Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Thing Week: The Beauty of Puppets

“His THING depends on its special effects, which are among the most elaborate, nauseating, and horrifying sights yet achieved by Hollywood's new generation of visual magicians. There are times when we seem to be sticking our heads right down into the bloody, stinking maw of the unknown, as the Thing transforms itself into creatures with the body parts of dogs, men, lobsters, and spiders, all wrapped up in gooey intestines. THE THING is a great barf-bag movie… “

- Roger Ebert

One of the biggest differences between the original and the remake of Who Goes There is special effects. It’s undisputable to state that what made the remake so good was the special effects done by Rob Bottin and Stan Winston and it’s something that The Thing is famous for having. However, most people never took the time to actually observe the puppetry and the special effect but I can’t blame them. But there is a science behind the special effects and the puppetry, a method to the madness if you will that made it possible to gross the audience out. It’s one of the greatest examples of modern practical effects.

As stated by Stan Winston, the mass of dog imitation that the group burns seems like a mass of meat for lack of a better word but the humps and the globs of skin are actually influenced by the human body structure. In essence, they built the dog/alien puppet around the human body so that it could be easier for the puppeteer to be in. After the group burns the dog Thing they observe the dead mutilated body of it and if you really stand back and look at it… you can’t deny that it’s one of the most beautiful yet haunting pieces of film art.

As the film progress, the effects and the gore become more and more exposed. The dog scene was the first big effect in the movie and you didn’t really see much of the whole thing because most of it was in shadows. The next big effect would be the Norris Thing exploding and that was in full light but it was photographed in parts and you still didn’t see the entire thing. When you finally do see the full Thing (the Blair Thing) it’s in full exposure but still in a soft light. Carpenter gradually builds up the tension and the ‘hype’ before he goes all out. Funny, Carpenter thought that the effects would look too corny so he was very hesitant in showing the puppetry just like how Hawks didn’t think people would take to Arness being the Thing so he shot him in dim nourish lighting.

Even if you are one of those horror fans that loves all the CGI effects you cannot argue that the puppetry and the claymaition in this film is simply mesmerizing. You can’t take your eyes off of it and especially for that time it was revolutionary. One of the other clever things that Carpenter does is that he doesn’t waste time getting into the horror of the situation. Most films have a slow burn with a gradual incline in horror and suspense. Carpenter creates a slow burn film then spanks you over the head with dog mutilation.

“It set a standard for special effects.”
- Charles Hallahan, Actor (Norris)

“The imaging and the special effects on the creature work hold up to this day even in the light of the fact that there are computer graphics and things now. And I think part of the reason for that is that you just can’t beat wild imagination… you just can’t pierce through the magic.”
- Rob Bottin, Special Effects Make-Up

“... and it’s all practical. You couldn’t even find computers to find porn back then.”
- Mike & Ike


Joe Monster said...

Great article, man. While it's not the only great part of this movie, the makeup effects certainly are the thing the viewer leaves the film remembering for a while. I could sit and stare at the creature effects in this film all day. I love how Bottin (in this movie and The Howling) shows the human shapes twisting, and bubbling, and stretching in such a realistic manner. Brilliant stuff.

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