6: John Carpenter's The Thing Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

I love watching horror movies. I try to watch as many as I possibly can during October. Unfortunately, I have been so busy this year with my job and other things that I have yet to really watch any, besides Hereditary, which I loved. Horror is another film genre that has hurdles to get over in being rewatchable. Not only do you have subjective tastes to deal with, once you know when all the scares are coming, that might lessen the experience. That means, for me, you would need to make sure everything around the scares work, like writing, effects, atmosphere, lighting, and what have you. I decided to choose a horror movie that I love and could watch hundreds of times without getting bored with it, The Thing, the 1982 remake by John Carpenter.

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The story follows a group of scientists working at an isolated base in Antarctica. One day, they see a helicopter of scientists from another base chasing a sled dog and trying to kill it. After dealing with the incident, they take in the sled dog. Later that night, they find out something odd about the dog. Unfortunately for them, they realize that the dog turns out to be a shape-shifting alien that ends up causing chaos at the base. Things turn from bad to worse when they understand that the alien has made it impossible for anyone to leave the base, and has hidden himself among the remaining people there. It then becomes a tense game of survival as the scientists try to find a way to get out of there, and to stop the alien from leaving Antarctica.

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It’s always interesting to read about the history of this film. It might be a classic now, but it was not back in the day, as it underperformed at the box office, along with many other films when E.T. came out. You can’t understate that E.T. killed a lot of good movies in its release area. Anyway, after being popular on TV and rental stores, it’s now a certified classic. Well, why? I mean, opinions change over time, but when I first saw this film for the first time a decade or so ago, I found it to be incredible. It’s easily one of the scariest movies I have seen in my life. First off, being isolated in one of the coldest places on earth is already horrifying. No real consistent way to contact the real world from that location is unsettling, but throw in an alien that can shapeshift, and the paranoia among the characters all add up to the overall experience. A lot of the film’s scares and tone are definitely molded by the film’s composer Ennio Morricone. While he is very well known for his work in films like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West, and Dario Argento’s Animal Trilogy, he also composed the music for The Hateful Eight, which can be argued to be a sort-of western version of The Thing. Anyway, Ennio’s music brings this minimalist unnerving atmosphere that gels well with the dark rooms, shadows, and the ever-present sense of someone among the crew not being who they say they are. It then becomes a ticking time bomb of slowly making sure that if anyone ends up being infected by the alien, they are taken care of immediately. What also works about this movie is that the scientists, while having their moments of rage-filled paranoia and stubborn pride, are smart. Sure, logic isn’t always the most important thing in a film when compared to the emotion and writing, but the fact that the characters don’t simply kill one another in mere seconds of finding out about the possibility of being infected is a nice change of pace. It’s always infuriating when the writing, tone, and atmosphere of a horror film is undone by characters doing something stupid that takes you out of the experience. The Thing is a slow burn-style horror film that easily makes the scares that happen in the film ten times more effective.

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The cast for this film is fantastic. Of course, you have John Carpenter mainstay Kurt Russell, but also Keith David, Wilford Brimley, T.K. Carter, David Clennon, Richard Dysart, Charles Hallahan, Peter Maloney, Richard Masur, Donald Moffat, Joel Polis, and Thomas Waites. Each actor is memorable in his own respective way. I think it also helps that everyone here looks normal. There is no chiseled cut 20 year-old-looking man. It makes it more believable when you have a bunch of people who look like they would actually work at this science outpost. However, one of the best characters in the movie is the alien itself. The special effects, done by Rob Bottin with the help of Stan Winston, the alien is nightmarish in its look, as it takes the incomplete form of a mass of skin, heads, arms, and blood. Anytime the alien is found out, it becomes a horrific scene of the alien morphing its form to try and take out the threat or get away. Some have said that the effects are too good, but I think that’s a positive. Nothing is worse than bad CGI effects or bad practical effects. This is meant to be a ghoulish monstrous alien lifeform. It should look utterly disgusting and very creature-like.

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I have no real critical issue with this version of The Thing. In terms of my horror criteria, it’s pretty much a perfect horror film. There is a reason the many comic adaptations and the terrible prequel film failed, and why more people prefer and love John Carpenter’s cinematic masterpiece. Could some of the characters have had more to them than what they got? Sure, but in the end, I was still invested from beginning to end with wanting every man there to survive and not get absorbed or killed by one of cinema’s most terrifying creatures. If for some reason you don’t own this movie, Shout! Factory has recently released a beautiful new enhanced version for blu-ray, and I can’t stop recommending this movie enough. I know it’s past Halloween, but that’s not going to stop me from saying, play it again!

5: Upgrade Review


(If you like what you see, you can go to to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

What does Pacific Rim: Uprising, Peter Rabbit, Tomb Raider, Proud Mary, The Titan, Action Point, Gringo, The Outsider, Mute, and A Futile and Stupid Gesture have in common? These are just a handful of films I have seen this year, where I felt like we were supposed to get one kind of film, but either through bad marketing, or simply bad filmmaking, we didn’t get them. Some came closer than others to giving us what we wanted, but they all failed at certain levels. I decided to talk about a film that not only gives us what we want, but also more. The film in question is Upgrade, directed by Leigh Whannell.

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The story revolves around a stay-at-home mechanic named Grey Trace, played by Logan Marshall-Green. He does custom car requests while his wife, Asha, played by Melanie Vallejo, works for a high-tech company known as Cobolt. After taking a refurbished car to a client named Eron Keen, they get ambushed by a group of hitmen that leave Grey a quadriplegic and Asha dead. After moping around as a quadriplegic, Grey gets an offer from his last client, Eron Keen, played by Harrrison Gilbertson, to stick a highly advanced AI chip named STEM into the back of Grey’s neck that will help him walk again. After getting used to walking, Grey begins to hear the chip talking to him, and is voiced by Simon Maiden. He offers Grey the opportunity to find these hitmen and take them down, hoping to solve the mystery of who sent them, and why they killed his wife.

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When you first see the trailer, it looks like it’s going to be a hyper-violent sci-fi romp. Well, thankfully, while they do show most of the action scenes for probably marketing reasons, it’s so much fun! You know how The Revenant was shot to make you follow the action up close to make you feel like you were there? Upgrade does that in a similar way. Each time Grey lets STEM take over, the camera turns robotic and wonky, but not in a messy or amateur-hour sort of way. STEM essentially controls Grey like a puppet, so his movements match that whenever the action scenes decide to kick in. It makes for some of the best action that’s not from a superhero movie in 2018. It’s surprisingly gory, but that’s part of the fun. It’s brutal, in your face, and hugely entertaining to watch. Definitely don’t watch this if you get turned off by hyper-violence, but keep chugging along if you do! To make this not just a pulp violent schlockfest, the story that tackles the commentary about how far will we let technology go, and the overreliance of said technology, does lead to a really captivating mystery as to who sent the hitmen after Grey and his wife. I wasn’t really expecting that, because I was ready to succumb to the gory ride, but was glad to see there was more under the hood. It turns what you would find in a direct-to-video bargain bin from the 80s and 90s, into a rather captivating sci-fi thriller. It’s a fairly focused story that keeps you invested in Grey and his mission, and while it does sort of turn into a Black Mirror episode by the end, I loved it. Logan Marshall-Green does a great job at portraying a slightly jaded, but grounded individual, and brings a lot of great deliveries to the film’s nice splash of dark comedy. I mean, how would you act for the first time you let a highly advanced AI chip control your body without your control, and you kept seeing yourself do all of these amazing action film set-piece movements?

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With all that said, I do have one major problem with the film, and it’s the fact that out of 90 or so minutes, it takes up to 20 minutes to get to the stuff people want. Granted, the stuff they do show beforehand gets you invested into its story, but you wish that they either cut that part down a bit, or made the movie longer. While the action and story was great, I was always itching for one more action sequence. Just something more, but knowing how this is a partly Blumhouse-produced film, the budget wasn’t all that big, and they could only do so many action scenes. It just would have been nice, since the film repeats its structure after Grey gets STEM, and I personally felt like they could have added another action scene, due to how fun all of the action is. It makes you wonder what they could do with a sequel or spiritual successor to this film, if they set it up more in terms of John Wick Part 2’s pacing.

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Even despite all that, I found Upgrade to be one of 2018’s best surprises. It tackles its grimy sci-fi look perfectly, the action is some of 2018’s best, and the body-horror cybernetics that many of the characters have are effective. I wish it had a bit more action, and we got to the blood and grunge faster, but if you, for some reason, haven’t been able to see this film yet, definitely go buy it right now. I mean, if you are into this type of film. It’s a gory, bloody, pulpy, darkly comedic, and action-heavy ride that definitely wants me to yell “Play it Again, Cam!”