Some "Thing" Wicked This Way Comes

I suppose that, in this day of home video entertainment – DVD, digital downloading, iPods, iPhones (what – haven’t they found a way to beam movies directly into your brain yet?) – that there may be at best limited value in extolling the virtues of the revival house experience, yet I will soldier on, within the confines of this column (i.e. Hollywood Gothique), using retrospective screenings as an excuse to discuss classic horror, science-fiction, and fantasy films when they show up on the big screen in Tinsle Town.

This weekend brings us a double bill of paranoid sci-fi horror in the form of the 1978 remake of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS and John Carpenter’s 1982 remake of THE THING, which will screen at the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles Sunday through Tuesday. It’s a clever combo: in light of the recent release of THE INVASION, it seems timely to revisit a previous version of Jack Finney’s tale of body snatchers from outer space, and since the American Cinematheque already screened the classic 1956 version a week or two ago (and since no one cares about 1998’s BODY SNATCHERS), that left the 1978 version as the best alternative.

What’s especially nice is the including of Carpenter’s re-imagining of THE THING. Although the film is justly famous for its extensive special effects (supervised by Rob Bottin), we should not forget that this is yet another tale of an alien that can assume the likeness of a human being – a plot element deleted from 1951’s THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, which was derived from the same source material, John W. Campbell’s story “Who Goes There?”

Although I don’t think either of these remakes matches the original, both of them prove that it is possible to redo a classic, without slavishly copying it, and come up with something that feels distinctive to be worthy of considering on its own merits. Screened one after the other, I imagine the theatre might explode from a critical mass of alien-inspired paranoia.

You can read my full review of THE THING here.