Also known as: Dr. Detroit (alternative spelling) Release Date: May 6th, 1983 Directed by: Michael Pressman Written by: Bruce Jay Friedman, Carl Gottlieb, Robert Boris Music by: Lalo Schifrin Cast: Dan Aykroyd, Howard Hesseman, George Furth, James Brown, T. K. Carter, Donna Dixon, Fran Drescher, Lydia Lei, Lynn Whitfield, Kate Murtagh, Peter Aykroyd, Glenne Headly
Black Rhino Productions, Brillstein Company, Universal Pictures, 89 Minutes
“Mom, I am going to rip off your head and shit down your neck.” – Doctor Detroit
This is a Dan Aykroyd movie that, for whatever reason, eluded me until I was much older. I probably would’ve loved it, as a kid, but maybe it was just buried down deep in the video stores I visited and thus, I never came across it until I worked in one as a teenager in the ’90s.
I like this movie and it has a pretty good cast. However, it is kind of sloppily thrown together and the humor is crude, even for the ’80s. That’s more of a reason why I would’ve liked it back then. But because I don’t have those fond childhood memories of watching this, I don’t have much nostalgia for it and I think that allows me to be more objective.
Aykroyd is good in this, as are most of the core people, but I can see why this went down the memory hole for most fans of ’80s comedies and why it was never a hit when it came out, despite Aykroyd’s popularity from the early days of Saturday Night Live.
The plot is goofy and you have to suspend disbelief quite a bit. The Doctor Detroit persona that Aykroyd creates is way over the top and so bizarre that it’s hard to believe that anyone would’ve taken him seriously, even in an ’80s screwball comedy. That’s not to say that the character isn’t funny and entertaining, he is.
The story is pretty wonky and poorly crafted and you kind of just have to enjoy the segments as they happen and not think too deeply about the movie. During the era in which this was made, though, this sort of stuff was the norm.
Audiences coming out of decades of civil and political strife in America just needed to breathe and enjoy life again. Many ’80s comedies are products of this societal feeling. And honestly, I think that’s why so many are still beloved today and still matter to so many people, as modern times aren’t all that great.
Doctor Detroit just isn’t one of those that can be considered a classic like Ghostbusters, Caddyshack, the Vacation movies or all those John Hughes teen dramadies. This isn’t even Revenge of the Nerds quality, it’s more like Revenge of the Nerds II or Caddyshack II.
However, like Revenge of the Nerds II and Caddyshack II, I enjoy this movie where I’d assume most people probably wouldn’t. And maybe this is actually a bit better than those, as I don’t have the nostalgia factor as part of its equation.
Also known as: John Carpenter’s The Thing (complete title) Release Date: June 25th, 1982 Directed by: John Carpenter Written by: Bill Lancaster Based on:Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell Jr. Music by: Ennio Morricone Cast: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, T.K. Carter, David Clennon, Keith David, Richard Dysart, Charles Hallahan, Peter Maloney, Richard Masur, Donald Moffat, Joe Polis, Thomas G. Waites, Adrienne Barbeau (voice, uncredited), John Carpenter (cameo, uncredited)
“We’re gonna draw a little bit of everybody’s blood… ’cause we’re gonna find out who’s The Thing. Watchin’ Norris in there gave me the idea that… maybe every part of him was a whole, every little piece was an individual animal with a built-in desire to protect its own life. Ya see, when a man bleeds, it’s just tissue, but blood from one of you Things won’t obey when it’s attacked. It’ll try and survive… crawl away from a hot needle, say.” – MacReady
Horror has been my thing since I was a young kid. I think a lot of that has to do with growing up in the ’80s, a great decade for horror movies because of the directors, the VHS market and the variance in horror styles from body horror, slashers and the supernatural. But I think, most importantly, credit has to be given to the style of the special effects, which were still practical and real, as CGI hadn’t taken over and turned everything into a digital world that doesn’t allow you to be as immersed in the horror on screen.
That being said, I didn’t actually see The Thing until I was a teenager in the mid-’90s when I worked at a video store. I was a John Carpenter fan but I didn’t know much about this film till later. I was inspired to watch it based off of some photos of the production and its monster in an old issue of Fangoria that I was flipping through. It looked like nothing I had seen before and I had to borrow it from the store and take it home for the night. That night ended up being a week.
What resulted from that was me becoming a die hard fan of this film and frankly, for me, it is the greatest horror movie ever made for several reasons, all of which I’ll get into.
To start, I’ve never been scared of horror. I actually find more terror in things that can harm me in a real world scenario. For instance, the Night Slasher and his cult-like gang from Sylvester Stallone’s Cobra was scarier to me than Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees. Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, which I see as a masterpiece, never scared me even though it was freaky as hell and fucked up. Well, the naked old lady with rotting skin kind of screwed me up for awhile but that’s also because I was maybe a few years older than Danny in the movie when I first saw it.
Anyway, The Thing terrified me, even as a teen. Sure, it doesn’t feel like something that is realistically plausible but it tapped into something primal, as it is about something you never fully understand that can come at you in incalculable ways without you realizing it until you’re ensnared by it. There is just something absolutely dreadful about that and John Carpenter with great help from the stupendous special effects team and the actors was able to crack through my pretty tough exterior and scare the shit out of me. And as a first time watcher of this film, it caught me by surprise and I immediately fell in love with the picture because it made me feel things that I typically don’t from movies.
This brings me to the special effects themselves, as well as the creature. This monster is one of the best, if not the best, ever created for the screen. The imagination that went into the execution of its various, altering physical forms still blows my mind all these years later. I’ve seen this movie a dozen times over and I’m still left breathless in a lot of the key monster scenes. I have also watched special effects films my entire life, especially those from this era, my favorite for this sort of thing, and I don’t know how some of the shots were achieved.
Adding to the horror of the bizarre creature is the horror of human paranoia. As the movie progresses, every character becomes an island unto themselves unable to trust the other men whom they’ve been holed up with at a science research facility in Antarctica for months. What was once a brotherly bond between these men becomes a fight for individual survival against those you considered your friends and colleagues. This is just as much a psychological horror film as it is a physical one. Maybe even more so.
Also, the setting of the film multiplies the dread, as it feels unfamiliar and isolated, which it is. But it immediately sets up a situation where you know that no one can come to help and for better or worse, these men have to figure out this problem on their own with limited resources, limited knowledge and while constantly having to look over their shoulders because anyone or anything could violently kill them at the drop of a hat.
There are so many layers to the horror in this picture that it feels overwhelming, which makes it damn effective. But it also makes for a film that is incredibly intense, especially in the final act, which starts with an insane attack by the creature and culminates in several men tied to chairs as their blood is tested in an effort to figure out who’s been replaced by this “thing”. And all of that comes to a head in a big showdown but even then, we’re left unsure as to what’s what.
The Thing ends brilliantly, as it doesn’t really give you any answers and the two that survive are left in a situation where one of them could still be the creature but it doesn’t even really matter because their time is limited regardless of what happens next.
It’s a perfect ending to a perfect movie though.
When other people talk about this film, they always go on about the monster and how visually fucked up the movie is. But I don’t think enough credit goes to the cast.
The Thing is stacked with talent from Kurt Russell, Keith David, Wilford Brimley and a half dozen other very capable actors. All of the key players have good chemistry and watching their camaraderie dissolve over the course of the movie is troubling and convincing.
Ennio Morricone’s score is also prefect here and what’s really strange about it is that it sounds like a Carpenter score, which is fitting. But it also makes me wonder why Carpenter used Morricone when he usually scores his own movies. While I absolutely love the atmospheric sounds of the score, it’s not typical of Morricone’s style and it just makes me wonder if Carpenter just wanted to collaborate with him because he’s a fucking legend.
John Carpenter’s The Thing is, in my opinion, one of the greatest motion pictures ever made. Horror doesn’t get any respect from the weirdos in Hollywood but I’d put this against most Academy Award winning films because the vast majority of them can’t get into your head like The Thing, despite what genre any of them are.
Those weirdos can keep The Shape of Water because I’d watch The Thing a hundred more times before ever going back for seconds on that pro-bestiality fish fuck movie.
Rating: 10/10 Pairs well with: the other parts of what Carpenter calls his Apocalypse Trilogy: Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth of Madness, as well as other body horror movies of the era like The Fly and David Cronenberg’s early films.