The Thing (1982)
I’m not going to preach on about this film, let’s just say it’s pure genius. John Carpenter’s The Thing is an excellent film – not just an excellent horror (or sci-fi) film, but an excellent film outright.
An isolated team of American scientists in the Antarctic are infiltrated by a shape changing creature from outer space. As the mystery unfolds, the team have no idea who has been taken over by the thing and who is still human. The tension mounts as the men’s suspicion of each other increases.
Great special effects (no CGI here) and believable performances (Kurt Russell as Mac) help, but it’s Carpenter’s ability to squeeze every ounce of unease, mistrust and anxiety out of the cast that makes it work. A classic.
Paranormal Activity (2007)
When I first saw this film, the initial twenty minutes or so didn’t impress me. It was like watching a feature length version of Most Haunted. Not that there’s anything wrong with Most Haunted (great show), I just don’t want to watch a dramatised version of vaguely strange happenings when I can watch the TV show any time. Plus, Paranormal Activity was another from the “found footage” genre, and while Blair Witch was OK I wasn’t a huge fan.
Where this film works though, is in tapping into a very primal fear – the fear of what goes on when we’re asleep. There are some very scary moments where the viewer can’t help but wonder if anything strange occurs when they’re sleeping. Sure, the hokum is ladled on mercilessly (frightened psychics, demonic possession) but there are genuinely hair-raising sequences that are really creepy.
The film works best when it’s low key, and plays on our fear of what goes bump in the night. Definitely worth a watch, just don’t expect to be convinced that the “found footage” is real…