Day 16, wherein we discover Mephistopheles to be a glorified lava lamp
The following originally appeared on Flick Attack, 20 March 2012.
1. The narrative revolves around the discovery of an aged glass container of sickly green liquid; a liquid that is, in actuality, Satan (or close enough for baseball). “A life form is growing out of pre-biotic fluids. It’s not winding down into disorder, it’s self-organizing.” The concept is so uniquely ridiculous, it’s awe-inspiring.
2. This is auteur Carpenter at his most unfettered, working with extremely low budgets and thereby unconstrained by the dictates of producers. Yes, some of the practical effects are on the dodgy side, the acting is rough, and this ain’t a suspense classic like Halloween or a monster epic like The Thing. But when vested in the material, Carpenter works the creepy like few can. The dream sequences that haunt those close to the Lucifergoo gave me daymares for weeks.
3. Right smack in the middle, a Vatican-hidden religious tome reveals that Jesus Christ was an extra-terrestrial who tried to warn humans about the dangers inherent in the liquid. At this revelation, not one scientist so much as bats an eyelash. That is some cold analytical shit happening right there.
4. Carpenter wrote the screenplay as Martin Quatermass, after the hero of the classic British Quatermass films, and their influence is obvious. Technobabble such as “Say goodbye to classical reality, because our logic collapses on the subatomic level … into ghosts and shadows” does epic battle with theological nonsense: “It’s your disbelief that powers him. Your stubborn faith in, in … common sense. He lives in the smallest parts of it.”
5. The soundtrack is a classic Carpenter synth score.
6. Donald Pleasance as the befuddled priest! Victor Wong as the Quatermass stand-in! An unlikely odd couple who debate Carpenter’s absurd science-vs.-religion dialogues with grace and aplomb and as much gravitas as can be mustered when discussing a tube of Satanic ooze.
For the month of October, I’ll be posting specifically about horror. Because why do you think.