The Silver Emulsion Podcast: Ep. 48 – The Thing

Silver Emulsion’s annual Horrific October kicks off with the John Carpenter classic, The Thing! Listen and enjoy! 🙂

Also: the show is now on iTunes! So if you feel like subscribing there, or rating/reviewing the show, feel free to share your thoughts!

Music Notes

Intro:

  • Videovalvontaa – The Thing

Middle:

  • Rudy Ray Moore – The Queen
    • Dolemite: the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (iTunes, Amazon)

Outro:

  • The Fame Gang – Spooky
    • Spooky / Night Rumble – Part II 45 RPM Single (Amazon, Discogs)

If you’ve got feedback, throw it into the comments below or email it to me via the contact page! We’ll include it in a future show!

The podcast is embedded directly below this, or you can go directly to Podbean (or use their app) to listen. If you want to subscribe, paste http://silveremulsion.podbean.com/feed/ into whatever reader you’re using.

Escape from L.A. (1996)

escape_from_la_poster1Starring Kurt Russell, Georges Corraface, Steve Buscemi, A.J. Langer, Stacy Keach, Michelle Forbes, Cliff Robertson, Peter Fonda, , Valeria Golino, Pam Grier, Bruce Campbell

Directed by John Carpenter

Expectations: Moderate. I remember not liking and liking this one.

twohalfstar


I’ve never watched the two Escape films in such close proximity before, and I think this is why I never really got what Escape from L.A. was going for. I always found it a chaotic, spastic piece of fun, but all of its nuances were completely lost on me. Coming at it with a full head of Escape from New York definitely helped the film, and it made for a much more enjoyable experience than I remember it being the last time, but it still doesn’t make up for all the flaws that this one holds. It’s unfortunate in this way, because when this film is good, it’s really good fun.

1998
In the late 20th Century, hostile forces inside the United States grow strong. The city of Los Angeles is ravaged by crime and immorality. To protect and defend its citizens, the United States Police Force is formed. A presidential candidate predicts a millennium earthquake will destroy L.A. in divine retribution.

“Like the mighty fist of God, Armageddon will descend upon the city of Los Angeles, the city of sin, the city of Gomorrah, the city of Sodom, and waters will arise and separate this sinful, sinful city from out country.”

Continue reading Escape from L.A. (1996) →

Escape from New York (1981)

escape-from-new-yorkStarring Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Donald Pleasence, Isaac Hayes, Season Hubley, Harry Dean Stanton, Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Atkins, Charles Cyphers

Directed by John Carpenter

Expectations: High. I love John Carpenter movies.

fourstar


In 1988, the crime rate in the United States rises four hundred percent. The once-great city of New York becomes the one maximum-security prison for the entire country. A fifty-foot containment wall is erected along the New Jersey shoreline, across the Harlem river, and down along the Brooklyn shoreline. It completely surrounds Manhattan Island. All bridges and waterways are mined. The United States Police Force, like an army, is encamped around the island. There are no guards inside the prison: only prisoners and the worlds they have made. The rules are simple. Once you go in, you don’t come out.

1997. Now.

John Carpenter’s Escape from New York has what is perhaps one of the greatest premises in movie history. When terrorists hijack Air Force One and crash-land it in the middle of the Manhattan Island Prison, Lee Van Cleef makes a deal with hero-turned-criminal Snake Plissken. For the safe return of the president, Plissken will get a full pardon. But he’s only got 24 hours to get the job done or else two capsules in his neck will explode. See, I told you it was awesome.

Continue reading Escape from New York (1981) →

The Thing (1982)

Starring Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David, Donald Moffat, Richard Masur, David Clennon, Charles Hallahan, Joel Polis, T.K. Carter, Richard Dysart, Thomas G. Waites, Peter Maloney

Directed by John Carpenter

Expectations: High. Seen this a few times, but it’s been about eight years or so since the last time.


As I mentioned in my review of Cigarette Burns, John Carpenter is one of my favorite directors. Before I had really ventured into the depths of horror filmmaking, Carpenter was there to introduce me to the genre proper. Sure, I had seen Universal monster movies and a few honest horror flicks as a kid, but it was this film and Prince of Darkness that really opened my eyes to the possibilities of horror. I was first exposed to his brand of cinema a few years earlier still, when trolling around the local video store during my elementary school years and my eyes fell upon the VHS box for Big Trouble in Little China. I instantly loved the movie just based on that art. I begged and pleaded to take it home and eventually wore my parents down. I was not let down by that film and I watched it a few times over the next couple of years. I never forgot the name that came up prior to the title, announcing that the film you were watching was the vision of a singular character, this mysterious figure named John Carpenter. Flash forward a few years to when I noticed that same name on The Thing and Prince of Darkness and I’ve never looked back. Carpenter is the first director I remember obsessing over, and he’s still got a very special place in my heart.

The Thing follows a research group stationed in Antarctica, opening with grand landscape shots and a helicopter tracking a dog across the vast snow fields. When a man leans out of the chopper and fires at the dog, we know some foul shit is afoot. The Thing is brilliant in its plotting, cutting out any extraneous bullshit and getting right down to the interesting stuff. As this opening scene unfolds we are introduced to our main group of characters, including Kurt Russell, Keith David and the Quaker Oats man himself, Wilford Brimley. The Thing is easily one of Carpenter’s best films, coming at a creative high after four fantastic films (Assault on Precinct 13 thru Escape From New York). The Thing succeeds because it is a very classically made picture, evoking the slow, careful pacing of an older generation, and thus requiring a different type of investment than your standard horror/sci-fi fare. The Thing is a slow-burn but incredibly rewarding, dishing out intense scenes and killer special FX.

Continue reading The Thing (1982) →

Pro-Life (2006)

Starring Caitlin Wachs, Ron Perlman, Mark Feuerstein, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Bill Dow, Chad Krowchuk, Graeme McComb, Benjamin Rogers

Directed by John Carpenter

Expectations: Moderate. Carpenter’s other Masters of Horror episode was pretty fun.


If Cigarette Burns was a good Carpenter attempt at episodic TV, then Pro-Life is an excellent one. It’s quite possible you won’t agree with me, but I found this to be easily one of the most enjoyable and exciting episodes of Masters of Horror yet. If you feel very strongly one way or the other on abortion this episode might bother you, but in the name of good horror fun, I say divorce yourself from the issue and allow the episode to run its course. The entire film revolves around a pregnant teen and an abortion clinic though, so it’s fairly hard not to think about it during the movie!

As the film opens it seems like it might be a simple horror take on the abortion issue, and in a way it is, but as the movie progresses it continues to grow darker and more other-worldly. For me personally, this was exactly the right move to take with this one and my enjoyment just grew and grew as the film went on. The ending is something of a WTF moment, but it works, and I can’t complain too much after being as entertained as I was throughout the film.

Continue reading Pro-Life (2006) →

Cigarette Burns (2005)

Starring Norman Reedus, Udo Kier, Gary Hetherington, Chris Britton, Zara Taylor, Chris Gauthier, Douglas Arthurs, Colin Foo, Gwynyth Walsh, Christopher Redman, Julius Chapple

Directed by John Carpenter

Expectations: Moderate. I’ll admit it, I am excited to see this. John Carpenter and me go way back.


John Carpenter is a special director to me. During my film snob period, John Carpenter was one of the few genre filmmakers able to cut through my bullshit. His confidence and grasp on storytelling was powerful enough to impress despite the issues a teenage film snob might have. Films like Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween, They Live, Big Trouble in Little China. Christ, the man knows how to get the job done and make it fun as hell. So going into this episode of Masters of Horror, I hoped that Carpenter would coming out firing on all cylinders.

Cigarette Burns is a film about films, one of the hardest types of films to pull off successfully. This is because as a self-aware film, it brings itself into our world and out of the realm of fantasy. Our touchstones are their touchstones. Carpenter is quick to establish that this is still fantasy though, when he reveals a pale-skinned, inhuman freak chained to a wall in the house of a billionaire. The rich man wants our hero (Norman Reedus) to hunt down a print of a rare film only ever shown once. When screened for the festival audience, the people went into a murderous frenzy, creating a cinematic myth for the ages. The man chained to the wall isn’t as key as you might think, but the early revelation about him changes the experience of watching Cigarette Burns and, at least for me, separates the film from our world. A parallel universe, perhaps.

Continue reading Cigarette Burns (2005) →

Mini-Review: The Ward (2011)

The Ward (2011)

Starring Amber Heard, Mamie Gummer, Danielle Panabaker, Laura-Leigh, Lyndsy Fonseca, Mika Boorem, Jared Harris, Dan Anderson, Susanna Burney, Sydney Sweeney, Sali Sayler, Mark Chamberlin, Jillian Kramer

Directed by John Carpenter

Expectations: High, I’m a big Carpenter fan.


John Carpenter is back after nine years away from feature films and old school horror fans are pumped. The master brought us such genre gems as Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween, and Big Trouble in Little China. While The Ward isn’t quite up to those standards, it’s a marked improvement from the rather lackluster and tired Ghosts of Mars, Carpenter’s previous film. The Ward is a simple story of a girl in 1966 who inexplicably runs through the forest and burns down a farmhouse. She is quickly locked away in a mental institution for care. There she meets the requisite cast of psych ward girls and we’re off on a creepy, minimalist ride through a fun, if somewhat clichéd, film.

Does anyone really want or need another mental hospital film? I know I sure don’t, but I soldiered on despite my indifference and all the negative reviews to watch the new John Carpenter flick. My love is strong, and all that. I’m very glad that I did though, as I got a much more competent horror film than I had expected. Carpenter clearly still has what it takes to construct a quality film and I only hope that he can scrape together the funds necessary to make another film in the near future if he is want to do so. Speaking of funds, I’m sure The Ward was a pretty low-budget affair, but it doesn’t look it in the slightest. The Ward looks and feels like an old school horror movie, with quality camerawork & editing and awesome physical FX from genre-masters KNB. It may not win any awards for originality, but I was thoroughly entertained by it every step of the way. It even got me to jump a few times, which hasn’t happened in a long time.

It would be wrong not to mention the opening credit sequence. It is easily my favorite credits sequence in years, with slow motion shots of old mental institution drawings and faded family photos that slowly fracture, revealing their fragile glass construction, and it’s intoxicating to watch. The rest of the film isn’t quite good enough to live up to this awesome opening, but critics be damned, John Carpenter’s return to feature films is a good one. You can’t go in comparing it to every past success he had from thirty years ago and expect to have a good time, but taken on its own, it’s a fun, scary horror flick. I imagine people who place no stock in the Carpenter name will get more pleasure out of this one simply because they have no expectations associated with it. Or it could just be that the horror genre and the viewing population have strayed so far from the old school aesthetics on display in The Ward that they are no longer accepting of a film made in the classic Hollywood style, without a bullshit handheld camera in sight.




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