The Thing (1982) review

 

John Carpenter crafts a compelling alien horror story in The Thing, a staple for modern body horror and alien films, the film stars Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Peter Maloney, T.K. Carter, Keith David as a group of scientists in Antarctica on a research mission, they discover and come across a shapeshifting alien life form.

The plot of The Thing is some great classic horror, an unknown entity in The Thing, which is never properly identified or classified, a set of interesting characters with no where to run to and some tense, action, John Carpenter directs the film very effectively and builds great suspense throughout the film. And while the film is an out and out horror, it also has some pretty good performances, especially from Kurt Russell, as the group of scientists panic and try to keep calm heads in their situation. The thing alien itself is pretty terrifying, simply as you don’t know what it is or what it can do, we’re in the dark just like the characters and equally horrified as we find out what it can do, its’ abilities are creative and an abomination in the way it can morph anything into a weird monster.

And for being a film from 1982, the film still holds up in terms of its’ effects, with Carpenter making use of the technology at the time to make certain scenes, which still look gory as hell and unsettling, that feeling of chaos as the scientists attempt to kill the thing is also effectively captured and with it being able to shape shift. The shape shifting element is a big part of the story and adds that extra element of human conflict, people turn on each other suspecting the thing might be one of them and that intrigue is and tension is maintained well through the film, seeing people at their lowest, fighting among themselves in a seemingly impossible to escape situation is good drama but add in a killer alien that can be anyone to that and you have a pretty compelling angle there.

Personally I would have loved some backstory to the Thing but I also understand that the mystery around it serves the plot well and adds to the intrigue of the thing as knowing less about it makes it a bit more scary. Also the setting of Antarctica is a good touch, with the environment inhospitable and as harsh and cold as The Thing itself is, the scientists have nowhere else to go and if they run they’ll freeze to death but if they stay the Thing may get them and while they can get off site with a helicopter, getting away is a lot easier said than done.

The Thing is some great modern horror, well crafted and well shot with a great story to it, it’s a contained story that is victim to some predictability but it stands as a staple of modern body horror and as a great alien horror film.

8/10

. Imaginative creature design

. Great set of characters

. Has some pretty gripping scenes

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The Shining review

Stanley Kubrick directs The Shining, based on a Stephen King novel, centred on the Torrance family who stay in a hotel for a few days as father Jack gets influenced by an evil force to commit violent acts, while his son sees strange visions, the film stars Jack Nicholson, Shelly Duvall, Danny Lloyd.

When you say iconic modern horror, what comes to mind? Jaws, AlienThe ThingHalloweenThShining – a film that’s gone down remarkably well over time and is hugely influential and memorable for good reason, in part because of it being based on a Stephen King novel, a master at crafting creative and unsettling horror stories which can vary wildly in tone and subject, from killer clowns, to cars to spirits. Or you know just a normal guy going slowly in sane, as in The Shining, a really well put together film memorable because of some great performances, namely from Jack Nicholson of course in one of his career defining rols as Jack, Nicholson fully commits to the role and really conveys the idea of a man slowly changing over the course of the story.

Meanwhile Shelley Duvall is also great as Wendy, Jacks wife who becomes increasingly unsettled and uncomfortable around Jack, Nicholson and Duvall really pull of a believable relationship gone sour and you can buy that they want to try and make things work but can’t quite seem to due to the circumstances. The Shining works on a few levels with some great cinematography, in showing the area surrounding the hotel setting as well as the hotel itself, looking grand in scope with its empty halls and huge lobby, it’s very much a big part of the story and central to things that happen. The supernatural scares work because they’re subtly done and more psychological than overt and in your face, there’s a malevolent spirit involved but it’s not throwing things around Paranormal Activity style or attacking anyone because it can and the idea of an evil presence just being around and influencing people to change, in itself is pretty terrifying. And while there is subtlety, you do also get some pretty in your face horror motifs, visions of ghostly looking children and pools of blood, disturbing and very creepy to say the least, along with Jack later in the film going full blown crazy in the scenes that The Shining has become famous for.

The Shining is a pretty good horror film, it’s iconic and famous in modern horror for its themes, great performance from Jack Nicholson and use of effective psychological horror, brought to the forefront by Jacks behaviour, the end admittedly isn’t the best (and there’s a whole other discussion on Stephen King stories when it comes to his endings) but that aside, everything else is pretty good.

7.5/10

. Great performance from Jack Nicholson

. Fantastic cinematography

. Simple set up but effectively unsettling in parts

November film preview

As the leaves are falling all around us and the year winds down, we’re really getting into pre-awards season buzz and we’ll be seeing a few contenders for various awards over the coming weeks, here’s a list of some prominent films to look out for in November (US release dates by default).

Spectre – released on the 6th of November (US)

Director – Sam Mendes

It’s aready out in the UK and Europe but Craigs fourth outing is out next week in the US, as Bond chases down an old enemy, trying to avoid his past and is forced to confront a secretive organization called SPECTRE. The film stars sDaniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Dave Bautista.

 

The Outskirts – released on the 6th of November

Director – Peter Hutchings

High school comedy based around two best friends who try to start a social revolution to unite outcasts in their schools social setting and take revenge on the schools bitchy popular girl. The film stars Victoria Justice, Eden Sher, Ashley Rickards, Avan Jogia, Peyton List.

 

By The Sea – released on the 13th of November

Director – Angelina Jolie

Brad and Angie re-unite in this romantic drama set in France in the mid 70s’ as an American couple travel together but seem to grow apart, though they bond after settling down in one town. The film stars Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Melanie Laurent.

 

The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2 – released on the 20th of November

Director – Franics Lawrence

Katniss Everdeen makes her final call to arms to the people of Panem to fight against the capitol directly and try and take down President Snow in this climactic and conclusive film in The Hunger Games series, the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been as people are fighting for their freedom and fighting against all the capitals tricks and traps. The film stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrellson, Julianne Moore, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Sam Claflin, Jeffrey Wright, Jena Malone, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland.

 

The Night Before – released on the 20th of November

Director – Jonathan Levine

Comedy centred around three friends who honour a tradition of meeting every christmas eve and going out after Ethans parents passed away on a christmas eve a few years prior, though as Ethan’s becoming a father and will have to change his lifestyle, the friends opt to go on one last mad night out. The film stars Joseph Gordon Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie.

 

Creed – released on the 25th of November

Director – Ryan Coogler

Rocky Spin-off set several years after the Rocky films as Apollo Creeds son, Adonis Johnson Creed (Michael B Jordan) strives to be something more, having never really knowing his father. He comes across Rocky and gets trained by him in the hope of making Adonis a boxer. The film stars Michael B Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Tony Bellew.

 

The Good Dinosaur – released on the 25th of November

Director – Peter Sohn

Set on an alternate Earth on which Dinosaurs never went extinct, we follow Arlo, a young Apatosaurus who gets swept away from his home, meeting Arlo, a human cave child and the two travel together as Arlo tries to get back back home. The film stars Raymond Ochoa, Sam Elliot, Anna Paquin, A.J. Buckley, Steve Zahn, Jeffrey Wright.

A Nightmare on Elm street review

Wes Craven directs nightmarish horror film A Nightmare on Elm Street, as teenagers start being killed in their sleep by a mysterious figure, teen Nancy tries to get to the bottom of the problem and solve it, aware that she and her friends are vulnerable whenever they fall asleep, the film stars Heather Langenkramp, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund, Amanda Wyss.

Horr takes an interesting and inventive turn in a story that just feels pretty unique with its terrifying set up and with the late Wes Cravens imagination and creativity, this isn’t a film about a haunting or a slasher flick but it has elements of both with an engaging plot that takes some interesting twists and turns and some great pacing, being just 91 minutes long but highly acclaimed and pretty well put together. The cast is solid with some good performances from its young actors, Heather Langenkramp is great as Nancy Thompson, a character who’s forced to confront Freddie Krueger and tries to do something about the situation an we also get a good show and debut from a young Johnny Depp as Glen Lantz, enthusiastic and really into his role.

It’s sort of amazing how compact and tight Nightmare on Elm Street manages to be in presenting a now very iconic horror character in Freddie Krueger, terrifying in his appearance and abilities and barely explained, something that just adds to the intrigue about him and the terror surrounding him, modern horror films can get so bogged down in explaining the why and what when it comes to supernatural forces that the reveals often end up being dull and anti-climactic. But the great thing about the film is that it doesn’t explain much of anything at first and we find out more as things go on, just like the characters do, making it feel like more of a developing, progressing story that you want to get to the bottom of. And of course the effects, Craven doesn’t hold back in some creatively put together death scenes which made use of the technology at the time, scenes that to date are still pretty gruesome and very gory, with a killer that can inhabit your dreams and essentially do anything in the dream world, you have a lot of room for creativity and that definitely shows in some scenes.

The plot is also strong because it maintains its intrigue and your engagement as it goes on, building to a fever pitch later on and maintaining that tension quite well, the trope of the seemingly unbeatable antagonist/force is played out well as you have no idea how Krueger will be stopped/if he will be at all and it’s great to watch the characters go about and try to do something about him anyway as they try to survive. A Nightmare on Elm Street is a horror classic and refreshingly creative idea done well, with some memorable scenes and of course a very memorable villain in Krueger, a staple of Cravens career and of modern horror in general.

8/10

. Creative set up which is well executed, plot stays engaging

. Freddie Krueger has some imaginative character design/abilities

. Good use of music in scenes to build tension

. Doesn’t hold back on the gore which works to make for some gruesome scenes

Pans Labyrinth review

Guillermo Del Toro crafts a vivid fantastical world in Pans Labyrinth, set in Spain in WWII and following the story of Ofelia, living in hardship with her oppressive cruel officer father and escaping to a world of fantasy at various points in the story, the film stars Ivana Baquero, Sergi Lopez, Doug Jones.

The story of Pans Labyrinth is an effective and well told one, well directed by Guillermo Del Toro, the master of the modern creature feature, he crafts the story like a modern fairytale as the oppressed and isolated Ofelia escapes to a fantasy world inside her house. WWII being the background setting of the story also adds to that gritty, dark feeling that underlines it, you really feel sorry for Ofelia and want her to escape her situation but know things won’t be that easy, her escape into the fantasy world is a driving force in the story is visually great to watch. It’s really not a childrens film though, if that’s what you’re thinking going into it and Del Toro directs a rather gritty and sometimes violent film which is more of a gothic fairytale in the more traditional, non Disney sense.

Del Toro again works his magic with his creative creature design, from the inventive looking fairies, to the iconic Pale Man and the world of the Labyrinth itself, which looks quite gothic and hostile, the fantasy world that Ofelia goes to looks great and interesting that each interaction she has with it is distinct from the last, feeling different. Doug Jones is also a notable part of the film, a great live action creature performer as he plays the Faun and the Pale man, both of whom look great on screen with effective costume design.

The film takes a very different turn in relation to other fantasy films, not just allowing Ofelia to escape into her fantasy for most of the film and live there, she’s between the real and fantasy world and can’t quite escape her gritty reality which is a big tragic, while her cruel father Vidal is played well by Sergi Lopez.

A weakness of the film may be that the real world context simply isn’t as fleshed out or interesting as the fantasy one and it’s a shame that the plot has to keep us chained to said, dull real world, seeing more of the fantasy would have been an interesting and also the characters in the film aren’t that fleshed out outside of the main characters.

Pans Labyrinth is a well told story, visually poignant and creatively designed, not necessarily deep but it’s a modern fairytale and a great fantasy story, brought to life by its’ interesting roster of creatures and some great performances.

7.5/10

. Imaginative creature design, great costumes

. Interesting story brought to life by the plot

. Characters outside of the main cast are a bit one dimensional but the main ones are interesting