retrogaming The Thing

The Thing for the PS2

Yes, the obsession continues.

I played through the majority of the PS2 The Thing, which set itself up as a sequel to the movie. Two things worth mention:

From a plot standpoint, this game went the route of Aliens and gave the government/some corporation/some mad scientist dude the brilliant idea of taking this highly-dangerous being and studying it for purposes of evil war stuff. So, once again we have the ‘better not let this thing get to the mainland’ conflict. In truth, it just gave an excuse to blow shit up. Which is fine, I guess.

The gameplay is more-or-less Goldeneye, but with the addition of some basic squad management with a decidedly Thing twist. As you come across fellow survivors, you have no idea if they are actually human or not. Same goes for them – and if they don’t trust you you can forget about getting any help.  Or, you know, they might explode into gory creepos and kill you. The NPCs will also become more and more freaked out as they witness crazy alien stuff, eventually collapsing into breakdowns if you don’t keep their spirits up. Fear and trust – two of the main emotional elements of the movie. So, good job there — though I would have preferred more of it.

And at the end, MacReady’s still alive.  What?

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The Thing and Lovecraft — Guest Post

Oh yes. I am not alone in my recent obsession.  Adam Nowak has allowed me to guest post on Caffeine Dreams as a part of his month of Lovecraft.  Check out the full post here.

A quick sample:

 What better place than Antarctica for a story about mankind’s isolation? As our understanding of the universe grows, the perceived importance of our presence in it diminishes. We’re a blip. An oddity. Closer in intellectual advancement to a crow breaking a shell with a rock than to the horrible powers which exist beyond the borders of our knowledge. Indeed, the aliens themselves are so foreign-looking that we can barely understand what they are, be they Lovecraft’s anemone cucumbers or Carpenter’s tentacle-flailing blood beings. And they’re here, hidden in the dark places of the world we thought was ours.

I say again, check it in its entirety here.



The Thing

The Ending of The Thing

Check this two-part video analysis of ending of The Thing, particularly the question of whether or not Childs is a duplicate. A few stretches, but it does a good job of illuminating spots where the director is trying to tell us something. I mean, why two long shots of a coat rack?

To keep people arguing about it for thirty years. That’s why.

I must confess that by the end of the movie, I don’t really care who’s a fake and who’s not. The last scene is more about the emotion than the puzzle, the creeping nihilism that forms the foundation of the story’s world. These two guys are going to freeze to death. Maybe one’s an alien who will wait in the ice for another hundred millenia. What does it matter?

All of MacReady’s readiness, his clever strategies and brave actions, didn’t save the day. Maybe he kept the alien from infecting the world, and maybe he didn’t. Either way, there’s a race of creepy dudes out there who can end all human life in very little time. They are very good at staying alive. All we can do is hope they continue to ignore us.

Which leads me into my next post in this series – The Thing and Lovecraft. Tune in tomorrow!


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The Thing and Wordcraft

Forgive me as a geek the hell out about The Thing for a while.

I watched the flick for the first time in years last night, and was struck by three things:

  • How remarkably blue Kurt russell’s eyes are.
  • The subtle placement of an old anti-vd poster behind Mac as he performs the blood test. “They aren’t labeled, chum”
  • One particular aspect of craft — names.

12 characters are involved in the strange events at Outpost #31, any of whom could be an alien. People whisper paranoid fears about each other in dark corners.”What’s wrong with Blair?” “Go get the keys from Garry.” “I won’t go with Windows.”  And yet I had no issue keeping the names straight.

How was this done?  A few keys –

It’s ok for people to call each other by name. Writer advice columns everywhere tell us not to do that. “Gee, Bob, I don’t get it.” “Me either, Shan.” They say people don’t really talk like that, and to an extent they are correct. But in a group conversation, it happens much more frequently — and this can be used to our advantage.

One at a time. The witchcraft whisperings addressed one guy at a time. Even if the audience isn’t sure who they mean at first, it’s made clear pretty quickly by referring to other scenes.

No nicknames. Aside from the shortening of MacReady to Mac, the rest of the characters stick to one name. I’m a fan of using the various ways people refer to each other as a device to reveal the character of the speaker, but when faced withe the sheer ice cliff of names in this story, they were right to leave it simple.