Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Movie Challenge Review - The Thing From Another World

Before I get started...
Monsters Vs. Madmen! So far we have two votes and a shit ton of investment spam and Japanese porn. And its a tie..So go vote for your favorite vampire! Severen vs Marlow! Go On! Dooo EEEEET!!

And now back to your regularly scheduled post.

So last week I declared it Black and White week for our first movie challenge. Stac threw The Thing From Another World in my direction to review. The last time I saw that movie I believe I was a freshmen in high school. And I didn't remember much about it other than I enjoyed it so I was pretty happy with revisiting the film.

Now, a little word about black and white horror films. I really don't think they get enough credit out there in blogger land. And I'm sure a lot of it has to do with both the ages of bloggers out there as well as a whole aesthetic in old black and white films that sometimes can't translate to other generations. Way back in the day, you couldn't fall back on CGI or massive Technicolor gore to get your point across so a lot of these older films relied on atmosphere, acting, and set up. In other words, there was a whole lot of less is more going on. The acting also is a bigger and broader. This is because film was still considered a new media and actors were still trained for the stage. I love old black and white horror films because of those reasons. Unfortunately they can also be viewed as campy, dated, and dull as shit. And while there are some shitty black and whites out there that are all three, I don't think all black and whites should be written off. Many of those films are creepy as Hell. The best way to view an old B&W is to simply put yourself into the shoes of the viewer back in the day and try to watch the film with unjaded eyes. And that's how I watched, The Thing From Another World. And that's also why I did enjoy it. So to all you young whipper snappers out there who read this blog; if you have not given old black and white horror a chance, I highly recommend you do. Stac and I will be happy to give you some recommendations if you want! I just don't think its a genre that should be skipped over.
And I'm off my soap box.

The Thing from Another World is the original 1951 film that John Carpenter's The Thing was a remake of. Its basically the same plot of some scientists and army folk are up in the Antarctica and encounter an alien force that wants to destroy them and more than likely the human race as well. The differences of course, are in the details. Where as Carpenter's remake was an awesome action gore fest, the original was more of a tense chamber drama. That's where the big difference is. Does it make it a bad film? Oh Hells no! Just VERY different.

Like I said, the movie is very much a chamber drama. Instead of seeing wacky gore effects, spaceships crashing, and an alien killing everything it sees, we get descriptions of it from our characters. The film has a few exterior shots in the beginning but overall it takes place in small cramped places on the military base, giving it a sense of claustrophobia. We don't really see the alien a whole lot other than hints here at there like a dead dog hidden in a crate, an arm left behind, noises, broken windows..etc etc. Its a really fantastic way to keep the tension up. And I will admit, the alien was a bit on the lame side when you see it so the less I saw it, the more into the film I was. Its not horrible rubber suit territory but it always looked better when you got glimpses or if it was lit from behind. Keep in mind that is my modern day aesthetic talking.

The whole film feels a lot like a play. In fact I think it would have made an AWESOME stage play. The dialog is sharp and smart and is really the star of the film. Its fast paced in that wonderful late 40's/early 5o's film noir/girl Friday films that were popular back in the day. There are also a lot of great jokes in there that slip by so fast in the rapid fire pace. Keep your ears open and listen to the lines. Its the best part of the movie.

I found the movie had more in common with Aliens than I did with its own remake. While you watch it, you can see a lot of things James Cameron borrowed. The use of the Geiger counter tracking how close the alien was, the sharp humor and camaraderie amongst the military folk, the feeling of being trapped inside while something outside wants to get to you. A lot of that you see in The Thing From Another World and its really surprising. I'm almost tempted to watch this and Aliens back to back to see how many parallels there are.

But my favorite part of the film?
Nikki, played by Margaret Sheriden.
She is our heroine and that bitch was AWESOME. For a woman in a horror/sci-fi film in the 50's, Nikki had a ton of guts and brains. Never once did she shriek and recoil in terror. She not only saved a lot of our military folks butts by being the smart collected one, I am sure given the chance she'd go after that alien herself using just a nail file and a hair pin. MOXY. Nikki has it!

So overall? Fantastic classic black and white film. While I tend to like my old movies a bit more visually atmospheric like Night of the Living Dead, Psycho, and Carnival of Souls, this one still won me over with its dialog and theater presentation. I now remember why I enjoyed it so much when I first saw it.
Oh and for Stac, The Ghost Host from The Haunted Mansion in Disneyland is in this movie. Its hard NOT to spot that voice. He plays one of the douchey scientists.

So there you go!
Your Turn Stac! ;D


Anonymous said...

Sounds interesting. I may have to look it up sometime. :)

Stac said...

Chris, you've never seen The Thing From Another World?! You just TOTALLY lost your Geek badge. Return it to the Trekkie at the door on your way out! :)

Cins: Isn't it an awesome movie? I love it; grew up watching it. I shall watch Carnival of Souls tomorrow!