A classic that I never tire of, John Carpenter’s The Thing is one of the best creature features ever made. The movie is part alien sci-fi and part closed room mystery, and it delivers in both suspense and horror. Kurt Russell stars as R.J. MacReady, a kind of renegade scientist assigned to a base in the Antarctic. The scientists discover an alien spacecraft, but the alien has already moved on. It soon becomes clear that the alien can shapeshift into anything or anyone, and suddenly the humanity of everyone on the team becomes suspect. The group is slowly whittled away and R.J. has to use all his skills to fight off an enemy that is constantly morphing.
Here are just a few of the things to love about this movie:
- Kurt Russell as R.J. MacReady. He just brings his own special style to anything that he does, and this movie is no exception. Somehow he manages to be comical while still saving the day — what’s not to love?
- Antarctica as the setting. For someone who does not love to be cold, I seem to have some kind of weird fascination with things that happen in cold places. It’s a great setting, though, since the freezing temperatures outside the base and the blinding blizzard make for daunting foes on their own. Add an alien, face-switching monster to the mix, and there suddenly are a lot of problems to handle.
- The “who is it” setup of the film makes for constant guessing and sets the stage for the typical human craziness that always ensues when trust becomes even more of an issue than normal. It’s hard to know who is human, and we’re kept guessing. Additionally, the plot becomes even more complicated in many instances due to the “precautions” that the humans take in order to protect themselves.
- When the alien monster’s morphing goes bad. I would be hard pressed to name a more grossly morphed creature, simply because of the many different ways in which this alien’s change can go wrong. The iterations of alien grossness always involve some partially human/canine aspects, blobs of melted looking skin, limbs that stretch and morph into things that are unrecognizable, and lots of blood and gore. Once the “unmorphed” aspect of the alien is exposed, things get even scarier.
- The ending. This movie has a great ending that will keep you guessing and talking for years after your first viewing.
If you haven’t yet watched Carpenter’s The Thing you should treat yourself!
My current first choice of Halloween favorites in the werewolf genre has been long reigning in this position. Ginger Snaps came out in 2000, has since become quite a cult favorite, and while the special effects do reflect the skills of the time, it still just doesn’t feel dated to me when I watch it. This movie is actually not only my favorite werewolf movie, but also one of my favorite horror movies in general. I will happily watch this movie at pretty much any time. There are many things that I think Ginger Snaps does well, and here is what makes it work for me:
- The opening pics. Ginger and Brigitte’s hobby is taking staged pictures of themselves showing them as victims of gruesome deaths. I will admit that just this opening to the film completely hooked me the first time I saw it!
- The high school and early puberty setting. Brigitte (Emily Perkins) is so supremely awkward that it is at times heart wrenching. Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) is a little less awkward, but also skates on the outside of the social circles. The sisters have a special bond that works to help them survive the minefield of high school drama. The movie also works in the stressful aspect of the changes that we — in this case girls in particular — go through when growing up, because the main reason that Ginger is attacked by the werewolf is that she recently started her period. So, Ginger ends up going through some pretty major changes, and Brigitte is left a bit behind and trying to cope. The mirroring of this change aspect (puberty and werewolf) actually serves to magnify the situation that both girls are in — the one who is moving into a different phase of life, and the one who is still the same.
- Sam (Chris Lemche). This is so totally the guy that I would have been after in high school. He’s out of high school, hanging around the practice field in his van, smoking a lot and growing things in his greenhouse. The fact that Sam digs Brigitte — rather than Ginger — is also a nice plus. When Brigitte drags him into the situation, he rises to the challenge.
- The girls’ home life. Mimi Rogers plays their mother and she is completely wacky in a kind of 50s homemaker-mom way. The contrast between her and what is going on with the girls is exquisite, especially during the uncomfortable dinner table scenes. Additionally, their home appears to have been in some kind of in-between remodeling state for awhile, which somehow kind of lends both quirkiness and reality.
- The mid-transformation walk. When Ginger starts changing she turns into the hot, mysterious girl almost overnight. Her entrance into the school is perfect.
- The way that Brigitte and Sam keep trying to save Ginger. These two go above and beyond and they are working with such a limited set of tools. They have to research werewolves, come up with a cure, and then try to figure out how to administer it, all while dealing with Ginger’s increasingly unpredictable behavior and mood swings.
- The ending. This movie has one of the best ending scenes out there. Everything is on the line at this point, and it gets real really quick. The final scene will stick with you.
If you haven’t watched this movie yet, you definitely should give it a try!
Other werewolf related posts you might enjoy: Book vs. TV: Hemlock Grove and Wolfsangel: Dark Viking Fantasy.