Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Making Monsters #28: The Thing
The showstopping sequence, for me, occurs about halfway through the film, when Norris (Charles Hallahan) collapses of an apparent heart attack and Copper (Richard Dysart) attempts to revive him. As our attention drifts to the action on the other side of the room in one of the film's several excellent moments of misdirection, Copper's hands suddenly burst through Norris' torso, revealing two rows of very big teeth that close in on Copper's hands like a bear trap. All hell breaks loose, culminating in Norris' head stretching off of his body, sprouting spider-like legs and provoking one of the best lines in this or any movie. To sell the effect, a double amputee was cast to stand in for Dysart, and Norris' torso was built to close with enough force that it would sever the prosthetic arms. It's amazing to consider that moment and everything that happens next - the second form of The Thing that explodes from the hole in Norris' body, the transformation of Norris' head - was all accomplished in-camera and sold through the meticulous, detailed work of Bottin and his team, as well as cinematographer Dean Cundey's brilliant cinematography (which shows us everything but the seams of the effect) and the disturbing, otherworldly sound design. While it's true that suggestion is the most powerful tool a horror director has, if you can show everything as effectively as Carpenter did in The Thing, than go for it.