Seeing ‘The Thing’ through my 10-year-old’s eyes

In "The Thing," as in life, it's what's on the inside that counts.

In “The Thing,” as in life, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

Every once in a while, usually when my wife has other plans, we have a special event at my house: Dad’s Slightly Inappropriate Movie Night. My son, daughter and I have watched movies such as Aliens and Knights of Badassdom. It’s one of the rare times we’ll watch a scary, R-rated film, so it’s a treat and we get to have some fun.

Recently, when my wife and daughter were out, my 10-year-old son and I sat down to watch The Thing. Here are his responses to the John Carpenter horror classic.

* “Why is he a cowboy?” – When my son asked this, I thought it was pretty perceptive. The Thing follows some standard, old-school, cowboy movie tropes: A group of men in an isolated area, fighting a superior force, no possibility of help or escape. Kurt Russell embodies the old loner, loose cannon, shot-from-the-hip cowboy that movie fans have seen a million times, something my son likely didn’t pick up on despite the hat.

* “I like the music.” Before the film started, I did a bit of education. I explained who Carpenter was, what his place in horror history is. I also talked about Ennio Morricone, how he was famous for his movie scores, particularly for Westerns. Morricone does a nice job of not overdoing it, allowing the quiet, bleak setting to play its part while augmenting the tension, and my son – who has shown he’s particularly sensitive to music in movies in the past – responded to that.

* “You don’t know who the monster is.” – The movie really scared him, as his request to sleep on the floor in our room that night showed. The idea that you never knew if the person you were talking to was the person you were talking to or a monster ready to consume you and take over shook him. He’d never really been exposed to something like that. Big, scary monsters coming at you as you run or fight, that he understands. But a monster you can’t even be sure is there, that was new. Later, when my wife and daughter returned, I asked him how we could be sure it was them and not aliens? He mulled it over, almost as if he was ready to take blood samples … just to make sure.

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