Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Thing (1982) & Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Yet another double feature at the New Beverly. I'm intent on seeing The Invasion even though it's sure to be mediocre at best, so I've been wanting to revisit the old versions, plus I had never seen either of these movies on a big screen, which is really the only way to see a John Carpenter movie.

I love The Thing. It might just be my favorite horror movie out of the entire decade of the 1980s. I remember seeing it as a kid and being thrilled by its mixture of suspense, gory special effects, and tough-guy humor. Nowadays I also appreciate Carpenter's graceful widescreen compositions, the strong ensemble performances, and just how freakin' surreal it all is. The movie isn't meant to be picked apart in terms of logic, but rather experienced as a string of nightmare sequences where anything can happen, anyone can turn out to be a Thing at any time, and any kind of weird monstrous Lovecraftian crap can explode at any moment.

After that, the Philip Kaufman version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It's a good movie, but I don't find that it adds much to the original version beyond a greater degree of urban paranoia and post-'60s looseness in the story and performances. Kaufman isn't nearly as good as Siegel was at action and suspense sequences, but he does tap into a vein of post-Watergate insecurity, especially in a montage where Donald Sutherland tries to alert the powers that be about the alien invasion, only to get the runaround through a series of frustrating phone conversations. The sequences of San Francisco in the movie's epilogue also remind me of what Antonioni would have done if he gave a crap about science fiction.
Also, this movie has Veronica Cartwright in it, who I always like to see. As far as scenes of freaking out and going hysterical go, she's one of the absolute best.

Apologies to anyone who hasn't seen the above still before. I first saw this movie as a kid somewhere between 5 and 10 and that image and its accompanying sound effect is the best thing in the whole movie, a coupling not found in the original '50s version.


Joe Valdez said...

Jeff, if I have one complaint about your blog, it's that you are posting a review instead of a preview.

What a bummer that I missed this. Two great movies. Two movies I have never seen in a theater before.

I am in complete agreement with you about Veronica Cartwright. She's been underrated and underworked her entire career. In Invasion of the Body Snatchers, I recall her character being far from hysterical though. She seemed to acquit herself quite rationally during the alien invasion.

Jeff McMahon said...

Sorry re: not providing a preview. The New Beverly's schedule for the next three weeks is up. Right now it's a double feature of Jodorowsky's El Topo and The Holy Mountain. There's a bunch of Bergman (possibly too much - and no Antonioni) in Sawdust and Tinsel, Summer with Monika, Fanny and Alexander, The Ritual, and The Magician; a Tati double feature of Mon Oncle and Playtime; and the monthly grindhouse double feature on Sept. 18 of a couple of 70s demon movies.

As regards Veronica Cartwright, she does indeed acquit herself rationally (SPOILER: She's the movie's last human survivor), when I say 'hysterical' I guess I'm describing her poorly. In this movie, as well as Alien, she plays somebody who reacts to difficult situations with raw emotions, while those around her react with either stoicism or anger, right up to the edge of hysteria proper, where she dares the audience to feel uncomfortable - which I approve of.

Piper said...

The Invasion is mediocre.

What's interesting about The Body Snatchers is how the story is consistently relevant. In The Invasion, it's less about paranoia, and more about how the aliens make us a more peaceful society because we become less emotional. It's an interesting idea, poorly executed.