Searchlight: The Thing: Terror Takes Shape

John Carpenter’s The Thing is considered a classic film, revered by many as the best horror can offer. The benchmark was set very high, with most CGI companies striving to reach the high standards the film set using only practical special effects. Strangely enough, the film was made on an extremely tight budget, and without the technical wizardry of Rob Bottin (The Fog, The Howling, Legend, Game of Thrones), many of those exciting set pieces would have never worked out at all. John Carpenter’s The Thing: Terror Take Shape reveals all the trials and tribulations the production team faced during filming of the movie, and stands as one of the best film documentaries I’ve ever seen.

Before I started writing horror stories, I wanted to be a special effects makeup artist. Lon Chaney was my personal hero growing up, and his little ‘Box of Tricks’ was my holy grail. Sadly, I wasn’t too skilled in the arts and crafts department. I could draw the monsters and design the makeup, I just lacked the patience to work with the raw product to sculpt my face into a monster. That desire has never left me, which is probably why Halloween is my favorite season of the year. My love of body horror is completely fulfilled by the majesty that is The Thing. I’ve seen it so many times I’ve lost count, and when the special edition released with this added content documentary, it was an instant purchase.

Directed by Michael Matessimo, the film features interviews with John Carpenter, producer David Foster, production designer John Lloyd, Kurt Russell, and Richard Masur, as well as the legendary Stan Winston, who did the special effects for the kennel transformation scene, and the man responsible for all of the other horrific imagery, Rob Bottin. Some making-of documentaries are boring and lifeless, but this one is exciting and thoroughly compelling. They also get into the storyboarding process, showing how they made the script come to life before they filmed a single shot. Bottin steals the show, recounting his experience working with one of the most difficult special effects scenes ever filmed. Because of the shoe-string budget of the film, many of the iconic scenes had to be worked out to the last detail before filming. They basically had one shot to get it right. Bottin’s sheer imagination and maverick style produced some extremely dangerous situations for the cast and crew, with toxic fumes from the effects combined with real fires in the scenes.

Available on YouTube to watch for free, many of you already have this documentary in your film library. If you own The Thing, it’s as far as that second disc you’ve never put into your DVD or blu ray player. As behind-the-scenes documentaries go, this one is my favorite, and not just because it’s about The Thing, or John Carpenter, but because it goes much deeper than that, and shows that sometimes it takes a massive amount of skill, and good people with a common vision, to create art that lasts forever.

Besides, you never really need an excuse to watch The Thing, right?

BOB PASTORELLA

 

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