman (which I’d seen part of as a child and was freaked out by it), Big Trouble in Little China (a personal favorite and a film that is more important than it gets credit for), They LiveHalloween, and the original Escape from New York. Unfortunately, Ghosts of Mars was a terrible movie, but I’d become a late-blooming Carpenter fan who figured it was just a case of a master filmmaker losing his edge.

Prince of Darkness isn’t the only film of his from his “classic” era that I’m not sold on. I’m pretty indifferent toward The Fog and found Assault on Precinct 13 too disturbingly violent to be enjoyable. (I just don’t need to see little kids getting gunned down in the street in what is essentially a basic action movie, though an important one. Even with something like City of God, I’d rather not watch that kind of thing.)

Nevertheless, I think Carpenter, even post-Ghosts, remains one the most fascinating and respectable filmmakers in history. Now I need to fill in the pre-Assault and early-90s gaps. And I’m especially interested now to see In the Mouth of Madness. I did not realize until today that it is the third in what Carpenter calls his “Apocalypse Trilogy,” after The Thing and Prince of Darkness. That is a fascinating trilogy of apocalyptic themes–one extra-terrestrial in nature, one mixing Judeo-Christian religious tradition with quantum physics, and the third an exercise in Lovecraftian horror.

Final grade for Prince of Darkness: C

My Flickchart ranking: #1629 (out of 3273, a relative 50/100)

30 Days of Madness, Day 27 — Christine (1983)

by Tom Kapr

Wherein I attempt to watch one new-to-me horror film every day of October till Halloween and write a quick review. I will end my review with a letter grade like we do on our podcast (A, B, C, D, or F–pluses and minuses are for the non-committal!) and with the movie’s rank on my Flickchart.

christine

Directed by John Carpenter. Adapted by Bill Phillips from the novel by Stephen King.

Starring Keith Gordon, John Stockwell, Alexandra Paul; and a triumvirate of old-guy character actor royalty: Robert Prosky, Harry Dean Stanton, and Roberts Blossom. (And Kelly Preston.)

I don’t understand why Christine gets so little love. Carpenter’s direction, music, and special effects are as solid as ever. And any film that starts strong, first introducing the eponymous Plymouth Fury just as she’s coming off the assembly line in 1957 and then jumping to 1978 to establish a really interesting and rare best-friend relationship between a nerd and a jock (played well by Gordon and Stockwell, respectively); effectively keeps the suspense up for an hour and a half; and then ends strong on one of the best “or is it?” endings ever, deserves high praise.

My first thought is that, being released right after Carpenter’s masterpiece The ThingChristine could seem a bit of a let-down. But then I remember that The Thing was an even bigger critical and financial disappointment, whereas Christine doubled its budget, and, you know? Sometimes the world just doesn’t make sense. Where hindsight is concerned, Christine is unfortunately sandwiched between The Thing and Carpenter’s other masterpiece Starman.

Still, Christine deserves more praise and recognition. It’s a solid thriller. And it’s a solid thriller about a murderous car, AND teenagers. By all rights, it should have been terrible.

I’ll delve more into Carpenter’s body of work in my next review (because I’m watching Prince of Darkness next, which will fill in the last gap in my “classic Carpenter” viewing), but my only real final burning question about Christine is: What heterosexual man in his right mind would turn a blind eye to Kelly Preston? I found this to be the most fantastical aspect of the film.

Final grade: A

My Flickchart ranking: #511 (out of 3272,  a relative 84/100)

30 Days of Madness, Day 13 — Xtro (1982)

by Tom Kapr

Wherein I attempt to watch one new-to-me horror film every day of October till Halloween and write a quick review. I will end my review with a letter grade like we do on our podcast (A, B, C, D, or F–pluses and minuses are for the non-committal!) and with the movie’s rank on my Flickchart.

xtro

I took several screencaps. I decided this one was the least likely to give anyone nightmares.

Directed, co-written, and scored by Harry Bromley Davenport, who has maybe the most British name of any horror director.

SOME SPOILERS AHEAD.

I remember reading about this film when I was a teenager, in an encyclopedia of movie monsters, if I remember right. I was both intrigued and horrified, and so has this film remained in my mind, a film I’ve long wanted to see yet felt hesitant about seeing. All of a sudden it was not only in the discussion for my horror viewing this month, but free for the viewing on YouTube.

Davenport must have fancied himself something of a John Carpenter. And if so, he’s done Carpenter proud as far as this film’s atmosphere and visual effects go. The effects are astounding–gruesome and bizarre as imagination will allow, but astounding. Scenes are blocked and edited extremely well, and I have to give credit to Davenport, cinematographer John Metcalfe, and editor Nicolas Gaster. They’ve crafted a hell of an alien horror flick.

Unfortunately Davenport’s Carpenter-esque synth-laden musical score is one of the worst I think that I’ve ever heard (the opening riffs sound like something from a Super Mario Bros. game but less nuanced), and the acting is often sub-par. The effects are right up there with Ridley Scott’s Alien of 1979 and Carpenter’s The Thing, released just months prior in 1982, but the story isn’t. In fact, I’m still not sure what the story is. A man disappears into a strange light and reappears three years later (and by reappears, I mean, crashes to earth, kills some people, impregnates a woman with a sort of ovipositor, and is then moments later born from that same woman as a full grown man–and yes, it is one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen in a horror flick).

The man finds his wife and son, who take him into their house against the better judgment of the boy’s surrogate father, who is a tool, of course, despite the fact that his misgivings are more than well-founded. Son catches dad eating his pet snake’s eggs and runs away. Dad chases him and injects something into him with his mouth. And that’s when things start to get weird.

About 45 minutes into this, which was already one of the stranger movies I’d seen, things took a really bizarre turn and just kept getting weirder. But this is where my spoilers end.

It can be fascinating to trace a film’s lineage, so to speak. Xtro was so clearly inspired by Alien, yet if you look at the design of that creature in the screencap above, you can see almost a prototype of Ripley’s “baby” from 1997′s Alien: Resurrection. I would not be surprised if Jean-Pierre Jeunet was inspired by Xtro when crafting the third sequel to the movie that inspired Xtro.  And so we are all connected in the great circle of cinema.

Final grade: C

My Flickchart ranking: #1894 (out of 3259, a relative 42/100)

A Buried Cinema review — They Live

By Tom Kapr

John Carpenter is one of my favorite writer/directors of science fiction, fantasy, and horror cinema. From 1978 to 1988, he made some of the best, most memorable, and most influential films of decadeHalloween was so influential that it popularized an obscure sub-genre of horror with which we are now are so regrettably familiar, the slasher film. Escape from New York was likewise instrumental in popularizing the dystopian anti-hero. Starman is one of the few films about a benevolent alien coming to earth that isn’t pure kiddie fare, and makes some of cinema’s most profound statements about humanity. Big Trouble in Little China had a firm hand in bringing kung fu into American movies. And then there is The Thing, arguably the greatest and scariest movie about a malevolent alien coming to Earth ever made.

There are two things you’ll see that are constants in John Carpenter’s classic thrillers. The first and more obvious of the two is his practical effects, which put to shame many of today’s films of the genre. The second is his pacing, which lets the tension build up slowly but steadily until all hell breaks loose. They Live is no exception.

 

 

The basic plot is that an alien race has taken over Earth through subliminal messages and live among us disguised as humans. On billboards, in magazines, on T.V., everywhere humans look, there are subliminal messages that say things like “obey,” “marry and procreate,” “watch T.V.,” and “stay asleep.” A drifter named Nada (played by Roddy Piper) gets ahold of an underground human resistance group’s special sunglasses, which allow him to see the aliens and their messages for what they truly are. In one of my favorite moments, he looks at the cash in a man’s hand and sees that what it really says is THIS IS YOUR GOD.

 

 

The alien effects are as basic but as effective as can be, and are trademark John Carpenter. And, in keeping with Carpenter’s patient pacing, we don’t actually see the aliens until about a half-hour into the film. It gives the audience time to become complacent with the world’s normalcy, much like the characters in the film. When Nada is assaulted by a couple of aliens disguised as police officers, he takes them out, then takes the fight to the alien leaders. The final half-hour is almost constant gunfire and very violent, but always moving the plot forward as Nada seeks to stop the signal that is keeping the city’s inhabitants blind to the truth.

(Enjoying the Rant Pad? There’s more! Visit our podcast home page at BuriedCinema.com. Then you can also Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, Friend us on Flickchart, and Subscribe to us on YouTube!)

Scary Movie Alien Countdown #4: “Nobody trusts anybody now… there’s nothing more I can do….”

By Tom Kapr

(Spoilers ahead….)

In the opening scenes of John Carpenter’s The Thing, two men in a helicopter are chasing a husky through the Antarctic wilderness, shooting at it with a rifle and lobbing grenades at it. When I first saw this film, my initial reaction to this introduction was one of disgust toward the men in the helicopter, and some hesitation about the film in general. I have a deep and abiding love for dogs, and something approaching a deep and abiding hatred toward anyone who would commit senseless acts of violence against dogs. In cinematic terms, I tend to hate movies that show dogs meeting gruesome or violent deaths. For example, I hate Tony Scott’s film Revenge, in part because it is a silly film, but mostly because of a graphic close-up of the “hero’s” yellow lab being blown away with a shotgun, a consequence of his affair with the wife of a mobster (the “hero’s” affair, not the dog’s). (On the other hand, I am a sucker for Independence Day and always get a thrill from that ridiculous slow-motion shot of Boomer the golden retriever jumping to safety just in the nick of time as a fireball roars past behind him.)

Doggone aliens, always trying to invade Earth and whatnot....

So, getting back to my inaugural viewing of The Thing, when the husky reached the American scientific research compound and Donald Moffat’s character blew the rifleman’s eye out with his pistol, in effect saving the life of the dog, I felt relief. The dog was safe. (A man was dead, but we can save a discussion of the moral implications of valuing the life of a dog over that of human being, however despicable, for another time.) It is not until twenty minutes later that we learn the truth, in the kennel, as the mysterious husky’s face suddenly splits open, revealing the true nature of the beast beneath, and an entire team of huskies has to suffer the consequences; the truth, that our heroes have quashed what was in fact a last-ditch, desperate attempt by the now-pitiable, eyeless-and-dead rifleman to stop a violent and cunning alien life form from further invasion of our planet.

Kurt Russell and company spend the remainder of the film wondering who is still human and who might be the alien in disguise. The Thing is unquestionably the masterpiece of John Carpenter’s science fiction filmography, a perfect blend of alien terror, body horror, and psychological suspense as the characters try not to turn on each other while knowing that no one can trust anyone, because anyone could be the monster. And this monster is one of the best in history, terrifying in both idea and execution. The creature effects, created and designed by Rob Bottin (with a crew that included the late great Stan Winston), still hold up after nearly three decades, putting to shame most current science fiction films and all their computer-generated imagery. Truly great practical, or in-camera, effects will almost always outlast CGI, which, even when done well, usually has an aura of un-reality about it.

I can sum up the horror of the monster in The Thing in one sentence: Nothing in cinema ever was or ever will be quite like a human head scurrying across the floor on spider legs.

My migraines, personified.

On a final note, the “husky” in the beginning of the film is one of the best performances by a dog in the history of movies. Played by Malamute-Wolf mix Jed (who also starred in The Journey of Natty Gann and White Fang), every movement seems deliberate, every facial expression full of thought and meaning. The human cast is fine, and Kurt Russell is one of the greatest, but performance-wise, Jed steals the show. Rest in peace, Jed (1977-1995).

Next on the countdown: “They’re here already! You’re next! You’re next, you’re next…!”