Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial



The movie that captivated hearts...and gets no play around Halloween on TV

The movie that captivated hearts…and gets no play around Halloween on TV

I’m surprised to say not one person has thought of the idea of Steven Spielberg’s E.T. being suited as a movie for Halloween. Yeah it has elements that make it the perfect movie for kids and family but when you really start to look at it, it does have the feeling of being a movie to pop on during the spooky season. After all, the iconic fly over the moon shot has to feel at least exciting yet Halloween-ish. Now granted, its not because there’s a scene where trick or treating is involved but the whole movie from tone to narrative wise feels perfect for the season. Don’t believe me? Let’s break it down a bit.

We have the opening scene when E.T.’s kind arrives on Earth. Its played up for wonder with an eerie tone. Its interesting to see visitors from another planet but at the same time, it feels unsettling. The fact that the creatures are kept in the shadows and there’s not a single spoken word of dialogue makes this opening intense but with awe. Sure they are not here for an invasion but are more like intergalactic botanists that have who knows how many alien plants collected. But even then, we don’t know if they are good or just examining the planet for a possible invasion.

Elliot (Henry Thomas), Gertie (Drew Barrymore) and Michael (Robert MacNaughton) look over their new found friend

Elliot (Henry Thomas), Gertie (Drew Barrymore) and Michael (Robert MacNaughton) look over their new found friend

Anyway, the aliens leave when a group of people come close by but unfortunately one of them gets left behind. It seeks refuge in a nearby town where in a nearby home, a 10-year-old boy named Elliot is really having a tough time. His sister Gertie is mischievous yet simple minded and his older brother Michael likes to make fun of him of lot. Worse, they are going through a huge divorce with their parents and its effecting everyone. The idea of someone being young at that age and having a hard time coping with an issue like that can be really tough. In short, Elliot’s life is a mess.

But sure enough, he starts noticing that something other than a coyote exists in his backyard and this is when things get really good. Again, the build-up to E.T.’s reveal is genus. All we get are hands and shadows that again make us wonder if this being from outer space is here for explore or a danger. Well, as you can imagine, it turns out he’s not a bad being after all but there is that sense that we don’t know what to expect from him. Sure he’s kind-hearted but with the ability to levitate objects mentally, bring flowers back to life and connect through other people it only makes you wonder what does he use these abilities for. It adds to the mystery while not demystifying it too much.

Elliot and E.T. wait for the arrival of his ship

Elliot and E.T. wait for the arrival of his ship

The real monsters are the human characters. E.T. is plopped in a world with troubled families and scientists that are fascinated with the discovery and will go as far to entrap a house just to study him. The scene where a group of government agents dressed as astronauts that “quarantine” Elliot’s house is one of the most scariest moments I’ve seen in a family film. The idea of being safe in your own home and have it invaded by your own people (let alone, the government) is a really frightening image and always freaked me out as a kid.

Its funny how Steven Spielberg originally wanted to do a sci-fi horror where a group of aliens terrorize a farm but elements of it changed when he felt that it would be interesting if the aliens were really explorers. Either way, that change was for the best seeing how many invader movies the 1980s would later get. E.T. maybe sweet and heartwarming but it knows when to ground itself into reality while also taking some risks along the way. Its not shy to kill off a character or even afraid to place of heroes in danger. The fact that these kids have no idea how to watch after a 6 foot alien is interesting yet frightening. How would you know its come to make peace or how do you know it arrived to make war? It only adds to the mystery to the character.

From the climatic end that got everyone riding bikes

From the climatic end that got everyone riding bikes

E.T. is really about childhood. Spielberg’s movies often have a running theme about separation or working together as a family. Here, its a bit darker considering Elliot is trying to find a way to deal with the separation of his father and with the discovery of this alien he eventually learns to love and let go at the same time without giving too much away. I also like how its all from the perspective of kids. A lot of the times, we barley see any faces from adults and when we do, its either they have relevance to Elliot or the story. The performances of Henry Thomas and Drew Barrymore are so investing that we really feel like this is what the world of a kid is like. Originally, there was a scene when Elliot meets up with the principal of his school played by an unseen Harrison Ford playing up to the idea of how this is from the view point of a child and how something big like seeing the principal is simple yet intense. The scene was cut (and rightfully so) but clips are on a laserdisc available documentary. With so much attention devoted to an adult character, it would have ruined the view point all together seeing this is Elliot’s world and its our focus.

There is another character played by Peter Coyote, nicknamed in the credits “Keys,” who is smartly seen from the waist down till later on we see his face. This government agent at first is played up to be a villain until we realize he has similar dreams in seeing if other worldly creatures exist. It humanizes him a bit too much seeing the build-up in the first half but I think it works. We go from what could have been a cliche villain to a sympathetic character who has childish dreams like Elliot. The only thing I feel that is weird is how later on he talks to Elliot’s mom played by Dee Wallace as if there’s a hinting romance. Its brief but at the same time, it does feel a bit shoddy.

A deleted scene where Elliot examines E.T. more. Restored in the 2002 cut with a CGI model, it was placed on the Blu-ray as a bonus feature and rightfully so

A deleted scene where Elliot examines E.T. more. Restored in the 2002 cut with a CGI model, it was placed on the Blu-ray as a bonus feature and rightfully so

And yes, I am aware of the 2002 re-release version with the updated effects and stuff. I actually had the advantage to see this at my local drive-in theater and if you want my thoughts, I’d say stick with the original cut. At times, the updated effects did look unique back and did fix a few things up like the flying stiff bike riders and some of the floating objects. But even as a kid, I was bugged by how the Carlo Rambaldi puppet was replaced at times with a CGI model. Granted, it did manage to get a few more expressions but there was a unique charm to the anamatronic that brought it to life more than even the CGI model did. When E.T. mentions how his kind will come get him in broken English, you can’t tell if he’s happy or sad about it. The 2002 version robs this charm by making it clear about how home sick he is. There’s also the two added scenes where Elliot examines E.T. more in the bathroom and Gertie bumping into the mother on Halloween night which are cute but they don’t add much to the narrative. I’m not jumping on the bandwagon and saying the original cut is the one that must be seen. But I will say that while I do prefer the original edit, there were some things that I did appreciate that got fixed but there were only minor things like certain effect shots here and there. Bottom line, there was no reason to re-edit E.T. because its perfect that way it is.

Even he's ready for Trick or Treating...

Even he’s ready for Trick or Treating…

Anyway, back to my point, E.T. deserves to be labeled a Halloween movie because it not only has the elements of one but when you think about it, Halloween was a special time for kids. It puts us in the right mindset when we were young and dreamed of being adventurous. We all had similar things we wanted to do like how we wanted to meet creatures from different worlds or go on an epic adventure. Its charming while also knows when to be subtly dark at the right moments. In fact, a lot of our childhoods weren’t always perfect. At times, there was good stuff while at times there was stuff we had to go through that was unbelievably harsh to us as kids but as an adult we accept it as something of the norm. Its been hailed for years as a masterpiece, its one of my all-time favorite movies and you can see why. So if you want to take a break from all the usual monster movies and have something charming but not too sugary-sweet, I’d say pop this in around the bewitching hour for some memorable charm and heart.

About moviebuffmel90

Considering my passion of films, I apprecaite reviewing them and recommending ones either some have heard of or know little about.

Posted on October 16, 2014, in Horror-Wood 2014 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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