It’s never too late to catch up with a cinema classic, personally thanks to…Bong Joon Ho?!
As a part of his complete career retrospective courtesy of Film at Lincoln Center, he was asked to pick older flicks that in some way informed his latest, Parasite. Citing The Thing as an influence — the aforementioned classic I finally checked-off — is abstractly brilliant; the titular thing (what a title!) IS a parasite (obviously), and John Carpenter’s movie is partially about — oh, it’s about a great many things, dear friend — the fracturing of a cordoned-off group of people triggered by a foreign threat infiltrating their vividly-specific confined space.
Carpenter writ large is all about what happens when a (usually malevolent) force is unleashed upon an environment, and his camera shoots the spatial shit out of those environments. The Thing‘s use of light and shadow and its depth of field aren’t only glorious to behold; this aesthetic also primes the audience to be on the paranoid lookout for lingering presences lurking obscured in the background.
The holy trinity of monster movies: The Thing, Alien, and David Cronenberg’s The Fly? Am I selling Universal’s OGs short? Is Jaws a monster movie?? I’m sure I’m forgetting roughly 2,843,483,430,423 additional candidates.
Regardless, The Thing‘s creature design might top them all, a bizarro mix of familiar anthropomorphic physical features — hands! eyes! claws! dogs! — with the gruesomely otherworldly that our measly human eyes and brains simply cannot visually and cognitively process. We’re repulsed, yet we refuse to peel our pupils away — to figure out what the fuck we’re witnessing? Or to behold / marvel at / bask in the disgusting glory of the gory practical craftsmanship on display? You decide — and the chiaroscuro (all the more delectable on 35mm) invites us in with stark luminescence, while concealing the unseen terror in terrifying darkness.