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And now for some thing inhuman

by The Concordian October 18, 2011
And now for some thing inhuman
Candid photographs, old home videos, voice recordings: most people have experienced the eerie double-self British playwright Samuel Beckett describes when he says, “I say me, knowing all the while that it’s not me.”
Under the guise of terrorism, religious indoctrination, or cultural assimilation, personal identity is an issue that pervades much of modern culture, from serious news coverage to editorial cartoons.
It’s also one which Tony (XidiouX), webmaster of fansite Outpost #31, sees reflected in the symbolism of a gape-mouthed, many-tentacled alien undergoing its third movie incarnation in Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.’s October release The Thing.
Based off John W. Campbell’s science-fiction novella Who Goes There? and modeled as a prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 release of The Thing, Heijningen’s film tells the tale of a group of Norwegian and American scientists who travel to Antarctica to study a frozen alien specimen, realizing all too late that it is still alive.
Thawing from the ice, the ambiguously-shaped monster devours crew members with its many-toothed mouth—then mimics human genes and appearance, and lives among the staff, waiting for another chance to strike and spread again.
Paranoia, fear and suspicion mount in the research cabins, as determining which of the remaining members are truly human transgresses the bounds of mere appearances.
“Everyone, at some point in their lives, has had this experience,” Tony wrote from the U.K. “They look at their hands and they seem entirely alien.”
“Everyone also realizes that the biological processes upon which they depend will betray them,” he continued. “The separation between the mental and the physical, and the doom of the mental due to the physical, is writ large in The Thing.”
“The really fundamental underlying question never explicitly stated in Carpenter’s movie,” Tony remarked, “is this: How would I know if I was the Thing?”
It’s a question addressed in Heijningen’s new movie by Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s character Dr. Kate Lloyd, the scientist who leads the investigation at the cabin to single out and eliminate infected researchers. Ironically, it is human nature itself which introduces rivalry, suspicion and tragedy.
Although Carpenter’s 1982 film made fitting use of the terror and psychological madness of Campbell’s original novella, it received backlash as a gore-happy remake of the 1951 Hawks and Nyby camp classic The Thing from Another World.
“I take every failure hard,” Carpenter once said in interview, “and the one I took hardest was The Thing. It was hated even by science-fiction fans. They thought I had betrayed some kind of trust…”
Tony explained that when Carpenter’s movie came out, critics didn’t get it. They “called it a ‘video nasty,’” Tony explained. “But the truth is, if you join together all the effect sequences, they would last about 10 minutes total. But time is a great healer. There has since been a complete critical re-evaluation of Carpenter’s movie, and many consider it the best sci-fi horror movie of all time.”
Heijningen works closely with the keen sense of psychological terror present in Campbell’s work, as well as with the fantastic balance between special effects and suspense that was Carpenter’s trademark, to create a movie that is terrifying, nerve-wracking and intelligent.
“Carpenter’s movie perfectly encapsulated the fear of the ‘other,’ and the fear of one’s own body,” says Tony, “and it was not deliberately allegorical, but at the time it was closely associated with the nascent, terrible medical condition we now know as AIDS.”
“The parallels were striking: you got ‘infected’ in the dark, the scenario of Carpenter’s movie was all-male,” he continued, “and you could be proven as one of ‘them’ with a blood test.”
Like Carpenter’s movie in his time, Heijningen’s also speaks to the great psychological terrors of the past decade: terrorism, privacy invasion, and loss of human identity amid technological advancement.
“Any work of art that makes a serious attempt to tackle the human condition must have a component of what we might call horror,” Tony says, “and as long as there is a reason to fear the ‘other’, The Thing will be socially relevant and applicable.” 

For more information about The Thing, see www.outpost31.com. For showtimes and theatres, go to www.cinemamontreal.com.

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