Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Charlie and the Thing

With Thing Week still fresh in my head, I think now is a good time to briefly discuss an indie film that reminded me a lot like The Thing. A few months ago I was fortunate to re-watch a film that I watched all the time as a kid, and that film is called Proteus. This film is about a group of “pirates” that end up washing aboard an abandoned oilrig after their boat blows up only to discover that the rig was a cover to hide a secret genetically modified creature that was being developed. The creature is somehow set loose, before they even arrive, but what makes this creature unique is that it possesses the ability to replicate whatever it eats but it can only replicate living tissue/things. There are several reasons why I think this film bares a heavy resemblance to The Thing and it wouldn’t be surprising if the director and writer were inspired by Carpenter’s film.

The biggest resemblance is the ‘life cycle’ of the creature, who’s name is Charlie. No affiliation with The Thing’s characters. The first time we ever see Charlie he looks like a blob of mushy, greasy, veiny skin and organs with no distinct shape or facial features. Maybe it’s just me but it certainly reminds me of that dog kennel scene where the thing ingests the dogs and forms a goopy, greasy, slimy pile of dog flesh and teeth. Sure, Charlie’s “body” isn’t as complex as the thing but the resemblance in basic physical formation is quite uncanny. It’s also important to say that Proteus’ special effects are all practical as well, and for an indie movie they were pretty damn good and unintentionally faithful to Carpenter’s movie.

When Charlie moves past his mushy larval-like stage he begins eating and replicating those he crosses. Much like the Thing, the replicant is so convincing that the survivors aren’t sure who’s human or who’s a creature. So now you are factoring the paranoia element into everything and the element of trust is now broken; it’s become an “every man for himself” situation. But as Charlie begins to consume and replicate other people, his appearance changes and again we see that it resembles the thing again. In one scene, one of the survivors sees a mysterious woman running away form him so he decides to follow her to see who she is because her face is always hidden. When she turns around and looks at the camera we notice that she is Charlie because her face is swollen and monstrous looking. I couldn’t help but think of that time in The Thing when the team was chasing the Bennings Thing and when it finally revealed it’s massively, deformed claw hand.

At the end, when we finally get to see Charlie’s “final form,” he’s a towering monster of twisted skin and tentacles with a shark-like head. Yes, our genetically modified monster was actually a shark before anything happened. As it punches through the top of the oilrig howling into the night, I couldn’t help but think of the ending where the Thing punched through the floorboards to reveal itself to MacReady. Each mutation bears a pointed head but the only difference is that one resembles more of a monster and the other a shark. How do you think that our survivors of the oilrig disaster try to kill it? With fire. Lots and lots of fire. They end up blowing up half the rig to send Charlie to his water grave but because I can’t remember the last few minutes of Proteus, I don’t know if there was a cliffhanger ending like The Thing.

I’m in no way bashing or trashing the film and if you read my other article on Proteus, you’ll know that I have respect for it. I think it’s obvious that Carpenter and his Thing (sounds dirty) heavily inspired the makers of the movie and I believe they wanted to homage it. Proteus is a good indie flick and it shows you just how far into the obscure wonders of horror The Thing has situated itself. Proteus has great effects, a slight mood and some pretty creepy moments but more importantly… it was probably the maker’s way of letting Carpenter know just how much The Thing impacted their lives.

As a side note: It seems that Charlie it more phallic than Carpenter's Thing, ironically. However, you could compare the scene where the Blair Thing shoves his fingers right through Gerry's cheeks to pull him through the snow to the scene in Proteus where Charlie rams his tentacle down his creator's throat.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Thing Week: Concluding Thoughts

With Thing Week at its close, I would like to take this time to tell everybody (again) that it is the 29th Anniversary of The Thing’s theatrical release. Next year, funnily enough, will the 30th anniversary as well as the apocalyptic 2012. I will hopefully have something big planned but for now I decided to close off this week with my interpretation of the ending to The Thing. Yes, I’m closing off a week of The Thing to talk about the end of The Thing. Those of you interested, I did write up a “legacy” article last year. The eternal question for this film is, who is the thing? At the end, MacReady blows up the entire compound and falls to ground in utter exhaust. Rising up from the rubble we find Childs walking up to MacReady and the two men, with itchy trigger fingers, wait to see who will turn into a monster and the picture closes. Was Childs the thing or was it MacReady? Many people have said that MacReady is the thing because they feel like it would be a great twist to make our antihero become an alien. Others take the more heroic route and say that Childs is the thing because it wouldn’t be right to have MacReady turned into an alien. The comic books and possibly sequels are in favor of making MacReady the only human survivor. Excluding all the fan-fiction, comic books and fan-made sequels here is what I think of the ending.

I’ll skip right to the point. I think that none of the men were infected and the tragedy is that MacReady thinks Childs is the thing and Childs thinks MacReady is the thing, so the two will ultimately kill themselves. I believe that MacReady killed the thing when he bombed the outpost. I’ll stick with fans and say that since MacReady is our hero, it wouldn’t be right for him to be an alien… because if he’s the spitting image of the modern American hero, he must survive. As for Childs, I consider him an antihero as well but with more brawn and brass. For the most part, whenever the thing takes form of a human, you can tell by the way it moves and walks that it feels uncomfortable as if it’s not accustom to human anatomy. When the thing imitated BLANK, you can tell by the way it lifted up the flamethrower that it was in pain. When it infected Palmer, it was tied down but kept really quiet. When the thing imitates another person, it has the capability of talking but chooses not to talk; instead it puts on a paranoid face. When Childs walks up to MacReady, he does it with ease, caution and fluidity. He engages in conversation with him and doesn’t look like he’s uncomfortable in his own skin. Many may argue that maybe it took a while for the thing to adapt to human anatomy but I don’t buy that because given how fast it takes to imitate, it should adapt by (at the most) the second person.

So there’s my take on the ending. The thing was ultimately destroyed and the two men were not infected but that won’t satisfy their paranoia. That’s not to say that maybe some remnants of the thing are still in the ice or maybe escaped from the compound before they blew it up (the blood that spilled on the floor). Now that the 2nd Thing Week has passes us, I think it’s a great time to do what I always do and provide some great Thing links from other bloggers. And with that, I want to thank those who contributed, not just with suggestions and written pieces but also to those who contributed their thoughts on my articles. I greatly appreciate it.

Horror Film Quotes with the World “Pants” Inserted: The Thing Edition from Evil on Two Legs

Kinder Flix: John Carpenter’s The Thing – Fully Sweded from Kindertrauma

Awesome Movie Poster Friday – The John Carpenter Edition from Final Girl

Monday Morricone Madness: The Thing (John Carpenter, 1982) from Days are Numbers - A great article on the music of The Thing. And if you like the music, you can download it at Sideshow Cinema.


Halloween Top 13: The Remake #1: The Thing (1982) from The Lightning Bug’s Lair

The Thing (1982) from Zombies Don’t Run

John Carpenter’s The Thing: I still Say Kurt Russell’s Finest Performance Was in OverBoard from The Horror Digest

The Thing from Lost Highway – make sure you look for the ‘things I learned’ portion.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Thing Week: The Initial Response

Well folks, today, 29 years ago, John Carpenter released The Thing upon the world. And everybody… hated it. Yes, it’s one of the cases where its release was overshadowed by something tamer, namely E.T. So, I decided to pull out some quotes from top film critics who didn’t like the film on its initial release.

“But it seems clear that Carpenter made his choice early on to concentrate on the special effects and the technology and to allow the story and people to become secondary -- there is not need to see this version unless you are interested in what the Thing might look like while starting from anonymous greasy organs extruding giant crab legs and transmuting itself into a dog.”

- Roger Ebert

Side note: Ebert enjoyed the movie for the most part but I think he wanted more character and less “barf bag” special effects.

“John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ is a foolish, depressing, overproduced movie that mixes horror with science fiction to make something that is fun as neither one thing or the other. Sometimes it looks as if it aspired to be the quintessential moron movie of the 80’s – a virtually storyless feature composed of lots of laboratory-concocted special effects, with the actors used merely as props to be hacked, slashed, disemboweled and decapitated, finally to be eaten and then regurgitated as – guess what? – more laboratory-concocted special effects."

- Vincent Canby of The New York Times (Published June 25, 1982)

“Designer Rob Bottin’s work is novel and unforgettable, but since it exists in a near vacuum emotionally, it becomes too domineering dramatically and something of an exercise in abstract art. The weird lad down the block, the one who is always fooling around with his chemistry set, will love The Thing. The rest of the neighborhood is likely to find it more of a squeamer than a creamer."

- Richard Schickel of Time Magazine (Published June 28, 1982)

“If you want blood, go to the slaughterhouse. All in all, it’s a terrific commercial for J&B Scotch.”

- Christian Nyby (Director of The Thing From Another World)

Now, I’d be lying if I said that they don’t bring up some great points about The Thing. Yes, it’s emotionless and very cold because it was Carpenter’s commentary on the Reagan administration and the moral defeat we had with Vietnam. The biggest problem that most critics had with it was that Carpenter seemed to have substituted great character developing for grossing the movie out, effectively overshadowing the entire movie with special effects. But does that mean it’s a bad movie? No. Really, in perspective, it means that Carpenter was ahead of his time. Then again, who would know that the movies following the mid 90’s would kill actor performances, characters, plot and “originality” to make way for blood, boobs and hot teen models. Comparing Carpenter’s The Thing to gorefests today is easy because Carpenter’s movie, in comparison, has thicker characters and more development. Even as a stand along film, The Thing has great character involvement. He mixed the mood and characters that were seen in horror films of the 70’s with gore and special effects of the early 80’s to make a hybrid the still works today. Talk to anybody who loves the thing and they’ll say that it’s timeless.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Thing Week: The Comic Series

If you’re a horror fan, and more importantly a Thing fanatic, you’ll know that there was a comic book series that was based off of Carpenter’s Thing as well as Campbell’s novella. I haven’t looked too much into these but from what I read, some of the comics follow directly after the events of the Carpenter movie while others seem to take place in another time and place without our hero MacReady. I was unfortunate in having never read the comics and my attempt at locating them was futile. However, the comics are divided into 3 series: The Thing From Another World, The Thing From Another World: Climate of Fear and The Thing from Another World: Eternal Vows and The Thing From Another World: Questionable Research).

I want to briefly show the wonderful cover art that accompanies the comic books.

The Thing From Another World

Climate of Fear

Eternal Vows

Questionable Research

I was lucky to run into somebody via Twitter who has read some of the comics and was nice enough to give me a little review for them. So, here is Zach Dumas’ review of the partial Thing From Another World comic series:

“Dark Horse made a series of comic based on The Thing, with the first comic (of four) released in December of 1993. The series, called The Thing From Another World: Eternal Vows, uses the name of the original yet takes place after the story of the John Carpenter remake. The first comic sets the story and location up. It takes place in Stewart Island in New Zealand, and mainly is based around the Wallace Harbour. However, the first comic in the series unfortunately doesn’t feel like The Thing. We have one attack from a “thing,” which thankfully is gruesome just like Carpenter’s remake. The creature definitely looks like the remake’s creature. The writer, David de Vries, for some reason chose to include a sex scene in both 1 and 2 (which is all I currently have, as they’re hard to find), which just doesn’t suit the story and feel of The Thing.

Thankfully, after the mediocre 1st comic, the 2nd one gets the “Thing” feeling down. We see MacReady a few pages into the comic, getting out of his chopper, and carrying a bag full of weapons. After a disturbing sex scene with two of the “things” (who are in human form, but have tentacles around them), we get back to MacReady testing the blood from a dead man in an alley. Only we found out that he’s human and the police think he killed the man. It’s only after finally convincing them otherwise that they test the blood on MacReady’s suspect. They test his blood as the suspect freaks out and yells. The blood jumps, just like in the movie, and the suspect instantly turns into a gruesome and ugly Thing abomination. MacReady burns him with his flamethrower and kills the Thing, and that’s where the 2nd comic ends.

Unfortunately that’s all I have till I find the other two, but from what I’ve been able to read it seems faithful to the movie. Though it does have some flaws. There’s a sex scene in both comics, which was unnecessary and served no purpose (no nudity, mind you). The art also varies. Some pages looks great, while others look bad. Some of the faces are drawn poorly such as how MacReady looks at the end of the 2nd comic. What I did enjoy is that this takes place after The Thing, and hopefully the other 2 comics explain more about how MacReady got out of Antarctica alive and what happened to his friend. While the first was pretty bad, the second comic had me looking forward to finding out how it all ends. So far, I’d give the first comic a 5 or 6 out of 10 as it just didn’t feel like The Thing. The second comic is a good, solid 8/10 as we see MacReady and we get to see some “thing” fighting and the famous blood test experiment again."

Follow Zach at his Twitter.

It's also important to note that Carpenter himself said that if he were to do a sequel to The Thing, it would be based on the Dark Horse comic books since he was such a fan of them.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Thing Week: A Survivor's Tale

Since today I have a lot going on, I think it's an appropriate time to share a survivor's story of The Thing. No, it's not a fake story of someone who survived the events in the movie, though that does sound pretty cool to write. For today, Todd Spence (the co-creater of the webseries Dealership) has written up a great piece on his experience with The Thing as well as its impact on him. I'd like to thank him for taking the time in writing this up and I hope you enjoy it.

If you're reading this, I know you've seen The Thing and are possibly as big of a fan as myself so I won't waste your time raving about Kurt Russell's easily top 5 performances or how Keith David makes one of the best bad guys/best friends or how the anonymous ending is possibly one of the best...scratch that, easily one of the best endings in film history. I could possibly go as far as saying The Thing's final moments are better than, say, The Godfather. Maybe because The Thing never ruined itself with sequels or prequels or maybe because it's not as heralded of a film so we keep it closer to the vest like a savant child, too brilliant to be with the other kids. Or maybe you're reading this because you're a raving T.K. Carter fan. Who isn't?

John Carpenter's The Thing is one of those films that I remember as far back...as I can remember. I honestly don't recall the first time watching it, much like the other million and five horror films I perused while growing up in Farmington, Missouri as a wee lad, hell bent on watching as many horror movies, as not only my brain, but my friends' brains could handle. And after all of that viewing, I've come to the conclusion that The Thing is truly the cadillac of horror movies. In fact, The Thing goes beyond horror. It is literature. And that's not just me trying to being poetic. It is literature, based on a short story by John W. Campbell, Jr., spookily and appropriately titled "Who Goes There?", relying less on scares and moreso on atmosphere, one of my favorite things about horror movies as a whole.

I actually acquired "Who Goes There?" randomly, which is a book compilation
of Campbell's short stories from the Brand Bookshop in Glendale, CA for only $11.95. Perusing the aisles of anthology fiction, I spotted "Who Goes There?" on the faded green binder and remembered that The Thing was based on that particular title. Without a doubt, I had to buy it and read where the Carpenter story originated. Turns out the Campbell story only lent half of the ingredients which we see in the film today. The rest was Carpenter's genius in story telling, character, direction, cold atmospheres and of course Rob Bottin's iconic creations. The alien, although shapeshifted in the Campbell version, also reveals its true physical form which I think makes the Carpenter's version that much more terrifying, that we don't really know what the alien being looks like flying that spaceship in the opening minute of the film.

I'm not the first person to point any of this out I'm sure. This film has been out for over twenty years of course. So the biggest point I personally would like to make and present to you, a point that I have never heard presented before as to why The Thing is a masterwork in filmmaking - There is no romantic plot at all in The Thing. Think about it. There is no romanticism. No longing looks at a photographed loved one waiting at home as some random unnecessary motivation. How many films can you point out that solely focus' on the story at hand, and doesn't waste our time with romantic sideplots, relying completely on the story's situation? Okay, okay, Alien and maaaaybe Exorcist did that. But Alien and Exorcist sullied itself with terrible sequels! Another point for The Thing.

John Carpenter's The Thing will continue to be one of those films that I will show to any friend that has never seen it, whether they like horror films or not. Because The Thing is simply a great movie. Thank you to Campbell and thank you to Carpenter for showing us the best because the best, these days, are really hard to come by.

Todd Spence
Dealership co-creator

If you haven't checked out, check out the season one finale for more Thingy greatness.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Thing Week: YouTube Things

Over the past year, since last Thing Week, I’ve seen a lot of videos on YouTube that pertain to The Thing. Most of them are short and don’t really have any entertainment value to them but once in a while there was a tribute or fan made video that stood out from all the rest. I decided to pull together all the ones that I thought were great and showcase them here. But before I get into that, I feel that I should bring up the stark difference between The Thing From Another World and John Carpenter’s The Thing. Why should I bring this up? Well, it’s because while I was trolling around YouTube I watched both of these movies’ trailers and I was reminded just how different they are but how they both deal with the same themes. So, without further ado… I present to you two different trailers from two different time periods about one thing.

Here are a chosen few YouTube videos that I found that did a great job honored Carpenter’s The Thing.

Here’s a pretty good fan made “redux” trailer for Carpenter’s Thing.

I’ll let the description speak for itself: "First video clip made for Zombie Zombie, the electrifying French duo of Etienne Jaumet and Cosmic Neman. Directed by Simon Gesrel and Xavier Ehretsmann thanks to their favourite toys... the GI Joes ! The video is an hommage to the director AND soundtrack composer John Carpenter, especially one of his masterpieces : THE THING."

This was a new one that was sent to me by the creators of this web series. The synopsis reads, "When a terrible illness descends on the town, the boys of Barkley Auto will do anything to protect themselves from the virus and each other!" I enjoyed it. They really did a great job referencing The Thing from the sick dog in the beginning to the 80’s sounding score that plays throughout. Look for my personal favorite scene that has the manager chugging down a bottle of whiskey while giving everybody the middle finger.

Along the lines of the G.I. Joe reenactment, here is the full, uncut version of the Lego reenactment of The Thing. The uploader of this video isn’t the original artist but the original artist does have a YouTube account here. It was originally broken up into two parts until it was just combined into one.

I don’t remember how I found this but there was apparently a fan made sequel to The Thing and in these two videos, the special effects guy tells us how he made these amazingly well thought of and well designed replications of the Thing creatures. If you want to see the fan made film, you can check out his YouTube channel here.

And if all this wasn’t enough, here is Mr. John Carpenter himself regaling his experience while making The Thing as well as his impression on the original Thing From Another World.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Thing Week: Fan Made Posters

It’s undeniable that all horror fans (at least I think so) know what The Thing’s poster looks like, even if you’re not a huge horror fan and have never watched it, it’s impossible to say that you’ve never seen it. For today, I decided showcase some of the awesome posters from The Thing… but they’re not your typical run-of-the-mill “official” poster, no, these are some amazing fan made posters that I found. It just goes to show you that a film that’s 25+ years old is still going strong in the minds of so many people. There are way more than the ones that I have here but these were some of my personal favorite, if you want to see more you can scroll through Deviant Art for some great posters that didn’t make the post.

This retro 50's style poster is one of my favorite of all the ones that use this polygonal type of design. This poster was created by Travis Pitts who has done a lot of these style posters.

Created by Strong Stuff on Deviant Art, Strong Stuff explains his love for The Thing: "i love the sense of dread and uncertainty that the film delivers, even upon repeat viewings. and there's just something to be said about action/horror ensemble casts from the 80's...from "the thing" to "aliens" to "predator", it just seems like filmmakers knew how to flesh out supporting characters well enough to make you genuinely care about them. seems kinda like a lost art to me."

These two posters were created by the Fro Design Co. They definitely have a pseudo 80's/70's vibe about them, with my personal favorite being the first one of the two.

Another Deviant Art submission. This poster was created by Small Town Hero and resembles what would be a great modernized version of the poster, if not… it looks like the type of poster what would be on The Thing's DVD box had it been released this decade. Small Town Hero explains, "I wanted this poster to have macready and 'the thing' creature on it, along with really dark blue colors and a flare on the snow behind, to let off that really cool red color."

These posters are another Deviant Art find. Created by elsantownage. They're a loving throw back to non-hand-drawn posters of the 80's. The top resembles an actual theatrical poster from the film whereas the bottom resembles the cover of the film's novelization.

Created by 3-D Monster, he explains, "The title is "The Thing",based on the John Carpenter 1982 classic. I wanted to remake the original poster in a more minimalistic style featuring the alien blood as it tries to squirm away. I really wanted to try & capture that moment of sheer terror."

Created by Thom Wulf on Deviant Art. This poster also has that polygonal design to it and works well as a fan-made teaser poster. The serious look MacReady has on his face accompanied by the opened mouth of razor sharp teeth behind him.

And of course, the others…

Please note that, the last three posters didn't receive artist credit because I wasn't sure who designed them. If you know the designers or if you are the designer, please leave me a comment so that I can properly credit you. Thanks.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Thing Week: A Brief Look Back

Well folks, it’s that time of the year again… a time for summer fun, barbequing and alien invasions. Indeed, it was this week starting today, almost 30 years ago, that John Carpenter’s The Thing was released to the public and was given poor reviews by the critics that the general audience. It seems that people were not ready for a film this cold and bitter but as time went on it was considered to be one of the greatest films in both the horror and sci-fi genre. To further prove that its relevance is still under discussion, the magazine Sci-Fi Now published a list of “25 Films that Changed Science Fiction” in their 48th issue. Though none of the films were assigned numbers, The Thing made an appearance and I think some people forget (I’m one of them) that The Thing is in fact a sci-fi flick as well. It’s a film that’s literally half horror and half sci-fi. Anyway, here is what Sci-Fi Now has to say about John Carpenter’s The Thing:

As with many films now considered to be seminal in science fiction, The Thing was a major commercial flop on released, coming out two weeks after Spielberg’s blockbuster ET. The failure of the film had a largely negative effect on John Carpenter’s career, beginning a downward box office spiral that would culminate with Big Trouble In Little China and Escape from LA. These days, of course, it’s considered to be one of the finest sci-fi/horror films ever made, and certainly one of the greatest remakes.

In terms of influence, however, Rob Bottin’s name crops up in conversation again and again. His work on the effects – which involved him working seven days a week for over a year, and landed him in a hospital – are legendary, from the infamous ‘spider head’ to the dog transformations, and the chest-jaws. In terms of screenwriting it’s an excellent example of establishing characters swiftly and early on – men already losing discipline and ready to jump at each other with the drop of a hat. The score was exceptional, and the final scene proved that nihilistic ending can be done well.

But Sci-Fi Now doesn’t stop there. They feel that it was necessary to briefly expand on the entire Thing franchise. It was here that I was introduced to the comic book and the novelization of the Carpenter film. Sci-Fi Now explains The Thing franchise:

Who Goes There?

The original 1938 short story from John W. Campbell kick-started the whole franchise. First published in Astounding Stories, August 1938, Who Goes There? has since been voted one of the best stories of all time by the Science Fiction Writers of America.

The Thing From Another World

This 1951 adaptation was very loose in its fidelity to the original story from Campbell. Still, it is considered to be one of the best science fiction films of the Fifties, and has been selected for preservation by the US Library of Congress.

The Thing: A Novel

Written by Alan Dean Foster based on the 1982 film’s screenplay, several extra scenes are included, and some alterations made with character names. The novelization itself now seems to be out of print, however.

The thing From Another World

In 1991 a four-issue continuation of the film was released by Dark horse comics named The Thing From Another World, in which MacReady is the lone survivor, Childs having been infected. It was written by Chuck Pfarrer with arty by John Higgins.

The Thing (Videogame)

Framed as the sequel to the events of the 1982 film, The Thing saw the player as a member of a team assigned to investigate what happened at Outpost 31. It received decent reviews from critics for its gameplay and graphics.

So there you have it. A crash course in both the film and the entire franchise that it created and to think that it all started off with a novella in 1938. I think this was a great introductory post to really get Thing Week started. I only wish that I were able to get my hands on the comic books or the video game so that I can do reviews of them. Either way, I hope you found this read to be as interesting as I did.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Insects and Religion

When you think about Guillermo del Toro’s Mimc, the last thing that should come to mind is religion. Maybe cockroaches, sewers, giant insects and subways but not religion. However, if you pay close attention to the film you’ll notice that there are religious symbolism and aesthetics hard at work; hidden deep within the film’s plot and special effects lies something very religious. There several scenes that take place in cathedral-looking buildings and some of the major events take place within a condemned church. I think that Guillermo was trying to get at something with and I believe it has something to do with how science has sort of backstabbed what popular religion has taught people. In turn, by tampering with nature through scientific means we have created something that we aren’t able to control.

For starters, the name of the new breed sent to destroy the disease-carrying cockroaches was the Judas Breed. For those of you who know about religious, Judas was one of the 12 disciples of Christ who, for the price of 30 pieces of silver, turned him over to the High Priest Caiaphas who then turned him over to Pontius Pilate’s soldiers. Eventually, Jesus’ capture led to his inevitable crucifixion and death. Judas was known for betraying Christ and committed suicide by hanging himself. The Judas Breed (a combination of cockroach, termite and mantis) works very similar to the way the story of Christ’s betrayal played out only with bugs instead of people and eradication instead of crucifixion. The Judas insect will work its way into the cockroach tunnels, seemingly undetected and untouched by the cockroaches, and would secrete an enzyme that attracts the roaches. Thinking everything is okay, the roaches begin to eat the enzyme, which speeds up their metabolism and kills them. The Judas Breed effectively gained the trust of the roaches only to kill them.

As the story progresses, the Judas insect begins to evolve to resemble a human but still maintains its insect qualities and hunting strategies. By seeing humans as the invading species, the insect turns against us to use us as food and to eliminate competition. Again, the theme of betrayal and backstabbing is played out. It’s also interesting to note that when the Judas insect becomes a fully evolved adult, with it’s sharpened forelegs and long wings, it resembles death itself… the grim reaper in insect form. This may not have anything to do with religion but many religions see the Grim Reaper as a symbolic representation of death.

There are several cathedral-like buildings; there is a library with a giant stained glass window that resembles a cathedral, the sewers are large and open like cathedrals and even bare architectural similarities. One of the ways to get to the Judas insect hive is through a church where a priest was pushed off a building by a Judas insect. Aside from the library, it seems like an area with a mere resemblance of a church has bad things happen in it. A young boy, who later gets kidnapped by a Judas insect, is told by his father that the church across their apartment is a bad place. The church is run-down, musty, deserted and has broken statues of Christ and his followers. I see the church as a representation of an old “idea” dying and a new “idea” (religion) becoming the dominant practice. People have turned their backs against the church and now look to science for guidance. In the end, nature has the final call and we were betrayed by it or so the movie has proclaimed.

Manny, the young boy’s shoe-shining father is seen as a caring but very independent Christian who carries around a cross with him everywhere he goes. Spoiler: it’s sad that he was brutally attacked and killed by a Judas insect but I think the fact that his cross, shown as a protector, failed to so do in the eyes of science’s greatest invention. The only religious person in the whole movie was literally backstabbed by an abomination of science; the relationship between religion and science couldn’t have been shown better.

I’m absolutely positive there is more to the story than what I could uncover. As offbeat as Mimic may seem, it’s a pretty well made movie that dives into the battle between modern science and popular religion. Though any allusion towards religion isn’t spoon-fed to us, it’s not that hard to see once you notice the beginning and how the camera tries to focus on the flickering neon cross. Some people might pass this off as being a passable Guillermo del Toro film but I think he was trying to say something here. I do want to close this article by saying something that always fascinated me about insects work; they don’t have any remorse, they’re hard-working and they aren’t governed by laws or gods… they do what needs to be done to protect their colony.

The massive stained glass window in the library.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Super 8 and My Childhood

I finally placed my finger on why I feel so coupled with Super 8 and it’s not because I followed the viral marketing (because I didn’t) but because of what it brought back. Cloverfield will always be an unforgettable experience because of how exciting it was to follow all the viral marketing campaigns but all I had to go on with Super 8 was the trailer and immediately I thought of Close Encounters. I saw Close Encounters when I was young, about 8 or 9 years old, and as I watched the trailer all I could feel was this overwhelming sense of nostalgia. For about 3 minutes I felt like a kid watching the trailer for an action-packed summer movie; sort of how I felt when I first saw Jurassic Park and when I saw the trailers for Jurassic Park II. I brought back memories of being truly exciting for a film that will make me escape my life and temporarily put into an ideal adventure movie. Not since Raiders of the Lost Ark did I feel like I wanted to participate in the film. But, oddly, that isn’t the exact reason but one major reason why I feel so close to this film. Instead, the reason lies within the subplot of the film.

The subplot of the film is about a group of kids that want to make a zombie movie (titled The Case) using a Super 8 camera so that they could enter it into a contest. Aside from a monster attacking their town, a bunch of things go wrong: fuzzy footage, broken cameras, unwilling cast and crew, prolonged film development and of course lots of last-minute script changes. Not only do the kids, specifically Charles and Cary, remind me of people that I grew up with but it reminded me of my friends and how we use to take my dad’s camcorder and record random movies. I saw myself in all the kids and I could relate to their burning passion to do what ever it takes to get the movie done. On my own time, I would take my dad’s camcorder and record Blair Witch style home videos and edit them in camera. I would create wild stories using my Legos and action figures as characters and I would synch up end credits music to each scene and record it in real-time. I would use my grandparents and whoever else was around at the time to play the characters in my films and even shamelessly recorded the scene in Independence Day where the White House blew up to use in my movie.

The film provoked the inner young filmmaker in me and I think that’s why I really love this film. It brought me back to those days where my friends were loyal, where our crushes ran rampant and where we wanted to all be filmmakers. I even remember talking to one of my friends, when I was 9, and told him that he will be my editor when I begin directing movies. Super 8 brought out the inner child in me and I couldn’t be happier. As nostalgic as it was, I miss those days of innocents and big, ignorant aspirations. As a side note, if you want a great review of this film, check out The Cinemassacre.