Monday, June 21, 2010

The Thing Week: My Childhood Encounter

I want to kick off the week with my personal experience with The Thing and why it is the scariest movie I ever saw and how it shaped me into the horror fan that I was. As many of you know and are aware about, I have told this story many times before so it might seem like old hat but as I watched The Thing again I thought really hard about that day and I’m going to tell you in detail about my experience with Carpenter’s classic… The Thing

September 1998
I was 8-years-old when I first saw The Thing and you have understand, before I even thought about renting R-rated horror movies I was only exposed to Goosebumps but in literature and on Fox Kids. The worst horror movie I saw at that time was Night of the Living Dead and to my 8-year-old brain it wasn’t that scary but it had its moments. Well, I was pretty high on my horse and I thought I could watch any horror movie so I went to the library with my dad and grabbed The Thing and The Blob ’88 and my dad warned me that I would be sorry that I did that. This was even before I got into Stephen King and his books.

When I got back to my grandma’s house I was quick to put the VHS tape into the player and I sat down on the floor and began to watch. At the time, it was rather boring and slow-paced and I didn’t like it. I sat there yawning, waiting for something to happen and that’s when the dog’s head split open. My eyes widened and I watched that dog mutilate all the other dogs in the kennel as it roared right at the camera. I screamed. I turned off the TV and I sat there, alone, silent, on the floor… so scared that I didn’t even want to move. I didn’t even want to pull the VHS out of the tape deck. I felt shivers run down my spine. I sat there for about 30 or 40 minutes, trying to process what I just witnessed.

Later that night, I was so petrified from seeing that mass of dog kill the rest of the dogs that I couldn’t sleep. That roar, that hideous grotesque face, the fact that it was so dark, the tentacles and the carnage. I was so scared that I had to have my dad sleep with me, specifically on the edge of the bed just in case the Thing ever attacked me. I was selfish back then. I remember for that entire week I was scared of the storage rooms at my grandma’s condo because of the fear that The Thing influenced on me. Looking down hallways meant me hallucinating the Dog Thing at the end of it screaming in pain and fear. I’d never get that image out of my head.

However, what I did for me as a horror fan was help me in my gradual incline to watching more frightening material. I loved getting scared and I knew that there wasn’t any movie or book that could have been scarier as that film so I decided to take it down a notch and work my way up to The Thing Standard. I started with The X-Files, worked my way through B-grade horror movies, then to Stephen King books, past the slashers and finally at the age of 12 I watched The Thing in it’s entirety. I reached my goal and I broke the Thing Standard. I conquered my fear of that movie and I conquered my fear of the dark, my fear of dogs (which was a combo of The Thing and The X-Files), my fear of gore and my fear of monsters. I realized that after that film, I could watch anything.

The Thing helped me in other areas as well when I was a kid. To channel out my fear I began to draw pictures of the Dog Thing so I worked on my art skills; I even drew pictures of the famous opening credits where ‘The Thing’ burned into the frame. I would reenact my own take on the rest of the film after the kennel scene with my friend. I would be MacReady and my friends would be the rest of the team and we had to battle the dog monster before it took over the world. To me it wasn’t just a movie, it was an inspiration and it was one of the first movies that I pointed to and said, “I want to make movies just like that.” The only other two movies that I did that to were Jurassic Park and Titanic. That’s what The Thing means to me.


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