|Directed by:||John Carpenter|
|Written by:||Bill Lancaster|
|Cast:||Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, T.K. Carter, David Clennon|
It’s 1982. John Carpenter has already made a name for himself with Halloween (1978) and Escape From New York (1981). Carpenter is at the top of his game with The Thing. The desolate surroundings of a closed-off outpost in Antarctica is the perfect setting for some freaky-scary shit to go down. Not being able to trust anyone is a tough situation. Being stuck in Antarctica, things have to be just a tad bit worse; there’s nowhere to run to!
Kurt Russel is a real winner as MacReady, but that’s not to say everyone else doesn’t have their fair share of cinematic glory. David Clennon as Palmer gives some great laughs, and Keith David’s a badass as Childs. All these guys seem like normal dudes stuck in a truly frightening scenario.
The movie starts out with a bang, giving you no introduction to the characters. This is a good thing, because you don't really know what's going through anybody's mind during the first half of the movie. You don't really know who to trust, and not knowing what these people are like adds to the suspense a bit.
Once they put the chased dog into the kennel with all the others dogs, the movie starts gettin' good. The dogs all start howling, and then some real scary shit starts going down! Rob Bottin has made some unforgettably grotesque creatures; strange mixtures of unfinished clones meshed into a huge gob of many-eyed, blood engorged slimy gooey messes! There’s no CGI, it’s all onsceen in its’ latex induced glory! Creature #1 is the transformed dog creature near the beginning, but that’s only a precursor to some truly legendary fucked up shit that happens later! I won’t go into details to save spoilers, but I give it my seal of approval!
But what makes The Thing more frightening than other gory horror movies is that it doesn’t rely on being grotesque to shock the viewers. That’s just the icing on the cake, our reward after waiting so long for imminent doom to burst onscreen. You never know who’s been copied, and once the Thing is discovered, it goes to great lengths to survive. Thank Rob Bottin for rewarding us with creatures that aren’t aesthetically pleasing. They are uneven, with many layers inside of itself. Dr. Blair gets to do an autopsy on a couple of the Things, and it’s an operation which makes your eyes squint. Most of the time horror movie creatures are more humanoid, you can pinpoint what’s what. With the Thing’s transformations, that’s not the case. There are eyes where eyes shouldn’t be, legs and twisty veins spinning in strange shapes. At one point, a flower-like sprout explodes open, comprised of 12 dog tongues expanded outward, riddled with tiny dog teeth. Isn’t that grand?
The Thing wasn’t too well received on its’ initial release. It came out around the same time as E.T., that hugely popular Steven Speilberg family film about the friendly alien from another world that befriends a young boy. I don't know, you may have heard of it. This alien movie takes a bit of a different direction from that one. A lot of critics and viewers were sickened by this movie, going so far as to call Carpenter “a pornographer of violence” (from the commentary on the DVD). I find that a rather complimentary phrase, but it just goes to show that for 1982, this was too much for most people to handle.
John Carpenter claims that Starman was his apology to the haters of The Thing. It’s a PG rated movie about a GOOD alien. I liked it, but it lacks the suspenseful edge of The Thing.
Since 1982, The Thing has grown to become a horror classic. It has a huge cult following, and it’s well regarded these days. As it should be. It’s one of the best horror movies ever made.
Bits of trivia:
- The X-Files episode “Ice” is based off of this movie.
- The Thing is based on the 1938 story “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell. There was a 1951 film, The Thing From Another World that is based off the same book, with James Arness as The Thing.
- Adrienne Barbeau is the voice of the computer chess program.