What does “existential horror” mean? If I could figure that out, I would be such a raving fan!
“is now”, Um, OK…
I love this movie, and the short story Who Goes There? that it’s based on is spectacular.
If you watch and love the movie, follow it up by reading The Things by Peter Watts — a (spoiler-filled) look at the movie from the monster’s point of view.
Love The Thing. And also Big Trouble in Little China, among others of Carpenter’s.
I couldn’t agree more with this article. In fact, I love The Thing so much, I got some friends together and we rerecorded it as a read-along record book. You know, for kids! Here’s the YouTube video of the presentation, complete with PDF book:
I was too young to see it when it first came out, and caught it much later as part of cult film season on TV, it scared the heck out of me and I’ve loved it ever since.
There was a recent showing at our local imax screen, and I finally managed to see it on a big screen, it was like seeing it for the first time again.
I have soft spots for the Romero Zombie films (Day of the dead in particular feels like it borrowed something in tone from the Thing), Reanimator and Argento’s earlier work, but the Thing is my all time favourite, I don’t think Carpenter made anything finer.
Key Themes of Existentialism
Philosophy as a Way of Life Anxiety and Authenticity Freedom Situatedness Existence Irrationality/Absurdity The Crowd
. a shuddering the strong feeling caused by something frightful or shocking; shuddering fear and disgust; terror and repugnance strong dislike or aversion; loathing the quality of causing horror something that causes horror a genre of fiction, films, comic books, etc. characterized by the depiction of frightening events and, variously, ghosts, vampires, monsters, etc. something very bad, ugly, disagreeable, etc.
The Thing is now recognized as a morbid masterpiece of wretched existential horror
John McCain’s 2008 running mate choice has it beat.
I love a good Monster movie. Some folks (mom?) don’t understand why I would enjoy anything so completely awful.
Here’s the appeal for me: These sort of stories and movies are fantasies about a world that is worse than the one we live in. Fantasy is usually employed to make us long for better places – how cathartic it is to see a fantasy world where people have it rough.
And this is precisely why I don’t really care for Slasher movies. Those are fantasies about how much the world we actually live in sucks. In my opinion, you have to live a rather cloistered and privileged life for that sort of entertainment to be appealing. Or you need to have the same bloody contempt for the human form that The Thing has.
Sigh. That’s not ironic. It’s coincidental.
If you have to ask, you probably don’t yet understand it.
I think some people use “existential horror” as an economical way of saying that the film is steeped in a feeling-tone of extreme dread, where the victims of the horror are exposed to imminent physical danger created out of circumstances that are both absurd and irrational, but somehow consistent with an intuition that an indifferent universe provides no easy escape from the deeply nauseating realization that it is an implacable and unknowable adversary, full of menace, especially to the body, which is the seat of consciousness. There is hardly anything more absurd or irrational than a spider with a man’s head, and within the claustrophobic confines of the film’s own logic, the horrible extremes of the situation are always revealed and expressed as grotesque violations of a body that is distorted and abused beyond recognition. In the end, the dilemma is that it is impossible to say how much of the victim’s humanity can survive having no recourse to reason or rescue, in the face of such sheer and total alienation.
The Thing is indeed brilliant, thanks in no small part to the horrifying and amazing practical effects by Rob Bottin. It’s recognized now as a masterpiece of horror effects. I’m not sure about the “existential” part, unless by ‘existential’ you mean “a horrible ancient monster that can replace people is murdering us one by one”.
E.T. is also a masterpiece of another sort altogether. I loved it in 1982, and love it now. If that makes me a kid who likes “emotional diarrhea”, well, I’ll wipe my sobbing eyes with a diaper.
Oh my dog: The Thing, that really is one scary movie. I’m not a big fan of the genre myself, but that one is burned into my brain.
It was the winter of 1983 and I was working long hard days out in the snowy bush of Northern Alberta. The evening routine was pretty simple, drive back to the hotel, shower, eat, fall asleep watching the movie channel on satellite tv. Rinse and repeat for six weeks at a stretch. Then one evening, I turned the tv on just as the opening credits faded, so I had no idea what I was watching. At first I thought it was a documentary about Antarctica, but then, things. got. weird.
That movie grabbed me by the eyeballs, and wouldn’t let me leave. I couldn’t turn it off and I couldn’t fall asleep. Afterward, when I did get to bed, I couldn’t sleep for thinking about it. The next night I dreamed about it. I still remember it, but have no desire to see it again. First rate horror, if that’s your thing I guess.
Your assessment of ET is spot on.
I believe it is indeed ironic: two films in the genre of the fantastic, both released the same day to poor box office, both now considered ground-breaking classics. It may be a coincidence to you, but it seems ironic to me.
I could be wrong but I thought that a big reason why The Thing wasn’t a success at the box office was because it was released soon after ET which overshadowed anything being released at the time.
Thing is, nobody knows.
I independently used the term myself, in my teens. My reasoning was to explain why most of what seemed to pass for the horror genre was not the slightest bit scary. Most of it is about some bogey that kills you, despite your protests. Or kills somebody else. A lot of it is simply about death. But death is a very normal, everyday thing to get worked up about! It is making a big deal over something natural and inevitable on the assumption that the viewers will find it unsettling, and, as such, can easily be lumped in the same category as other attempts at cheap drama and button-pushing.
So, horror then seems to be about the living. Fear of death is only one’s attachments here and now. Focusing upon problems of existence through surrealism, psychology, philosophy, etc (not necessarily Sartre) allows for a greatly expanded and more nuanced conception of what horror is and can be.