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.


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