5. Norwegian Camp
Arriving at the burned out remains of the Norwegian Camp (itself the remains of the set of Outpost 51 after they blew it up for the film’s finale; saves making another set), the desolation is palpable. Pulling up in the chopper through black smoke to find ripped-open walls, thick chiaroscuro shadows, all accentuated by legendary composer Ennio Morricone’s haunting score (much like the research lab and general store discoveries from Them! – 1954), you know that something awful has happened, but nothing could prepare you for what lies inside.
A body, razor in hand, blood frozen mid-flow from a cut neck and slit wrists. The image is horrific in a way that almost none of the other moments manage to capture. What could drive a man to do that to himself, and have it captured like a photograph, frozen in time, forever remaining terrified of some unknown horror?
Finding the block of ice along with the body, a face twisted into two mangled, melted imitations, is almost secondary to the understanding that this wasn’t a normal accident. This wasn’t someone gone mad with cabin fever. This was something more, extraordinary, and deeply wrong.
4. Blowing It All Up
The finale of the film. Awe-inspiring defiance in the face of certain death. We can’t let the thing freeze again, so we blow everything up. Nobody survives. It doesn’t make it back to civilisation. And after it makes attempts to take out the survivors, only MacReady is there left to fight it, throwing a stick of dynamite at a great, towering monstrosity of everything and anything, as it attempts to birth another dog-imitation in a final bid for freedom.
The sight of the camp blowing up, despite dooming our protagonist to death, is glorious. A wonderfully large explosion with great plumes of orange flame against a dark background. It is a final, desperate middle finger to the paranoia and fear between fellow men which the thing embodies, stalking them forever.
And then in the remains of the base, worn and tired, Childs appears, having somehow survived it all, absent for the last fifteen minutes of chaos. ‘Got lost’ is his excuse. But can we trust him? And when Mac says ‘Why don’t we just wait here for a little while? See what happens,’ with no hope of rescue, Childs swigs a bottle of whisky. Mac chuckles.
That chuckle, and what it might mean, has given rise to more theories and postulations than the spinning totem of Inception’s closing shot. Some drafts, as well as members of the crew, say that one of them wasn’t human. But who was it? Maybe the information is all in front of us, and maybe we’ll never know.
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3. Dog Kennels
Everyone remembers seeing it for the first time. The way the dog, rescued from the Norwegian attack, simply lies down in the dark of the dog cage and sits there, staring dead ahead, into the dark. Everyone gone. All is calm. And then it shakes, it rattles, blood pours from the dog’s face, and it rips into four…
We all know that dogs die in horror movies, but never would we expect it to happen like this. Never would we expect this level of brutality and violence aimed at an animal, and the shock and bizarreness of it, the extreme body horror elements, tentacles wrapping around the other dogs, the flower-like maw which erupts from its corrupted, melting body, followed by two gigantic claws appearing out of the mush to try and escape, burning in the fire of the flamethrower.
Its intensity is almost unmatched in cinema, working not only on the visual gory nature but at a level of psychological attack. This creature was man’s best friend, which we allowed into our pack. It looked and seemed normal. Dogs, not having language, are unable to lie. If this creature can deceive us, what hope do we have if it makes it to one of us?