"Devil's Advocates: The Thing" Book Review
Written by Jez Conolly
2013, 112 pages, Reference
Released on October 31st, 2013
The Carrie and Silence of the Lambs Devil's Advocates books being released alongside Jez Conolly's The Thing have it relatively easy, with a recent surge of interest in Carrie White and Doctor Hannibal Lecter making their release timely and welcome. Less so The Thing, which arrives almost three years late after an underwhelming prequel and a relatively dormant franchise. Still, John Carpenter's The Thing is a stone-cold (cold, geddit) classic, so a book about it is always welcome. Even more so when it's as well done as this one.
Of all the Devil's Advocates books I've read (and I've read them all so far), librarian, writer and editor Conolly's The Thing is the one that gives the greatest sense of its author's voice and personality. There's a risk, with film criticism, that it can come across as dry and overly serious. While Auteur have largely managed to sidestep this issue (aside, perhaps, from its uninspired Saw book) Conolly seems to have a blast writing about Carpenter's Thing. Much like the film itself, it has a punky, punchy vibe that makes it a great experience. There's even a little swearing, which is never a bad thing.
In addition to the usual story, making-of and histories we'd expect from a Devil's Advocate, Conolly also includes a very entertaining section in which he looks at the film's critical reception upon its original release. I particularly enjoyed the statement 'a great barf-bag of a movie' and summary 'Carpenter was never meant to direct science fiction horror movies'. Whoops. Well, we can't be 100% right all of the time. As ever, the book comes with a whole host (host, geddit) of pictures and captures from the film, as well as excerpts from the script and production notes. Your enjoyment of the book will probably vary depending upon how much you value the film (I'm a big fan, in case you hadn't guessed) but it's so well-written and fun enough that even lesser fans and scholars of cinema should find something to enjoy in it. If nothing else, there's Kurt Russell's magnificent beard, staring out at you from the front cover and photographs within. As Carpenter's film is one of the greatest sci-fi horror films of all time, so Kurt Russell's beard in it is the greatest beard of all time.
Along with their seminal Witchfinder General and Silence of the Lambs, Conolly's The Thing is one of the best books Devil's Advocates have produced yet. Conolly writes with passion, wit, accessibility and intelligence. As with the other books in the series, I closed the last page desperate to watch Carpenter's film all over again. That's The Thing about these books – their enthusiasm is infectious. Which is also The Thing.