Stuff I’ve Been Watching — Needs More Cowbell Edition


THE THING is one of my favorite films, so i was understandably skeptical when i heard they were making a prequel and/or remake. i was anxious for more ‘thing,’ but it would be so easy for them to screw it up by trying to fix what was ‘wrong’ with the first film since it had such a disappointing theatrical release (yet eventually gathered quite the following on home video). i remember reading an interview with the director, stating his intention to be true to the original — but that’s what every director says to appease the existing fans, while not mentioning all the changes they’re having to make to try to have broader appeal. after seeing THE THING, i’m convinced of two things: 1) it’s confusing to name your prequel the same title as the film it is a prequel to and 2) the director was not lying about staying true to the original.

apart from possibly using cgi where it wasn’t necessary in a few places, there is very little to complain about in THE THING. don’t get me wrong — no aspect of john carpenter’s masterpiece is in danger of being eclipsed by this prequel (most notably in the special effects category), but i doubt making a better film than the original was their goal. it feels like they were trying to make a smart and frightening companion piece to the original that supplements it without contradicting or negating anything already established. if that is true, then they succeeded. everything we know from the original about the norwegian camp is seamlessly integrated into the prequel. many scenes are almost identical in tone and content to scenes from carpenter’s, but there are enough twists and differences that it always feels like a homage instead of a rehash. this may not end up joining the original as a true classic of the genre, but it’s certainly entertaining and well worth seeing.

as i was leaving the theater, happily surprised by how much i liked THE THING, i overheard a girl ask her boyfriend “that’s how it ends?!? what happens next?” i did not overhear his reply, but it’s my hope he’s a true horror fan and already owns the answer to her query on dvd and/or blu-ray.

related video: the cast of THE THING (1981) watch THE THING (2011).


i was about to start this off with the phrase “despite not being as original as THE WALKING DEAD…”, but quickly realized that would be completely unfair. it’s true that AMERICAN HORROR STORY is not wildly original, as it borrows shamelessly from well-known genre classics and recent horror successes. however, despite being incredibly compelling, THE WALKING DEAD is an even worse offender, stealing unabashedly from only one coffer (george romero’s), while AMERICAN HORROR STORY at least has the decency to spread its thievery around, often sprinkling pilfered bits from john carpenter, stanley kubrick, and alfred hitchcock evenly about, often in the same episode.

most of the time, the show’s tendency to reference other horror films works, coming across not as laziness or plagiarism — but as a type of horror short-hand. in the most recent episode, the intentions of three home intruders is immediately communicated to the audience in a blink of an eye, not through lengthy exposition but by simply emulating the most famous shot from THE STRANGERS. earlier in the same episode during a flashback set in the 1960s, the familiar violin strings from the score of PSYCHO instantly place us in the correct decade and and convey the intentions of an uninvited guest.

the show’s opening credit may be a little too reminiscent of SE7EN’s famous credit sequence, but minor gripes aside, this is a show you should definitely be watching. i don’t know how long they can keep it up, but so far the haunted house story they are telling has kept me riveted and guessing at every turn, and is scarier, sexier and more unnerving than anything horror television has ever seen. similar to the maturity level seen in DEXTER and TRUE BLOOD, but lacking the lightheartedness and comedy those shows occasionally exhibit, AMERICAN HORROR STORY is a hard-edged series that shows a willingness to push the envelope and go to places that even recent horror feature films seem afraid to.


along with everyone else in the world, this week i also watched the season premiere of THE WALKING DEAD. once we get to episodes that frank darabont had little to no input on, i’m afraid the show will take a nosedive, but if they can somehow maintain the quality shown in this first episode, then there will be nothing to worry about. you can already see the impact of the budget cuts in a few questionable cgi effects shots, but other than that, there is little to complain about in this season’s opener.

i will, however, complain about how amc is handling suddenly being in possession of an incredibly successful show. in addition to slashing the budget despite growing success and running off the man who created the damn thing, they also became the first company i know of to greedily doubledip the home video release of a show’s first season before the second season even aired.

behind-the-scenes drama aside, the show is fantastic. and it has also spawned one of the more brilliant parodies in recent memory, which you can see below.


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