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Dog Creature

The Thing
by yo go re

"Se til helvete og kom dere vekk! Det er ikke en bikkje, det er en slags ting! Det imiterer en bikkje, det er ikke virkelig! KOM DERE VEKK, IDIOTER!"

Aww, it's a puppy! Hi, puppy! Everybody likes dogs, and everybody likes it when NECA makes highly articulated action figures of animals, so let's just go ahead and welcome this one into our collections without any questions.

Unlike most action figure animals, this one is in a fairly relaxed pose. We've had very good wolves before, such as Timber, but they're generally ready for action, while this one is at rest... attentive, but down. Like it's watching.

The articulation is less than usual, here. The figure has a balljointed head, forelimbs, and tail, but that's it. Jason Frailey's sculpt is good, with all the fur and such looking natural, though the paint is a bit... blocky? Jed, the actor who played the dog in the movie, was definitely variegated like this, but the toy's paint doesn't quite match. It needs to be darker in some spots, lighter in others, and generally blend better. Of particular note are the eyes, which seem solid black, rather than the warm shade we saw in the movie.

We may have seen better standalone dog figures, but this is still a decent offering of an innocent animal. We'll just put them on the shelf with all the other toys, unsupervised, and not worry about it at all. Why, I-- oh, oh god no!

NECA does not halfass things, so this is not just a dog, it's the full Dog Creature - every stage of it. Upon being left alone in the kennel with the other dogs, the first thing this son of a bikkje did was split open the skin on its face and eject its skull. So yes, this toy can do that: remove the normal head, and you can trade it for pieces that look horrifically flayed.

The skull doesn't actually attach to the toy; it's simply held in place by the tongue (which does plug into place in the bloody stump of the neck) running between its hinged jaws. So you can slide that right off, and replace the normal-sized tongue with an even longer version, nearly as long as the dog's entire body. Both versions plug in via balljoint, and a have a hinge so they can be posed in different directions. At this point, we're only halfway through the grossness.

The next thing that happened in the kennel was the now-headless creature sprouting a horde of thin, wiggling tendrils from its back, flailing around in the most disturbing way imaginable. Obviously the toy can't do that, right? How would they ever manage to depict it?

They manage to depict it by giving us a second back for the dog, a piece that simply fits on top of the existing body and has all the red strands poking out of it. It makes the dog's body larger than it should be, but at this point are you even going to notice that? The fur is sculpted to look shaggier, helping hide the new bulk.

Finally, this form of the creature grew six gigantic insect legs from its back, and the toy's back-piece has six holes where the included legs can at last be plugged in. The interior of the sockets are bright white, unfortunately, so they don't blend into the body very well and therefore stand out visibly when the bug-legs aren't attached. The legs have a balljoint/hinge just like the tongues do, plus another similar joint in the middle. Additionally, the instructions suggest the dog's forelegs can be removed and replaced with big tentacles, too, finishing the terrible look.

Yes, this figure comes with an instruction sheet. And you'll need it, because as the Thing assimilated more of Outpost 31's real dogs, its mass increased and it got weirder looking. This weird little spud, for instance, has what is recognizably almost a dog's head, but it's growing out of just a vague lump of wrinkly flesh. Three small legs jut out of it at odd angles, and what appears to be the renmants of the old dog's body (its neck, tongue, and face-skin) are sticking out of its side. If you look underneath, you'll even see another... mouth? Some kind of opening surrounded by large fangs.

Despite its small size and weird shape, there's tons of articulation: a hinged jaw, plus barbell joints for the head, middle and base of the neck, middle of the body, all three legs, the extra appendage growing off the side, the split-open face on the end of that, then balljoint/hinges for all three knees and the previous dog's tongue. In short, it can squirm all over!

As the assimilation progressed, the Dog-Thing threw a bunch of tentacles around the room to snatch up the remaining animals, which is where the instructions come in. There are nine tendrils of varying sizes, and they plug in all around the body. Unfortunately, the instruction sheet isn't the most understandable. Like, there are numbers molded onto the tray the pieces rest in; why would you not also number them on the sheet?

The toy has a massive footprint when all the pieces are attached, which makes sense: it was enough to fill an entire kennel in the movie, so it's naturally going to be all over the place here. They all plug in with the same kind of balljoint/hinge as the dog's tongue and bug legs, so there's a bit of poseability to them, but there's only so much you can do to get them out of the way.

Recognizing it was in danger of being killed, this form of the creature tried to escape by growing a monstrous pair of arms and pulling itself into the ceiling. Those arms are one of the pieces that need to be attached, but you have to remove one of the vestigial legs to do it. Unfortunately, the attachment is a barbell joint, and it pulls out of the body before it pulls out of the leg, so there's nothing to plug the arms (or more specifically, the mound of flesh they're emerging from) onto. If you know you definitely want to leave it with the arms attached, you could use some pliers to get the barbell out and trade it over, but if you plan to swap pieces around a lot, you're out of luck. The extra arms do add more articulation to the toy: barbell joints for the shoulders, double-swivel/hinge elbows, swivel/hinge wrists, and a hinge to move the fingers.

The packaging for this release is not great. I nearly missed seeing it on the shelf at Target because it just didn't stand out at all. It's a black box with red images of a canid skull and some tentacle shapes, so it suits the character inside just fine, but you really have to look at the box to see what it is - it's not going to drawn any attention to itself on the shelf. Especially since every other release in this line has been blue and white! I get the concept - those were all humans, this isn't, so it's got its colors reveresed - but with apologies to Chirs Raimo, the effort doesn't work. It's pure luck that I stopped to examine what this box was in the collectors' department rather than just gliding right by it.

When SOTA still existed, they did a box set of MacReady in the kennel, and while that set did have the advantage of a physical diorama backdrop and some of the victim dogs (plus a MacReady, obviously), the Thing only had one form and barely any articulation, so this one is definitely a step up. This is the best Thing toy anybody's made yet. It retails for $59.99, which feels high when you pay it, but having basically two complete figures with seven different modes between them means you'll forget about that when you start playing around with all the options. Now we're looking forward to the possibility of them doing the Norris and Blair monsters, as well, to really show what horrors they can do.

-- 11/26/23


 
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