Hello Geeks and Ghouls, Famous Monster here. Well, it’s finally October and you know what that means? Breast Cancer Awareness 5Ks? Good guess. Pumpkin Spice Lattes? Delicious, but no. Halloween? YES. Horror movies? DOUBLE YES!
Welcome to 31 Days of Horror, where I’ll cover at least two noteworthy horror films a day for the entirety of the month. That’s 31 Days of Horror and 62+ scary movies perfect for a cold, dark October night. Be sure to visit Geeks of Doom every day this month for a double-shot of chills and thrills!
Today’s double-shot features monstrous man-eaters from outer space with John Carpenter‘s 1982 film, The Thing, and Douglas McKeown‘s low-budget alien flick, The Deadly Spawn.
“Twelve men have just discovered something. For 100,000 years it was buried in the snow and ice. Now it has found a place to live. Inside. Where none can see it. Or hear it. Or feel it.”
John Carpenter‘s 1982 film, The Thing, is both a remake of Howard Hawks’ 1951 The Thing from Another World and a re-adaptation of the John W. Campbell Jr. story Who Goes There? on which it was based.
The Thing opens with a Siberian Husky running across the Antarctic tundra, chased by two crazed men in a helicopter firing at it from above (like Sarah Palin). The dog eventually finds shelter at an American research outpost, but the crazies in the helicopter (Norwegians from a nearby outpost) land and continue shooting. In a panic, one of the Norwegians drops a grenade and blows himself (and the helicopter) to smithereens; the other is shot dead by Garry (Donald Moffat), the American outpost captain.
Helicopter pilot MacReady (Kurt Russell) and camp doctor Copper (Richard Dysart) fly off to investigate the Norwegian base and discover some grisly goings-on. As they descend deeper within the charred remains of the outpost, Copper and MacReady find an enormous block of ice from which something has been excavated.
The film’s title refers to its otherworldly antagonist: an extraterrestrial life form that assimilates other organisms and in turn imitates them. That night at the American base, the Husky changes into the Thing, and the researchers learn first-hand that the parasitic organism has the ability to mutate into anything it kills and absorbs.
As the Thing begins to assimilate itself within the group, the men fight a losing (and extremely gory) battle against it, never knowing if one of their own is the Thing in disguise.
That Creepy Scene:
Norris (Charles Hallahan) has apparently suffered a severe heart attack while restraining MacReady. Copper attempts to revive Norris by defibrillation, but as the doctor prepares to perform chest decompressions, Norris’ torso rips open and snaps shut like a giant bear trap, biting off both of Copper’s arms below the elbow.
Cooper dies almost immediately from his wounds as MacReady incinerates the man-mouth monster with his flamethrower. Afterward, MacReady orders Windows (Thomas G. Waites) to tie everyone up for a second blood test… the paranoia sinking in after yet another horrific, deadly encounter with the Thing.
Much like David Cronenberg’s The Fly and Phillip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Carpenter’s The Thing will go down in history as one of the greatest films ever remade. Cold and claustrophobic, The Thing features some of the most impressive special effects created for a film, provided by a team of over 40 technicians, including veteran creature-effects artists Rob Bottin and Stan Winston.
This is Carpenter at the top of his game, with an amazing ensemble of talent at his disposal to make one of those most suspenseful monster movies ever. From the calculated camerawork of Dean Cundey (Jurassic Park), and Ennio Morricone‘s formidable Carpenter-esque score, to a cast that includes pitch-perfect performances by Russell, Wilford Brimley, and Keith David, 1982’s The Thing is without a doubt one of the best horror films ever made and, 30 years later, remains an unsettling, gory benchmark in creature effects.
Douglas McKeown‘s 1983 film, The Deadly Spawn, is a low-budget, Z-Grade monster movie that, in the grand tradition of drive-in creature features, begins when a meteor falls to Earth. A couple of campers go to investigate and are instantly attacked and eaten by a grotesque life form consisting of multiple heads, a dozen deformed limbs, and thousands of teeth.
The crash-landed alien finds refuge in the basement of a nearby house and grows to monstrous proportions, eating those unlucky enough to venture down. Imagine Return of the Jedi‘s Sarlacc Pit and Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors and you’ve got an idea of the basement-dwelling creature in The Deadly Spawn.
Of course, the fate of humanity rests squarely upon the shoulders of a gang of teenagers who try to survive the onslaught of the creature and, yes, its offspring. The Deadly Spawn is far from cinematic classic, but it is a pretty decent (often hilarious) monster movie that attempts to play off the successes of films like Alien and The Thing. It’s the perfect junk food decompressor after the three-course delicacy that is John Carpenter’s The Thing.
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