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When I first saw John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’, I was too young to properly process all the horrible occurrences on the screen. This movie instilled several fears into me including an irrational weariness of random dogs and Norwegians carrying rifles.
‘The Thing’ is set in the North Pole where several scientists are studying the ice caps and are far away enough from help or civilization to make things interesting. Luckily, they make friends with a cute little puppy that later transforms into a many-headed monster with spinning tentacles and gnashing teeth.
The beast eats all of their sled dogs and then blends into the crew, waiting for another opportunity for a meal. One of this film’s best features has to be the animatronics and the creature effects that help to create some of the most tense moments of terror ever caught on celluloid.
This movie is an underground gem. Set in the Wild West, ‘The Burrowers’ gives both Native Americans and cowboys something very old to fear.
Not too far into the movie, members of a small band of rustlers and their prisoners mysteriously vanish. The movie is not shy about showing what the sadistic and carnivorous subterranean creatures look like as they feast on the flesh of frontiersmen and natives alike.
As in a lot of movies influenced by Lovecraft, ‘The Burrowers’ reaches back into history and fills it with uncanny horrors that have been seemingly lost in time.
When a group of astronauts visit the moon ‘Europa’, they dream up a million strange things that they might encounter. However, when bizarre accidents and a strange force begin slaughtering the crew, their dreams become visions of horror.
‘Europa Report’ is a movie that delivers all promises of the film ‘Gravity’ while actually involving extraterrestrials in the story. As a result, this film provides the same sense of wonder and apprehension as ‘The Thing’ but with the additional threat of the vacuum of space.
Proving a good horror movie doesn’t need a huge budget for special effects, ‘Absentia’ creates an authentic sense of dread that anyone who’s ever lived in a studio apartment in Los Angeles can appreciate.
When the main character’s husband goes missing for more than a year, she has to cope with his loss and an ever-present sense of survivor’s guilt. After some time and tons of waking nightmares born from regret, she seems ready to move forward with her life.
But things only get stranger when her husband suddenly returns home, traumatized and ranting about beasts with tentacles that dragged him into the shadows. Dealing with his insanity seems bad enough until she, too, starts to see the creatures her husband fears.
‘The Thing’ achieves horror by using the overt presence of an incredible creature and by implying the threat thereby creates a sense of pure dread. The next movies bring that paranoia and insanity to the audience through depictions of creatures with terrible origins or monsters born from the mind.
If there was a masterclass given on things not to do as a character in a Lovecraft inspired horror movie, Paul from ‘Dagon’ would be the Professor. The story begins with Paul being more interested in a laptop than his wife after waking up from a nightmare that should’ve caused him to cut his fishing trip short.
Inevitably everything goes pear shaped and he finds himself alone in a dilapidated seaside village. But this place has strange customs in regards to the worship of fish and the inhabitants seem a bit green around the gills.
It’s not long before Paul is hunted by a village full of robed nightmares who worship something much worse than themselves.
My personal affection for ‘In the Mouth of Madness’ comes from it being one of the smartest horror movies I’ve ever seen. This is a story about the written works of Sutter Cane, a novelist who outsells Stephen King and whose work would make other authors too terrified to pick up a pen.
The narrative follows a skeptical and logical insurance fraud investigator named John Trent down a well of insanity. On his hunt for Cane, Trent watches as all of his tenuous tethers to reality are stripped away.
In regards to this theme of insanity, there is a deep sense of otherworldliness running through this meta-textual nightmare. It legitimately leaves people wondering where the story ends and reality begins. This is what happens to Trent as he reads page after page of Sutter Cane’s work.
Portraying Trent, Sam Neil delivers a truly inspired performance as a man desperately holding on to the last bits of his mind.
‘The Thing’ is a movie that captures paranoia and horror so expertly that other movies have been ripping it off for decades, trying to recreate that same sense of dread. When a monster can be anyone, trust becomes a premium commodity – imagine if you can’t even trust your own eyes!
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