The genius behind the recent re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica, Ronald D. Moore, had been determined to make a prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 remake of The Thing for some time. The project was given a green light in early 2009 and a release date of some time around the end of this year has been announced.
For many, Carpenter’s The Thing was the benchmark in fantasy horror. Itself a remake of the 1951 original The Thing from Another World, which is an adaptation of the short story Who Goes There, Carpenter excelled himself in new and gruesome ways that an alien could attack its pray, absorb them and then mutate itself.
The reason the new project is generating so much excitement is that Moore is centering his prequel on what happened at the Norwegian Antarctic research station – before rough, tough R.J. MacReady and his team are interrupted by the men in the helicopter trying desperately to shoot the fleeing husky.
Despite being made over 25 years ago, the special effects in Carpenter’s film were way ahead of their time. We are treated to dissolving dogs, a torso with teeth and a decapitated head that sprouts spider-like legs and scuttles away.
So, to celebrate this glorious, gory return to the fantasy horror genre, we consider some of the more disturbing ways to depart, as seen in the cinema.
Movie: Robocop (1987)
Victim: Emil (played by Paul McCrae)
Scene: during a perilous car chase through an abandoned steel mill, Robocop craftily sidesteps Emil’s attempt to ram him with his speeding van. Instead Emil drives straight into a giant metal vat, emerging a few minutes later in a somewhat disturbing state.
Cause of death: slowly dissolving after being drenched in toxic waste.
Coroner’s report: Clearly the toxic waste weakened the molecular bonding throughout Emil’s body as we see when he “splashes” all over the windscreen of crime boss Clarence Boddicker’s speeding car: a blessing really.
Time taken to die: approx 3 ½ minutes
Agony rating: 5
Victim: Kane (played by John Hurt)
Scene: the crew of the Nostromo are enjoying one last dinner - after a troublesome experience on an alien planet - before entering cryogenic hibernation for the trip back to Earth.
Cause of death: a particularly pesky alien fetus rips through your major organs and burst out of your chest a day or so after the embryo is unceremoniously ejaculated down your throat.
Coroner’s report: as the fetus is ready to be “born” it starts tearing at your organs to be able to get out, and that’s got to hurt.
Time taken to die: approx 20 seconds
Agony rating: 8
Movie:The Thing (1982)
Victim: everybody? Well, we don’t know for sure…
Scene: throughout the movie, the alien parasite uses stealth to attack and “become” the victim in order to slowly and strategically take over.
Cause of death: being utterly absorbed or digested by an alien life form.
Coroner’s report: since the creature seems to inherit memory and basic characteristics from the victim in order to camouflage itself more effectively, complete osmosis seems to take place at a genetic level.
Time taken to die: unknown
Agony rating: 6
Movie:Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Victim: Gestapo agent Toht (played by Ronald Lacey)
Scene: the Ark of the Covenant is finally opened to see if the broken tablets of stone on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed are inside.
Cause of death: being melted by the power of God.
Coroner’s report: rapid though it may be, it looks like the liquefying progresses inward as opposed to an all-at-once process, so death is far from instantaneous; the flesh and eyes would melt first and the skull itself would take a little longer.
Time taken to die: up to 10 seconds
Agony rating: 6 ½
Movie:Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
Victim: Commander Sonak (played by Jon Rashad Kamal) and token assistant
Scene: two crew members are beamed aboard the Enterprise from Starfleet HQ not knowing the transporters aren’t fully functional yet as a result of her ongoing overhaul.
Cause of death: not being able to reform properly after having every component molecule in their bodies scrambled and sent up to orbit and then back down to Earth again.
Coroner’s report: during the attempt to save them, the unfortunate Starfleet officers begin to physically form, thus they are actually conscious of being pulled apart at a sub-atomic level.
Time taken to die: around 10 seconds
Agony rating: 7
Movie:Starship Troopers (1997)
Victim: Zander Barcalow (played by Patrick Muldoon)
Scene: having crash-landed into a cave on Planet P, the wounded Zander and Carmen Ibanez inadvertently face off against the giant “brain bug”.
Cause of death: having your brains sucked out like you’re slurping on a milkshake.
Coroner’s report: the enormous alien limb that’s rammed into his head doesn’t penetrate at a point to cause actual death - that results from his brains being sucked out.
Time taken to die: approx 8 seconds
Agony rating: 5
Movie:The Black Hole (1979)
Victim: Dr Alex Durant (played by Anthony Perkins)
Scene: the crew of the USS Palomino try to discreetly explain to Dr Durant that Hans Reinhardt is a complete loon, but the psychotic robot Maximillian is on to them and promptly dispatches the good doctor with menacing mastery.
Cause of death: having a spinning 18in “blender” blade mince your abdomen.
Coroner’s report: Disney shows us a dark side, who’d have thought. The anticipation of just about to be minced probably doesn’t help, and the mess would just go everywhere.
Time taken to die: approx 5 seconds
Agony rating: 8
Movie:Total Recall (1990)
Victim: Vilos Cohaagen (played by Ronny Cox)
Scene: a desperate, last-ditch struggle over the “on” switch for the alien reactor has resulted in an explosion causing sudden decompression in the control chamber.
Cause of death: blown out and exposed to the surface of Mars sans environment suit.
Coroner’s report: rapid decompression and exposure to a vacuum causes hypoxia, convulsions and fibrillation of the heart, however, loss of consciousness usually occurs after 15 seconds or so.
Time taken to die: 90 seconds
Agony rating: 6
Movie:The Hitcher (1986)
Victim: Nash (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh)
Scene: psychotic John Ryder breaks into a motel room and kidnaps Nash, dragging her to a truck stop parking lot. He ties her between a Mack truck and its trailer and commandeers the truck's cab, revving the engine.
Cause of death: being tied hand and foot then slowly pulled apart.
Coroner’s report: chances are the resulting effect would be having your arms and legs ripped off, rather than actually being torn in two, leaving the victim bleeding to death.
Time taken to die: a few minutes
Agony rating: 9
Movie:Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983)
Victim: seven of Jabba the Hutt’s henchmen and Boba Fett (played by Jeremy Bulloch).
Scene: Han, Luke and Chewbacca are only seconds away from ceremonial sacrifice by the galactic gangster by being thrown into the Great Pit of Carkoon.
Cause of death: being swallowed whole by the sand pit-dwelling Sarlacc monster
Coroner’s report: victims are reportedly kept alive once inside the creature’s stomach so that they may be digested over 1,000 years, so death by dissolving would probably take second place to eventual starvation.
Time taken to die: quite a few years
Agony rating: 10
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