John Carpenter's The Thing (copyright Universal Pictures, 1982) has at least one memorable sequence that is simple to the point of elegance. The group's reluctant leader R.J. Macready (Kurt Russell), certain that at least one of his rapidly dwindling colleagues has been replaced by an alien doppelganger but unable to prove it, commands them at gunpoint to tie themselves to chairs and consent to a makeshift blood test. The alien's blood, Macready reasons, will instinctively resist physical harm as a byproduct of the alien's makeup and nature, meaning that it will visibly react to being prodded with a burning-hot wire. And so Macready begins systematically touching hot wire to name-tagged petri dishes of blood, a flamethrower pointed at each man as he has his turn. The tension here, as is to be expected in a Carpenter film, is practically unbearable, increasingly so as each name is checked off the list. But what elevates the scene from the bread and butter of an ordinary thriller is the pervading sense that the process is a lark. As each man is duly exonerated, he demands to be freed at once, the joke being that any system designed to prove the guilt of one member of a group is bound to put the innocents at risk of becoming collateral damage. And, of course, one man is gruesomely made victim by virtue of proximity and bad timing alone.
So many, changes from day to day. I was thinking recently how much I love the opening of Being There, Chance The Gardener leaving his sheltered existence and walking through the blighted ghetto streets of DC, looking for a garden.