This week I apparently decided to go with slightly older creature features (also reading Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, which both stays in the same vain and explains why I have only gotten two movies in). Both films wear their age in similar ways; however, From Dusk Till Dawn rises above this in other ways by creating a fun B-Film, while The Thing fails to do the same.
With the novel, Salem’s Lot, and comic, I Vampire #1, as part of my weeks reading material, adding From Dusk Till Dawn definitely makes it a strong showing for vamps this week. From Dusk Till Dawn may sit at the bottom of the list of these three in personal preference, but it is still an incredibly fun film thanks to the ridiculous nature and one amazing performance by Quentin Tarantino. The softness with which he speaks as he continues to look unimposing makes his creepiness all the more tangible, and even after we witness his murderous freedom early on, his true nature still seems so unexpected. Long story short, I cannot applaud enough for this performance considering I often forget he has some acting cred on his IMDB page.
The most noticeable problem for me here is the creature design, which is definitely pretty ridiculous looking. Granted it is also incredibly aged in my 2011 viewing of a 1996 film, and very possible that the over-the-top look was what they were going for. I can get past the makeup effects to an extent because that is quite a challenge (I know, I tried to recreate Buffy’s ubervamp in my stage makeup class), but I cannot forgive the inconsistency to it. Some creatures look like pig vampires, some look like dinosaur vampires, some go for the somewhat normal bat look, and it becomes a little much after a while, in a laughable sort of way. Don’t even get me started on the vampire creature that is on all fours… But with this being the only complaint, some great performances, characters, writing, fantastic weapons, and one ridiculously amazing scene in which Juliette Lewis contemplates staking a vamp still makes this a must see film for the genre lover.
Final grade: B-
As a film that has gotten rave reviews (sitting at an 8.2 overall rating on IMDB), I am struggling to see just why The Thing is considered so great. But like From Dusk Till Dawn, it could simply be that I am watching it with the current generation idea of horror films.
Here is why this film doesn’t work for me. Back in 1982 when this film first came out, creature design and the mechanical lengths to which they might have had to go to create these alien creatures were probably pretty commendable (ok, they’d still be pretty commendable), but personally I think how they chose to constantly wave the alien in the viewers face was one of this film’s major flaws. The thing about fear is that it is scariest when you can’t figure out for sure why you are scared. It is just a feeling you have; the shadows are too dark and deep, a noise is heard that stops you dead in terror, something expected sits just out of reach as you constantly wait for it to assault you… These are the things that are not completely taken advantage of.
Instead we are constantly made aware of the presence of this creature, and the paranoia of this situation is more frustrating than felt in an honest way. These people should destroy each other from the inside for the alien to beat them with their own faults, and in all honesty maybe we should have never seen it alive and kicking in its truer form. But instead of paranoia and suspense, we get: “Look at what I can make! Rawr!”
Side note – I really hope that The Thing prequel (also titled The Thing), which is set to release this year takes these things into consideration, and does a better job on the psychological angle.
Final grade: D+