Tag Archives: The Thing

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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Where ‘Helix’ went right

If only the show was as cool as this publicity photo.

If only the show was as cool as this publicity photo.

Anyone remember the first season of Lost? The terror, the uncertainty, the promise of an amazing unfolding of events, history and imagination. Lost had that “it” factor.

The minds behind Lost then spent the better part of the next season destroying all such promise, adding a bunch of characters that mainly ended up dead, going down tangents the resulted in little but frustration for viewers, ignoring everything it had previously done to build its fan base.

What’s amazing about Helix is that it managed to achieve that frustration level in just one season, 13 episodes to the 40 or so it took Lost.

But rather than write about all the issues the show has – meandering and occasionally confusing story lines, poor acting, worse writing, etc. – I want to talk about what Helix got right: The setting.

The set-up is this: A CDC infectious disease team, led by Dr. Alan Farragut (played to the cheesy hilt by Billy Campbell), is called in to deal with a potential epidemic. Potential because, although the secret disease has popped up, at this point it is contained at a secret arctic research facility owned by the Ilaria Corporation. The hitch: At this point the lone infected “vector” is Farragut’s estranged brother, and the estrangement is because of a love triangle involving Dr. Julia Walker (Kyra Zagorsky, who easily gives the best acting performance on the show), who is part of Farragut’s CDC team and ex-wife.

The arctic base is terrific. Big open corridors. Small, dimly lit labs. Everything white, gray, sparse, clean, antiseptic. The overall effect is haunting and claustrophobic, especially when compared with the cold, harsh, dark weather and open, snowy terrain that surrounds the lab. The facility itself has its own presence and character, reminiscent of the arctic base in John Carpenter’s The Thing or even the isolated hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

Unfortunately, even that gets screwed by the minds behind Helix. Occasional and largely unnecessary trips to an Inuit village and a visit to an abandoned facility accomplish the one thing that should never happen on Helix: Taking the cast any further from the creepy facility than its immediate exterior. And, of course, those trips mean little. The big reveal from the Inuit village is marginally interesting … until the character that the reveal means most to offs himself. I still don’t recall why Farragut and Julia go to the abandoned facility. Must have been really vital to the show.

To sum up: There’s no reason to watch Helix. You’re just encouraging them. And SyFy can fill the space with Sliders re-runs. At least that’s a show is both fun and honest about its lack of smarts.

 

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