Forget Sly, Arnold, Clint, Mel, Dolph or even Chuck. Everyone knows the toughest action star of the 80’s was Kurt.
And when he wasn’t trying to get the a president out of post-apocalyptic New York or defeat Asian demigods in Little China, Kurt Russell was busy in Antarctica, battling claustrophobia, paranoia and body-snatching aliens—all in the same movie.
Yep, 1982 saw Kurt team up yet again with Director John Carpenter (who always seemed to get him hung up in these messes) for the brilliant remake of Howard Hawks’ The Thing From Another World. Carpenter dropped the last three words of the title, but added a darker, more insidious spin on the title creature that amped the horror and suspense to eleven. Hotshot FX prodigy Rob Bottin pulled off what is still the most amazing onscreen makeup and animatronics ever, to create a monster that has yet to be matched even in the modern CGI era. And Russell and company deliver taut performances that capture every drop of the compounding fear and suspicion Carpenter so masterfully molds.
It’s the ultimate redux, the classic homage that outshines the source material and it’s chock full of scares and squirms. And crawling just under its skin, like its eponymous monster, is a heavy commentary on coexistence with our fellow man.
And if that’s not enough to hook you, just wait till you see what happens to the dog.
And Wilford Brimley.
What a difference four years makes.
Way back in 1978, the budget for Halloween was so small, Director John Carpenter was having to bring in garbage bags of leaves that could be used as set decoration, since he was actually filming in the California springtime. But thanks to Halloween’s success (and the success of his sophomore effort, Escape From New York), Carpenter had $15 million to play around with he helmed his sci-fi horror masterpiece, The Thing, and boy, did he make the most of it.
Carpenter combined a stellar cast with massive on-location snowscapes, complex sets and the best creature make-up effects to ever appear on film. And the razor-edged script–much like Halloween–again showcased Carpenter’s mastery of terrifying suspense.
As the opening titles roll, a flying saucer hurtles toward the far side of Earth. As the opening act begins, a wolf-like snow dog bounds across the tundra, dodging the helicoptered sniper trying to pick him off. The dog escapes to a secluded research base, finding shelter in the company of a team of scientists, who fire back at the dog’s pursuers. As they begin to investigate the origins of the choppers whereabouts, they find another base–one with a giant ice tomb at its heart.
When they return to their own HQ, the pieces all fall into place when the dog metamorphasizes into the shoo-in for Westminster Kennel’s Most Monstrous Malamute.
When base commander R.J. Macready unleashes a flame thrower on the creature formerly known as dog, the alien within skitters away, biding its time, until it can manifest in another host.
Thus begins a deadly shell game of possession where everyone becomes suspicious of everyone else and no one is ever truly safe again.
Carpenter’s slight-of-hand-brilliance, keeping your eye on the chest-bursting intruder, allowed him to sneak in his own invasive social commentary. Who are the real threats? Is it the one we’ve just met or the one we’ve known all along?
Is there any difference?
Turn the clock forward 30 or so years, step away from the freezing cold, take away the tentacled alien…and how far have we come?
Jesus told us to love our neighbors…not to fear or distrust or attack them…but who are our neighbors? How do we tell?
Is it the person in the pew with us or the person staring back at us on the street corner, the one with the hand-Sharpied sign lamenting his fall from corporate American grace? Is it the person we’ve grown up with and known all our lives or is it the guy we’ve just started seeing at the gym who speaks in a language that’s different from anything we’ve ever heard…that sounds way to close to all the Middle Eastern villains we’ve seen on every action adventure movie ever made?
Which one is our neighbor?
They all are.
Is it wrong to keep a certain level of distrust with those who act suspicious or send our not-so-nice-guy Spidey Sense into overdrive? I don’t think we’re called to be naieve, nor to tempt fate when it comes to our own personal safety. Is it wrong to be suspicious that someone may be inclined to take advantage of our charity? Human nature makes it hard not to.
When Christ was tempted in the desert, he reminded Satan that it wasn’t his job to put God to the test. And I don’t think we’re called to shake hands with vipers just to prove that God will keep us from getting bit. But I do think we are called to figure out a way to confront the dangerous things of this world, to overcome the personal stranger danger that society has ingrained in us. And how do we do that? Simple math.
Love our neighbors. Find the strangers. Make them neighbors.
And how do we make the strangers our neighbors? Love them.
And maybe that doesn’t mean braving the deep, dark alleyways alone armed with only a Bible…
But maybe it does mean getting together with some friends and organizing a prison ministry.
Maybe it doesn’t mean giving away every hard-earned dollar that would go to make sure food ends up in our kid’s mouth…
But maybe it means helping that one person who doesn’t have as much find a job or find the organiaztion with the resources he needs.
Who said love has to look the way we’ve always thought? Probably the same person who said that stranger out there will look the way we always thought. Don’t be so concerned with how it will all come together or play out or how the movie will end.
And God will take care of the rest.
And the results will be out of this world.