For Your Renting Pleasure

thing_oldThis 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.

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

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-

The Thing (1982)

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+


  • Zac

    The Thing is a fucking amazing movie. I too saw it a year or so ago, so I am coming from the same perspective as you, and I think it blows most modern horror entries out of the water. I think your insistence that we are constantly made aware of when the creature is around is a bit of an overstatement, we see it once the guys figure out someone is infected and it has to fight to survive. The fact that we see it as often as we do is due to the fact that we are supposed to be aware that it can be everywhere.
    I found the film incredibly suspenseful and the paranoia to be pitch perfect. I know we will have to agree to disagree, but I can’t believe you didn’t love this. I think the creature work is stellar as well.
    As for From Dusk till Dawn, the final vampire act is silly and ridiculous and by far the worst part of the movie. The movie is worth watching for Clooney and the amazing script by Tarantino for the film’s first two thirds. The final vampire act ruins an incredible movie, even if it is fun, and the first two thirds stands as some of Tarantino’s very best work.
    I hated the third act the first time I saw this, it has grown on me, but damn if it didn’t waste a brilliant set up.

  • Lauren

    Oh no, it’s Contagion all over again! I dunno, I just wasn’t feeling it.

    [spoilers]

    1 – I don’t care if it is evil, they were shooting at a dog! And then it killed all the other dogs! Well, not really, but they all died eventually. And why did it kill the other dogs? Just cuz they growled at it? Because they had a different fur pattern that he would prefer to the one he was wearing? I mean, for someone who wants to be a stealth predator, he sure makes a big commotion.
    I think that is one of my main problems. Maybe if I watched it again I would get a better grasp of it, but I didn’t feel like they were describing the creature all that well. At first I thought it was like the protagonist in the game Prototype where he would basically absorb a person, taking on their appearance and skills. Therefore, he could only look like one person at once. Or was it an infection type thing? So it could be in more than one body at once? Or could it absorb many people / creatures at once and become a super alien? I have no idea… All I know is that doctor knew an awful lot with his old computer and lack of knowledge prior to this about the alien!

    2 – did he use the same blade to cut everyone!? The horror! I know the AIDS scare hadn’t come about yet, but still! You want to share an unsterilized blade with possible aliens?

    3 – I thought the acting was pretty sketchy on many occasions.

    4 – Effects were still over the top. I was laughing at them more than thinking, “stop the alien from escaping!” If the Alien franchise can do it, then so can this. And that head / spider thing was stupid.

    5 – Why the heck did the kitchen / rollerskating guy go after the body he saw being dragged down the adjacent hall? That is a rookie mistake!

    6 – Flamethrowers are awesome. There, a positive.

    7 – I was a fan of the ending. Second positive.

    8 – IMO in this instance not seeing it would have made the possibility of it being anywhere stronger. People are stupid, we make mistakes. To a paranoid person, simply accidentally calling someone by the wrong name could get their head blown off. And my mom has called me by my dog’s name and my sister’s name plenty of times, so I know that happens often.

  • Lauren

    And you remember Planet Terror right? That phallic gun is somehow less ridiculous to me than a girl with an amputated leg being replaced by a gun. Yet these films have the same feel. That one guy had a gun in his crotch that looked like man junk for crying out loud! So yeah, it was crazy, but I hardly think it ruins anything, though it does shift gears from what the movie did pre-vamps. Plus the holy water grenades were hilarious, and that shotgun cross was quick thinking. And that light trick brought back memories of Fright Night. If anything, watching Salma Hayek dance on the table was far worse than anything that later.