Horror. Worldview. Faith.

The Damned Thing – Review

The Damned Thing – Review

Apr 29, 2011

reviewed by hallo
directed by Tobe Hooper, 2006

Don’t mess with Texas.  Especially the oil in Texas which is apparently sick and tired of being taken for granted and used by ungrateful humans.  The Damned Thing is the first episode in the second season of Showtime’s Masters of Horror and is directed by one of the all time horror greats, Tobe Hopper.  It is roughly based on the short story of the same title by Ambrose Bierce.

In 1981, a young Kevin Reddle watches as his loving father suddenly flips out and shoots down his mom in cold blood and then turns to kill Kevin.  Running and hiding in the field outside, Kevin watches as his father is brutally killed by an unseen force.  Twenty-four years later, Kevin is the sheriff in the same town of Cloverdale and similar kinds of phenomenon begin happening; the town folk begin suffering extreme bouts of anger, turning on one another for no real reason.  Kevin recognizes what is happening, but remains silent about the potential chaos that will ensue.  Sure enough, his estranged wife turns on their son and would have killed him if Kevin had not intervened.  But unfortunately, Kevin is not immune from the force and is overwhelmed himself, eventually turning on his wife and son.  At the end of the film, the ground opens up and a huge “oil monster” swallows up Kevin.  His wife and kid escape in the car, only to run out of gas about a mile down the road.  They are attacked by the monster and the film ends.

Apart from a dizzying experience with the camera in the opening shot of the film, Tobe Hooper’s classic touch is all over this movie and it delivers a pleasurable viewing experience.  The opening scene is somewhat shocking, especially if you have not read the plot or spoilers of the movie.  There are not many true “scares” throughout the 60 minute production, but this movie is based on a message that is more concerned with a moral tale than it is visceral scares.  Essentially, that message is that human beings do not have the right attitude with mother nature and that we take for granted, perhaps even abuse, that which is so valuable to us.  Thankfully, Hooper does not go overboard on the political message that could have turned this film into another Al Gore special.  In fact, if not for the short story to help us along, fans might be scratching their heads as to why a big monster made of oil is wreaking havoc on a simple little Texas town.

Ted Raimi wonderfully portrays the town’s strange Catholic priest and Sean Patrick Flanery does an excellent job with the character of Kevin Reddle, demonstrating a man who still deeply loves his family but is forever lost in the shadow of his 1981 experience.  One of the more disturbing scenes of the film is when a man becomes outraged while hammering a nail into a piece of wood and begins hammering himself in the face until he bleeds to death.  That is “a tough way to commit suicide” remarks Sheriff Reddle, acknowledging his own refusal to publically announce what is really happening.

This is yet another a satisfactory effort from the Masters of Horror folks and Tobe Hooper.  Not great, but worth the time.

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