Zombies and vampires are already frightening, but when one doesn’t know the difference between a human being and an alien, as in John Carpenter’s remake of 1951 sci-fi movie The Thing, things really turn ugly.
The Thing (1982)
(USA 1982, director: John Carpenter)
A US research station in the Antarctica discovers an alien life force that can imitate everything it touches, making the people question their loyalty and sanity when it tries to take over their human forms.
The influence of Carpenter’s movie on modern sci-fi television and movies can’t be denied, as the sense of paranoia is just as prominent today as it was back then. However, it hasn’t aged well with the pacing being very slow, the soundtrack getting quite repetitive after some time with the same old synth beats, and the characters being very difficult to like and therefore care for, something 30 Days of Night also suffers from. One learns very little about them and even if Kurt Russel plays the tough guy convincingly, there isn’t much charisma compared to Sigourney Weaver’s portrayal of Ellen Ripley in the Alien series.
This doesn’t mean that the movie is lacking in suspense, but maybe one is so used to parasites infesting people who then become suspicious of each other that the tense moments lose some of their impact. Sure, there’s still the guessing game about who can suddenly turn into a dangerous creature, but it’s simply not that effective anymore to justify the two hours runtime. A little bit more action and memorable set-pieces would have made it more entertaining than a bunch of characters looking all gloomy even before they fully comprehend their dire situation.
What holds up well today though are the gory special effects and the disgustingly nightmarish forms the alien force can take when fusing together human and animal DNA with its own. It’s here where the movie can actually be terrifying and nauseating like very few “classic” horror movies, and that’s quite impressive considering how people today are used to more drastic scenes of violence and CGI-created terror. So despite obvious problems in outdated story and character development, the movie can still be effective in that department at least.
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