A Very Bad Thing

The Thing (2011) is the thing no one speaks of. As well as the prequel to The Thing (1982) I always assumed was a remake. It might as well have been a remake since all the best moments are rehashed in a less satisfying way. The prequel actually follows the 1982 Norwegian team that died before the events of the original. Although the Arctic researchers still need Americans in it. Otherwise it would all be in subtitles.

The Thing (2011) also includes ideas present in The Thing from Another World. Specifically the team finding the alien in a block of ice. As well as two female characters balancing the predominantly male cast. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a Ripley type who takes the lead and uses a flamethrower against the thing. The biggest problem is that CGI was used on the thing instead of the groundbreaking practical effects that came before. Making the deformed shapeshifter look half rendered with rubber partially gruesome skin. There’s just no passion behind it.

There’s still a sense of paranoia, but you don’t really feel a strong lack of trust. The blood test is replaced by a less tension filled tooth inspection. The flying saucer is seen, but it all feels like too much for something claiming to follow the original. The only indication of the decade is one 80’s song. There’s some feeling of mild dread, but the ending that ties directly into The Thing (1982) is the only reason to care. Like the thing itself, The Thing (2011) is just a cheap imitation.

thing-2011

The Thing emerges

Followed by: The Thing (1982)

Don’t Trust Anyone

The Thing is the much more faithful adaptation of Who Goes There? that gets all the attention. Since the story was always about a shapeshifting alien. It’s practically destiny for John Carpenter to be the director. Considering The Thing from Another World is on TV in Halloween. Unlike the 50’s interpretation, The Thing is a more hopeless R rated gorefest. So much so that critics and audiences surprisingly hated it. It was probably bad timing since E.T. came out the same year.

The Thing later became a cult hit and a major influence on sci-fi horror. Which is why I’ve seen it twice. The Thing is set in Antarctica with a small cast of all male research scientists. Kurt Russell will obviously survive in the end, but Keith David and Wilford Brimley are noteworthy as well. The Team is caught in the crossfire of a Norwegian pilot trying to kill a dog. They don’t make much of it, but they soon discover that this is no mere canine. The true stars of The Thing are the grotesque practical creature effects. This thing can take any gore filled shape it wants at any unexpected moment.

The thing takes the shape of its victims, so it leads to intense paranoia between the men. Everyone turns against each other until they’re picked off one by one. The most gruesome body reveal is the chest eating someone’s arms before sprouting spider legs. So Russell’s MacCready creates a tension filled blood test that reveals the one you’d least suspect. Fire kills the thing like in the original, but the stakes are higher if the creature escapes. The Thing is disgusting, but an impressive feat in body horror.

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The Thing emerges

Preceded by: The Thing (2011)

Plant Man From Outer Space

The Thing from Another World is a lot more talk heavy than I expected, but that’s okay since it’s all about the atmosphere. Like most 50’s alien invasion features, The Thing from Another World is more of an allegory for communist paranoia. My parents always talked about the original 50’s classic, but its often overshadowed by the remake. My only knowledge of it was from John Carpenter’s Halloween.

I only now realize the novella it’s based on, Who Goes There?, was only a loose interpretation. The only thing that remains is the Arctic setting and an alien stalking a team of professionals. Most of the time is spent on a crew of Air Force pilots, scientists, and journalists at the North Pole. With a lot of time spent on a romance. They discover a flying saucer that contains a space man frozen in ice. When accidentally thawed, the team find themselves isolated with nowhere to run.

Since a shapeshifter was likely too complex for 1951, the thing is a plant based humanoid. Obscured by shadows and building tension by popping up when you least suspect. The thing is also impervious to bullets, feeds on blood, and can regrow its body. It’s actually one of the two female crew members that suggests burning the creature. A decision that divides the team. Since one scientist would rather study the alien. So the main lesson at the end is to “Keep watching the skies.” The Thing from Another World deserves just as much admiration as its more memorable remake.

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The Thing emerges

Evil Ancestry

Hereditary might be the most overrated horror movie of the last decade. I don’t get why its been called the scariest movie since The Exorcist. I’m always interested in independent A24 films, but I didn’t really know how to react to Hereditary. The longer I waited to watch it, the more I was bombarded by people calling it top tier horror. Sure Hereditary has a creepy atmosphere and great performances, but I didn’t know why I was supposed to be scared.

Hereditary refers to evil occultish traits that are passed down to the unfortunate Graham family. They just lost their grandmother and that begins to unravel miniature model maker mother Annie. Along with the welcomed lack of forced jump scares, I agree that Toni Collette’s career best performance deserved more recognition. Everything else was an incredibly slow family drama with only the occasional unexplained creepy moment. The father Steve is just sort of there. So it’s really the pot smoking teenage son Peter facing the most abuse. His most talked about moment is his possessed classroom freak out. Alex Wolff has come a long way, but I have a hard time believing someone as tan as him is biologically related to the rest of the family.

It’s creepy kid Charlie who I was most intrigued by. With her tongue clicks and bird killing. If you’ve seen the movie, you know my intrigue doesn’t last long. Some have called newcomer director Ari Aster an auteur, I’d call him pretentious. Lingering on a decapitated head isn’t high art, it’s disgusting. I know why the endings of The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby are disturbing, but I just don’t know how I’m supposed to feel at the chaotic end of Hereditary.

Hereditary

Charlie is entranced

Shot-for-Shot

Psycho (1998) is the worst kind of remake. There’s nothing more pointless than a shot-for-shot remake of an untouchable classic. It’s neither clever nor creative. Even though Gus Van Sant is a capable director, I don’t know what made him think remaking Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was a good idea. One of his reasons is proving a movie can’t be 100% recreated, but you’re still left with an inferior version in the end. There’s no point in explaining the plot, because it’s the exact same movie practically word-for-word. Granted there are changes, but that only makes it worse.

The setting is now 1998 and apart from a stray walkman or price inflation, there’s no other reason for that change. A lot of the dialogue is still nothing anyone outside 1960 would say. Another problem is the use of color. It’s one thing to shoot in color, but it’s another to use it obnoxiously. Everything is bright and colorful with most dramatic scenes taking place in broad daylight. There’s no atmosphere. However, the biggest problem is the all-star cast. Anne Heche is not Marione Crane. Nothing she says or does feels believable. Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, Viggo Mortensen, Robert Forster, nobody feels natural. We know how these lines are supposed to be delivered, so it just feels off when other actors are repeating them.

But the worst casting choice is easily Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates. I can’t take him seriously in a role like this. Even worse when he’s dressed like “Mother.” Most of the smaller changes surround him. Specifically having him appear more perverted while spying on Marion or having out of nowhere images flash during his two stabbing scenes. The recreation of the shower scene misses the point of the original completely. The famous theme comes in late, there’s less obscured nudity, and color removes all tension. There’s nothing you can get out of Psycho (1998) that you can’t get 10 times better in the original.

6. Psycho

Marion Crane is stabbed in the shower

Remake of: Psycho (1960)

Before Bates Motel

Psycho IV: The Beginning is both the beginning and the end of the completely unnecessary Psycho franchise. It’s either the 4th installment or the 5th if you count another made-for-TV movie I didn’t see titled Bates Motel (no, not that Bates Motel). The difference between the two, is that Psycho IV retains both an R rating and Anthony Perkins. This was Perkins final time playing Norman Bates only a few short years before his death.

Psycho IV picks up with Norman once again released from an institution. Possibly for the first time, since there’s no mention of the pointless past altering events of Psycho II and Psycho III. It wouldn’t really make sense for Norman to be released after only 4 years anyway. Norman calls a radio talk show with the unusually specific topic of sons who kill their mothers using the name Ed (as a nod to the killer that inspired him). For whatever reason Norma Bates is played by the British Olivia Hussey. There mother-son relationship is explored in uncomfortable detail made worse by bad dialogue.

There’s another shower scene, but neither of the 2 previously mentioned kills have anything to do with it. An older Henry Thomas plays his first horror character as the younger Norman Bates. He’s good in the role since the original actor was their to help, but the inevitable murder of his mother and her boyfriend is just too overdramatized. Back in the present, Norman is revealed to be married with the intention of killing his wife. Let’s just say the ending is happier than you’d expect. Psycho IV: The Beginning proves some events are better left unseen.

5. Psycho IV The Beginning

Norma dresses Norman up like a girl

Preceded by: Psycho III

Just a Little Mad

Psycho III officially falls into 80’s slasher territory. Psycho II may have been long and a bit meandering, but at least it felt somewhat original. Psycho III practically falls back into the pattern of the original movie. To the point it either recreates scenes or reuses famous quotes. One part of the sequel I wasn’t aware of was Anthony Perkins being the director. He’s no Alfred Hitchcock, but he does understand Norman Bates well by this point. Even if he’s back to being a killer driven mad by his “Mother.”

After an almost out of nowhere opening, Norman has reopened Bates Motel and hires a douchey aspiring guitarist to help out. At the same time, a nosy journalist tries to do a story on him and Norman becomes infatuated with a woman baring Marion Crane’s initials. Footage of the shower scene is shown yet again, because they still think we forgot. Maureen Coyle is a former nun who (as if required) recreates the shower scene. Only with less deadly consequences. Norman actually attempts to start a romantic relationship with her and although it’s an interesting idea, it doesn’t go anywhere.

Psycho III is bloodier with more nudity and the kills have become more convoluted with an all over the place tone. There’s nothing iconic about being killed in a phone booth or on a toilet. SPOILER ALERT! Mrs. Spool isn’t Norman’s mother after all and everything the second movie did is now pointless. Just like before, Psycho III is another sequel to a classic that should have stayed buried.

4. Psycho III

Norman sits under an owl

Preceded by: Psycho II & Followed by: Psycho IV: The Beginning

Not Insane

Psycho II is desperate to recapture the success of the far superior Hitchcock classic. The sequel literally opens with the iconic shower scene. As if anyone’s forgotten about it. Why make a sequel to an untouchable black & white 1960 film 22 years after the fact (and in color)? Apparently it’s because the original author wrote a sequel 1 year prior to the film’s release. So the studio wanted to make their own film in response. Plus it was the 80’s, when any horror property could be exploited.

Psycho II does manage to bring back both Anthony Perkins and Vera Miles. Norman Bates is no longer insane and hopeful to rebuild his life. Lila Loomis (who understandably married Sam) desperately protests his release. On one hand, the idea of a reformed psycho trying to move on is interesting. Perkins manages to recapture Norman at an older age with more sympathy, but way too much time is spent on it. He meets a girl at work named Mary Samuels who predictably recreates the shower scene only with more nudity.

SPOILER ALERT! Mary is Lila’s daughter who along with her mother drives Norman insane in an attempt to re-institutionalize him. Only Mary starts to bond with Norman and a string of murders start to become real confusing. It may have worked better if there weren’t so many fake outs. Plus I don’t appreciate turning a classic character like Lila into an antagonist. Although that explanation would have been better than what they ended up with. Where a random character you completely forgot about turns out to be “Mother.” Psycho II ends right where it began, rendering the whole sequel pointless.

3. Psycho II

Norman Bates uses his shovel

Preceded by: Psycho & Followed by: Psycho III

We All Go a Little Mad Sometimes

Psycho is in my opinion, the greatest film Alfred Hitchcock ever directed. This is the peak of Hitchcock filmmaking. There was no way I’d miss out on seeing such a classic. Even if the shocking twist is one of the most well known in movie history. By this point, everyone should know about the infamous shower scene. One of the most iconic moments in horror movie history. One of the many reasons Psycho influenced the slasher genre. If there’s any movie I wish I could have seen unspoiled at the time of its release, it would be Psycho. Rather than seeing popular scenes in pieces, before watching in full. I can only imagine how 1960’s audiences reacted to it.

Like most of Alfred Hitchcock’s best remembered work, Psycho was made later in his career. It was based on a book published 1 year prior to the film’s release. Due to the edgy material in the book, Hitchcock had to get creative. Like most of the best horror movies, Psycho was made with a low budget. Hence the use of black & white at a time when color was common. In order to preserve the twist, Hitchcock shot a vague unusually upbeat set tour trailer and demanded that nobody be seated after the movie started. Good thing the internet didn’t exist…

1. Psycho

Marion Crane takes a shower

Psycho was a major game changer. Most of the violent, sexual, or risque material was practically unheard of in American films at the time. You can immediately tell based on the opening. Which depicts an unmarried couple sharing a bed with the woman in a bra. The blonde woman in question is pioneer scream queen Janet Leigh. Mother of future scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis. Leigh plays “lead” character Marion Crane. Like all great Hitchcock movies, we’re lead astray by a false sense of security. As Marion and her boyfriend Sam Loomis discuss his debt and how they’ll ever be able to get married. A lot of time is spent on Marion’s decision to steal $40,000 from a client at her real-estate job. It’s there Alfred Hitchcock makes his all important cameo. The suspense builds as Marion is spotted by her boss, stopped by a police officer, and trades her car in at a dealership. All of which is just as engaging as what follows.

Marion ends up at the all too ominous Bates Motel. A secluded motel with a creepy looking house on a hill right next door. The very innocent looking Anthony Perkins plays Norman Bates. The proprietor who lives with his controlling mother. Norman awkwardly flirts with Marion and they discuss his off-putting taxidermied bird collection and the mental state of his dear mother. It’s here that the most iconic lines, “A boy’s best friend is his mother” and “We all go a little mad sometimes” are dropped. Marion is inspired to return the money, unbeknownst that Norman is peeping through a hole in another iconic shot. Along with disrobing, this is the first film to show a toilet being flushed. Something that’s far too important to be cut out.

Now the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Marion takes a shower and is greeted by a shadowy figure who stabs her multiple times. Everything about the scene is perfect. From the angles to the quick cuts. It’s so well shot that your mind tricks you into thinking you’re seeing more violence and nudity then you actually are. Chocolate syrup was famously used for blood. One of the major benefits of shooting in black & white. The scene is only enhanced by its famous screechy violin theme. The official theme is ominous as well. Needless to say a shower is the worst place to find yourself cornered by a killer. You’re completely vulnerable and there’s nowhere to run. So now the lead character who we’ve come to know after nearly an hour of screen time is dead.

All attention is shifted to Marion’s equally blonde sister Lila Crane played by Vera Miles. Lila teams up with Sam in order to find her, but not before the new lead Private Investigator Arbogast is introduced. He questions an increasingly frantic Norman and attempts to see his mother. Just like before, Arbogast is another false lead who’s killed by mother Bates. People don’t talk about it as much, but being killed at the top of the stairs is just as terrifying. Lila and Sam investigate, only to find conflicting stories given by the local sheriff. They check into Bates Motel and discover an unflushed piece of evidence in the toilet.

As Lila attempts to find Mrs. Bates, the second big twist is revealed. That she’d been dead the entire time and that Norman and “Mother” are one and the same. Cross-dressing was just as risque a topic to cover back then. In the final shot, Norman is consumed by his mother and unable to harm a fly. Psycho broke so much new ground in 1960. Pivotal moments and themes have been imitated many times since its release. So it’s hard to believe Psycho didn’t win any Oscars. Even without them, Psycho is a psychological masterpiece that forever ruined taking showers.

2. Psycho

“She wouldn’t even harm a fly”

Followed by: Psycho II

Vampire Pomeranian

Blade: Trinity drains all the blood out of the R rated Marvel franchise. Thus completing the tradition of a third superhero movie being inferior by comparison. Their first mistake was letting inexperienced comic book writer David S. Goyer direct. It caused quite the hilarious sounding feud on set. As Wesley Snipes pretty much lost it during filming. According to Patton Oswalt, he hated the director and only communicated with post-it notes signed Blade. You can tell he doesn’t want to be there. Which is unfortunate considering this was his last major role before tax evasion caught up with him.

Instead Blade: Trinity puts Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel front and center. Biel is Whistler’s daughter Abigail who takes his place after he’s killed off yet again. Reynolds plays his first of many comic book characters. Although Hannibal King is just a less funny discount Deadpool. Not even Deadpool could make the infamous line “C**k juggling thunder c***t” work. Like the comics, they lead a vampire hunting team called the Nightstalkers. All Blade really has to do is fight, face law enforcement in a superhero way, and deliver a few more cheesy one-liners.

Their enemy this time is pre-Heat Wave Dominic Purcell as Drake. Probably the lamest Dracula ever put to film. He wants to wipe out humanity or something and vampires are farming humans. Between everything is some truly cringy dialogue and horribly campy moments. There’s vampire Hot Topic, vampire Parker Posey, and a freaking vampire pomeranian. The CGI isn’t as bad, but everything else is worse. Blade: Trinity ends the unwarranted Marvel trilogy with a steak to the heart.

6. Blade Trinity

Blade and the Nightstalkers

Preceded by: Blade II