By Trylon volunteer Ben Schmidt
The Thing begins as dashing Air Force men in the Arctic help scientists at a research facility investigate a UFO crash. The spacecraft they have come to see is encased in ice. A scene where the men spread out to mark the saucer’s circumference is handled with restraint; more is suggested than shown, an effective technique that’s employed for the rest of the film. But there’s more. A giant man is also there, frozen, underfoot. So, as is standard operating procedure when a humanoid creature is spotted frozen beneath arctic ice, our heroes carve it out and haul it back to their isolated base.
We know The Thing in The Thing from Another World is going to break free and come after our heroes. We just do. I say this not for fact of spoiler alert, but as reason to just settle in and enjoy the ride until it does. As mentioned before, a great deal of restraint is employed as our friend thaws and begins to run amok. At first, we’re only given glimpses of The Thing. It is big. Dogs do not like it. Soon after initial encounters, its approach is often marked only by hastening clicks of a Geiger counter.
This leaves much of the horror up to our imaginations, which bodes well for any movie that wants to get us to jump a few times. I’ll admit I did once, during The Thing’s most underplayed entrances.
It does become odd though, that despite this tension and some truly fine scenes including an impressive full immolation of The Thing, most everyone’s mood throughout the film remains very…light. Jovial almost. At one point our leading man is willingly bound, hands behind back, and forced to do shots by his lady-friend. Aside from the humongous alien man locked in the greenhouse who’s killing men and dogs and hanging them upside-down in order to drain their blood in an attempt to create a clone army of himself, yes, this would seem a very good time for light bondage and heavy drinking.
This tonal WTF makes for part of the fun. The Thing from Another World is keenly shot, and I was charmed by how the actors constantly ran over one another’s lines. This direction creates a strangely modern effect for a movie of this time period, one that honestly reminded me of the performances/dialogue in Citizen Kane.
How fitting. Like Kane, The Thing from Another World is defined and amplified by its limitations. And like Kane, over half a century later, it most definitely will be best enjoyed on the big screen.
As an Explorer, Ben hopes to one day visit the old oak tree at the end of Petaluma. Because it’s his dream, he can touch it if he wants.
The Thing From Another World screens at, and as a benefit for, the Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery in Minneapolis. The show starts at dusk. Advance tickets can be purchased here.