Waypoint 101 –– The Thing

For May’s Waypoint 101, join us in exploring all things Thing!

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1982’s The Thing , directed by John Carpenter, was something of a flop when it initially released, but over the years it gained an immense cult following and is now recognized as a sci-fi horror classic. 20 years later, in The Thing received a sequel as a video game. Developed by Black Label Games, the game does its best to emulate the paranoia and terror of the film it’s based on.

Even if you don’t have Waypoint+, you can join us on Twitch as Patrick and friends go through the 2002 game The Thing! You can also find the vods posted later on their YouTube channel. They’ll also be reading the original novella Who Goes There? by John Campbell, watch the Carpenter film, and the 1951 movie The Thing From Another World for full immersion!

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I’ve seen the original 1951 movie at least once with my grandma when I was very young, and one thing you really need to do when you see that movie is not have the Carpenter version in your head, because it will never hold up.

Curious to check it out again.

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My college roommate senior year made it something of a personal mission to fill in my '80s cultural reference gaps and so we sat down to watch Carpenter’s The Thing. Great movie. I never want to see that again because yikes.

Yeah, I have a big problem with certain kinds of gory horror moments (to the extent that some of the opening sequences of Doctor Strange, with Strange’s hands in those fixation frames needed me to go and have a walk around for 5 minutes before I could come back), so imagine how I feel about what Carpenter’s The Thing does with practical effects and a lot of fake blood.
(It’s still a great movie, though, but I’m not watching it again.)

In the biggest popularity boom of social deduction games thanks to things like Among Us and Town of Salem do we not have a proper multiplayer The Thing video game?

I absolutely adore the practical effects in this movie. They’re gross and unsettling in the best way.

I sort of feel that (as a lot of people noted at the time) Carrion is the single-player The Thing video game that already exists.

I agree I’m sort of surprised that a multiplayer type experience doesn’t exist though.

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The Thing is one of my favorite films of all time. In my Top 10 on Letterboxd. I have been into horror films since I was about 2 years old and first saw The Shining. I love the gruesome practical effects. I think this film has the best performances from its entire main cast - Kurt Russel, Keith David, and Wilford Brimley (admittedly, for Brimley, perhaps not a high bar) are all at their best. John Carpenter is one of my favorite composers of all time, in addition to being a favorite director, and hearing him influence and collaborate with Ennio Morricone is something truly special. And it’s just a good, tense horror film.

I have seen the 50s film, and I think it largely holds up too - despite a couple of moments that are like, ergh, yeah, this film sure was made in the 50s, huh. But hey, that one has a couple of women in it, so there’s something. Great performances and direction, though, even if it lacks some of that tension of the Carpenter film. Never saw the premake, played the game, nor read the original Campbell story (mostly because he was a terrible human being in all respects), but I’m fond enough of the Carpenter film that I will give them both a go as the Waypoint 101 gets to them.

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Even Ebert thought the movie was a little excessive in the gore department but you really can’t beat good practical effects.

Thing battle royale.

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Let the Assassin’s Creed multiplayer team make a Thing game

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The Thing is one of my favourites too (if we’re dropping Letterboxd references, it gets pride of place among the four favourites it lets you highlight on your profile). I’m not quite sure when I first watched it - early 2000s maybe - but I’ve loved it since. On the one hand, I just think it’s startlingly well made - all the stuff @ricotta mentions about the effects, the performances, the score. On the other, this is just one of my favourite vibes: the Antarctic winter setting, the isolation, the tension, the sci-fi horror threat.

I adore John Carpenter, but so often his work feels like it was compromised by budget or other factors (or factors that a low budget and low expectations can bring, like weak performances). As much affection as I have for Escape from New York or They Live and so on, The Thing feels to me like one of the few - maybe the only - times his work made it through the production process unscathed. Absolutely everything comes together. It’s one of the things that makes its initial reception and box office flop status so tragic, as it feels like of all his films it should have been the one that earned him the respect he deserved as a filmmaker and opened up more opportunities for him down the line.

(As an aside, that The Thing came out the same weekend as Blade Runner and both were flops continues to amaze me, though at least in Blade Runner’s case the original theatrical cut with its goofy happy ending from spare The Shining footage is, uh, bad and the initial reception is rather more justified)

I only watched The Thing From Another World last year and I’m actually really impressed with how well it holds up. It’s nowhere near as intense as Carpenter’s film, but a lot of the tension and paranoia is still present, and the setting I love so much (albeit Arctic rather than Antarctic!) lends it some similar qualities in the vibes department. Future directors: set all your films in snow-swept desolation, please.

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Oh also shout outs to Patrick for referencing that AMC 100 Scariest Moments show, which also did a lot to make me even more obsessed with horror than I already was. (Though as a little kid I grew up on slashers, so I was pretty converted already.)

Decades years later I only have about 18 movies on this list I haven’t seen yet.

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100 Things drop onto a planet…

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The Thing and Vertigo are two movies that have always made me wonder if a video game would/could ever be so significantly reevaluated years after the fact.

Well, weirdly enough, Among Us comes to mind as an example. Did almost nothing upon release, exploded with streamers years later.

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There might be something there but Among Us feels more like it didn’t even really get an initial evaluation; it was a little thing that got buried beneath an algorithm until some streamers brought it from unknown to known.

Conversely people knew about The Thing and Vertigo and simply considered them to be terrible for years. Carpenter and Hitchcock both got very publicly dragged but then years down the road people went “actually these are pretty good” (or more notably “actually this is one of the best horror movies ever” and “actually this is one of the best movies ever” respectively).

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I feel like Dragon Age 2 has come pretty close to this? It was panned hard on release, but nowadays “DA2 is the best Dragon Age” is a pretty lukewarm take.

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Okay, I change my answer to NIER. Largely dismissed in its time, suddenly reevaluated as a classic as of last year.

The issue is there are not really secondary markets for video games like there are for movies. The Thing could go on and thrive on home video and on television, lots of movies of got their big breaks that way. (Nobody would remember It’s a Wonderful Life if not for the fact its copyright was lapsed all through the 70s and 80s and thus it was a very cheap option to fill airtime during the holidays.) The life cycle of a video game to make a huge impact in the public eye is limited to mostly its original release and maybe some re-releases or ports down the line. Or sequels, like in the case of NIER, were Automata moved the needle from weird niche game to minor masterpiece. Streamers might be able to make a difference, a few reevaluation pieces could do something, but the needle rarely moves in the way The Thing could.

Like, I’ll howl and scream for years that Iconoclasts was an extremely cool and beautiful game, but I don’t see any path that game makes the impact it should have.

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While I largely agree there is little secondary market for games in the way films get, the ever-increasing length of console generations (so there’s less rush to jump to a new platform and forget everything that isn’t brand new) + the fresh emphasis on backwards compatibility and/or repertory releases does mean certain things are getting more of a second chance than they might have even just a few years ago. Like oh hey this old game from the original Xbox era is now just on Game Pass, or a NES game in Nintendo’s online system, or the upcoming PlayStation stuff (sceptical as I am of both Nintendo and Sony’s emulation). Or for more recent games, a Game Pass or PS Plus release can reinvigorate it. Anything to lower the barrier to entry, get more people playing it, and invite the opportunity to reassess.