VHS Revival wages war with two of sci-fi’s most terrifying creations
It’s a wholly ridiculous concept, but who hasn’t pondered a hypothetical battle between two of their favourite movie characters, particularly when they possess similar personalities and attributes? We have already had Freddy vs Jason and Alien vs Predator, and while those movies sucked beyond comprehension (in a good way, obviously), it didn’t stop us from flocking to the movies in our legions. Part of the reason why we fail to accept these crossover extravaganzas is that they answer questions that don’t need answering. Some things are best left to the imagination, and the fact is you can’t please everyone. For every Voorhees fan aching to see their boy decapitate Freddy with a blunt mallet, there’s a Krueger fanatic longing to see Jason squirm in his adversary’s ethereal dreamworld.
Instead of telling you how these imaginary battles should pan out, VHS Revival attempts to point out the strengths and weaknesses of each character, and though we will provide you with our hypothetical verdict, the decision is ultimately yours.
There are three movies featuring the cult creature most commonly referred to as The Thing. Based on John W. Campbell’s 1938 science fiction novel Who Goes There?, the original was entitled The Thing from Another World, a ’50s sci-fi effort widely accredited to Howard Hawks, who although a heavy influence on filmmaker Christian Nyby, didn’t actually direct.
The movie tells the story of a blood-drinking alien plant life that threatens the lives of a United States Air Force crew sent to investigate a U.F.O that crash lands in the North Pole. For its time, The Thing from Another World was a pretty formidable movie, and the inspiration for one of the most inventive and memorable monsters of our time.
The creature we will be analysing featured in the second of those movies: John Carpenter’s horror masterpiece, known simply as The Thing. Many feel that Carpenter’s loose remake is his greatest achievement — quite the accolade considering he is also responsible for the original Halloween and one of the most iconic genre characters in Michael Myers. Carpenter’s vision is quite extraordinary — an excruciating picture of eerie foreboding which explodes in frantic scenes of exquisite body horror. Even after all these years, The Thing features perhaps the greatest example of practical effects ever put to celluloid, resulting in a true classic from one of cinema’s most unique directors.
Not to be outdone by one of the genre’s finest, the Alien franchise is one of the most enduring in all of cinema. With directors such as James Cameron and David Fincher tackling the series, it features some rather wonderful instalments that depict the beast in all of its bloodless fury. Of course, it was Ridley Scott who first introduced the xenomorph to our screens with 1979‘s Alien, a movie which many regard as the greatest horror ever produced, one that still holds up to modern standards close to half a century later. The movie is a masterwork of slow-building tension, its deft editing and remarkable use of lighting keeping us on the edge of our seats throughout, helping to create a realistic monster that would haunt our imaginations for decades to come. The brainchild of Swiss Surrealist painter HR Giger, aesthetically the xenomorph is arguably the scariest creation in all of cinema.
Seven years later, The Terminator‘s James Cameron would direct Aliens, a superlative sequel which ditched the quiet foreboding for an action-packed extravaganza, and while many feel his vision cheapened Scott’s creation by adding a whole colony of easily bested xenomorphs, he developed on the tribal instincts of the species while highlighting their immense capacity for adaptability. Alien 3 was a movie that divided opinion, while spin-offs such as Alien vs Predator were cynical and downright lousy, but for the most part the Alien franchise is one of unprecedented influence which left an indelible mark on the horror/sci-fi sub-genre.
In the end, the Alien franchise gave us a protracted history of the xenomorph species, while The Thing remains something of a mystery. Is less more in this case? I’ll leave this one to the subjectivity of our readers.
The Thing is a molecular menace with the ability to assimilate other organisms and imitate them to a tee. As you can probably imagine, this raises a plethora of trust issues, and those who are exposed to it will most likely kill each other through sheer paranoia before the creature even has the chance to finish the job. Whether in the form of a dog or your closest human ally, this parasitic alien life form is impossible for any human being to distinguish once transformed. It even has the ability to imitate human emotions, meaning you could probably go to bed with your wife, kiss her goodnight and wake up as something else entirely. The Thing can probably be killed, just like all living organisms, but how do you kill something if you don’t know who or where it is?
So what is the solution to killing something you can’t quite locate? You would have to kill everything in sight in a swift and brutal manner, and there are few less discriminating than the xenomorph, a ceaseless destroyer whose natural purpose is to conquer in the most ruthless way imaginable. With lightning quick movement and immense power, the xenomorph takes some beating, and his impaling mouth is a phallic eyesore that would win any staring contest. Even if by some miracle you do manage to hurt this beast, it has acid for blood, which means unless you are fortunate enough to avoid the physical backlash you’re gonna get burned. Quiet and cautious when required, but a natural predator who are as swift as they come, the sight of a xenomorph is enough to unsettle even the coldest of living organisms.
Just don’t let their spider friends impregnate you first.
Verdict: The Thing
The Thing was able to single-handedly take out an entire outpost at an American research centre in the Antarctica, but not before assimilating and wasting a couple of Norwegian pilots. The fact is, we don’t know how many this parasitic oddity has worn and killed, but based on the rapidity of its transience the possibilities are endless. As the increasingly distrusting outpost scientist Dr. Blair (Wilford Brimley) suggests after withdrawing from the group, if the alien was to escape to a civilised area, all life on Earth would likely be assimilated within a matter of a few years. Also, did The Thing actually die at the hands of MacReady (Kurt Russel), or did it in fact become him? My money is on Childs (Keith David).
While The Thing may theoretically be responsible for an almost limitless death toll, the body count attributed to members of the evolving xenomorph species is there for all to see. One xenomorph wiped out the entire crew of The Nostromo with its infallible stealth skills and ability to outwit, with only Ripley surviving thanks to gravity and the debilitating expanse of outer space. In Aliens, a single colony wiped out a whole platoon of heavily armed marines with swift and devastating violence; in Alien 3 a single xenomorph made short work of an entire prison colony of murderers and rapists. Centuries earlier, variations of the creature destroyed whole civilisations in the franchises’ prequels, and would even give a group of Predators a run for their money. There is even the subject of the Predalien to discuss — or not in the case of this article.
Verdict: Xenomorph due to a lack of evidence regarding The Thing
A Straight-Up Battle
Now for the interesting part, how would these two horror giants fare in a no-holds-barred, one-on-one contest?
First of all, the xenomorph and its spidery friend could impregnate any subject with a stomach, even one that The Thing assimilates, but would the pregnancy last long enough to bear fruit, or would the creature find itself in transience in time to escape a chest-burster. Furthermore, would a chest-burster even have the desired effect on a creature who can change form at will. After all, it could just as easily develop two or three stomachs. Perhaps it could even assimilate the newborn, while the assimilated viscera would have the capacity to spread upon bursting. A disquieting thought to say the least.
If it came to a confrontation between a single xenomorph and The Thing, surely there could only be one winner. A natural killing machine with all the prerequisites to dominate any species, the xenomorph would obliterate its target seconds after identifying it, but it would have to destroy every single molecule in order to not become infected, and unless it was able to fortuitously bleed acid in a manner that would dissolve The Thing in its entirety, the xenomorph would have a real problem trying to evade its opponents parasitic capabilities.
That being said, there is also the question of the cooperative to consider. According to Alien literature, the xenomorph operates using a hive mind, a collective consciousness orchestrated by the queen. Surely then, the species would be able to identify the monster amongst them. It may very well assimilate their physical form and even personality, but would the process of assimilation not cause a disruption in the collective mind. Even if no disruption was detected because the Thing assimilated those instincts, their opponent would be rendered useless anyway, becoming just another slave to the ruling queen.
Let’s assume that the threat was detected: what could the colony do about their intruder? I’m sure some assimilation would take place if in fact possible, but xenomorphs have proven themselves a species of immense adaptability. In Alien Resurrection, two xenomorphs turn on one of their own and sacrifice it in order to spill its acid and escape imprisonment. With that level of thinking, perhaps they would be capable of isolating the Thing while in its xenomorph form. Xenomorphs understand their own strengths and weaknesses. Surely they could lead the intruder into an environment that leaves them stranded and ineffective.
Final Verdict: Xenomorph
The xenomorph would initially disable The Thing if it could first identify it, but that would almost certainly lead to infection. It could also impregnate the creature, but that would risk the assimilation of its offspring and put the whole species in jeopardy. A single xenomorph stranded on an otherwise lifeless planet would be easily assimilated and therefore defeated, but xenomorphs very rarely travel alone, and even if they did, what would be the point of assimilating a single, isolated creature? The very nature of the The Thing is to find life to feed on. Seeking out a single entity would go directly against its nature.
During its centuries-long evolution, the xenomorph has proven itself the ultimate fighting machine on a purely physical level, wiping out entire civilisations with its plethora of organic weapons and ability to adapt. Adjusting to the threat of The Thing would be an altogether different challenge, one that would have to rely on something other than its fearsome physical attributes, but given that the xenomorph’s hive mind would almost certainly detect the impostor before full assimilation had even taken place, that would leave plenty of room for a counter strike, and the possibility of them isolating a parasitic creature who now possesses their abilities would be very high indeed.
Most crucially, assuming that assimilation was completed, The Thing would then take on every aspect of the xenomorph, leading to a life of unwavering servility under the command of the ruling queen. A genie may have all the power in the world, but it is still confined to a vessel beyond its control, and in my opinion The Thing would face a similar predicament when attempting to overcome a xenomorph colony. In the end, it wouldn’t even see it coming.