Tag Archives: Rob Bottin

October Horror Day 4

Horror Journal

Tonight it’s the turn of the wolves and there really couldn’t be a more obvious double bill than these 80s classics. They are different stories but both have a modern perspective on the the old legends

An American Werewolf in London

This film is a modern update on the old Wolf Man story with generous doses of John Landis’s sense of humour and love of music. Two American tourists David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) are attacked by a werewolf while hiking through the countryside of northern England. Jack is killed and David is badly injured. While David recovers in a hospital in London he is plagued by graphically violent dreams. Then he gets a visit from Jack who tell him that he is now a werewolf while Jack is an undead spirit cursed to walk the Earth until the werewolf bloodline is severed when David dies. David convinces himself that he’s still just dreaming

When David gets discharged he goes to stay with Alex (Jenny Agutter) the nurse who took care of him in hospital and is now interested in taking care of him some more. Jack tries to warn him again but it no use and when the full moon comes out Jack is painfully transformed in an enormous savage wolf which slaughters its way across London. Everything comes to violent and tragic end in an alley off Piccadilly Circus.

This film is very well-known for the special effects work by Rick Baker especially during the transformation scene but what brings me back to this film is the characters, the humour and the way John Landis goes out of his way to stick as many moon songs into the soundtrack, using three different version of the song Blue Moon.

The Howling

Joe Dante and John Landis were both working on their werewolf films at the same and I read that Landis stole Dante’s special effects artist Rick Baker so they got Rob Bottin and I think that his work would have been hailed as the best werewolf effects ever if the other film didn’t exist but at least it got Dante and Bottin the Gremlins gig.

Karen White (Dee Wallace) is a news anchor at a large TV station who agrees to help the police catch a killer, Eddie Quist (Robert Picardo). Something goes wrong and Karen finds herself alone in a porn booth with Eddie who seems to be transforming. A couple of police arrive looking for Karen and Eddie gets shot apparently dead.

Karen is traumatised by her experience so her psychiatrist Dr Gorge Waggner (Patrick Macnee) sends her to a retreat he runs in the country called the Colony. It turns out that the Colony is really a pack of werewolves that Waggner is trying to civilize, with little success.

The werewolves in this film are very different from the one in American werewolf. They are more anthropomorphic, walking on two legs, and they don’t have an amnesiac split personality but have the same consciousness when in human or werewolf form. They also look terrifying.

The humour in this film is present but not as upfront as in American werewolf. I really liked Dick Miller’s occult shop keeper character and there’s a few werewolf film references in a few of the characters names, It’s a good film with plenty of creepy moments though I will say that the wookie at the end is still more comical than scary

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Posted by on October 4, 2013 in Film


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Review: The Thing (1982)

Film poster for The Thing - Copyright 1982

Image via Wikipedia

I haven’t got any John Carpenter films reviewed here so time to correct omission that with his adaptation of The Thing. This is based  on the novel Who Goes there? By John W. Campbell and the book was also used as the basis for the 1951 film The Thing From Another World

A helicopter is racing across the Antarctic snow chasing after a dog. A sniper leans out of side and tries to shoot the dog. They approach an US Antarctic station who all come out to see what is going on. The helicopter lands and he pilot tries to throw a thermite grenade at the dog but he drops it and blows up himself and the helicopter. The passenger runs toward the Americans shouting at them in Norwegian as the dog jumps up at the men and affectionately licks at one man’s face. The Norwegian starts shooting at the dog, accidentally grazing the leg of Bennings (Peter Maloney). He runs after the dog trying to shoot it but he gets shot dead from inside the base by the group’s leader Garry (Donald Moffat).

They try to figure what was going on, speculating about why the Norwegians had gone mad, never even considering possibility that they hadn’t. Meanwhile the dog they were desperately tying to kill is allowed to wander round the camp freely (not even their own dogs get to wander around like that). Dr Copper (Richard Dysart) wants to go to the Norwegian base to see what happened. The base’s helicopter pilot MacReady (Kurt Russell) flies him out there but the obligatory approaching storm introduces a time limit. The base is completely burnt-out and the personnel are dead. Copper finds the records of the Norwegian team. Then Mac finds a block of ice with the middle melted out. Outside they find a revolting twisted mass of flesh and body parts all fused together and burnt. They take it all back to the US base before the storm arrives.

The base scientist Dr Blair (Wilford Brimley) does an autopsy on the dead Norwegian and the thing that Mac and Dr Copper brought back. He finds normal organs but the thing is all slimy limbs, some human, others more spidery and something that looks like a face that has been stretched and twisted. It is really unpleasant and a warning of what is to come.

Everyone is relaxing, Palmer is smoking dope with Nauls everyone else is in the rec. room, playing pool, playing cards. Benning notices the dog is still running around so Clark the dog-handler (Richard Masur) puts it in with the other dogs in their cage. As soon as he leaves the dog changes, long pink tendrils shoot out from its body and seizes some of the other dogs, its face opens up like fleshy flower, spider legs come out of the body. The other dogs are freaking out, barking and whining in terror. Clark runs back to see what’s happening and sees this mass of half dogs writhing around in the middle of the cage. Mac hears the racket and pulls the alarm. He gets Childs (Keith David) to bring a flame-thrower and everyone heads for the dog cage. The mass of metamorphosing flesh screams at them as Mac opens the cage and the surviving dogs escape. One part of the mass escapes through the roof and Mac orders Childs to burn all the rest.

Blair examines the thing from the dog cage and reaches some conclusions. There is some sort of alien organism that absorbs other lifeforms and then imitates them. They interrupted the process with dogs. He points out that the dog was free to wander around camp all day and he thinks it can imitate people too and realises the implication right away.

They watch a film the Norwegians made showing them finding something massive in the ice and digging it up. Norris (Charles Hallahan)and Mac fly out to the location of the dig and find a massive saucer shaped spaceship. Norris estimates from the depth of the ice it must have been buried for hundreds of thousands of years.

At the base everyone is talking about extraterrestrials and flying saucers. Blair is in his lab with his computer running a very slow simulation of red blobs absorbing blue blobs and making them into more red blobs. This is definitely authentic computer graphics from 1982. The ability to answer complex questions in English is bit less believable but it’s film land. The computer tells him that if the creature gets away from Antarctica it could destroy all life on Earth This means the team must stop the creatures at all cost, even their own lives and they have no idea who they can trust.

This films really has some really overwhelming specials effects from Rob Bottin and Stan Winston and the highlight of that is the scene in the surgery where Dr Copper is trying to revive Norris from a heart attack which just blasts the audience with the stuff of nightmares. This does contribute to growing sense of fear and paranoia in the film. Character development is a bit shallow and we don’t really get a sense that guys exist outside of the Antarctic base but when the trouble starts Kurt Russel steps up and transforms Mac into the bad-ass alpha-male Snake Plisskin and takes charge of things and everyone, even the base leader Garry, just meekly goes along with it. Really not to everyone’s taste, I think this a great film because I just love those old style squishy special effects

Rating 8/10


Posted by on September 2, 2011 in Entertainment, Film


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