In 1982, John Carpenter brought to life on-screen one of the most iconic horror films of the decade, The Thing, which is adapted from the John W. Campbell, Jr short story Who Goes There?
The Thing focuses on a US science research post in deepest Antarctica where getting supplies can take weeks and the nearest source of civilisation is over 1000 miles away. Here this group of US scientists, including characters played by Kurt Russell (Escape from New York, Stargate, Backdraft), Keith David (Mass Effect, Halo, Pitch Black), and Wilford Brimley (The Firm, and Cocoon) come across something that is not of this world after encountering a crazed Norwegian expedition.
After some investigating at the Norwegians’ site, the crew discover the remains of both a large disc-like alien ship as well as a number of bodies, of which some are horribly disfigured or burnt beyond recognition. When the crew then investigate further, they find that they are now no longer alone in their own the facility with some Thing loose and possibly imitating one of the scientists.
The Thing is very much of the same sort of vein of other great horror / science fiction movies of the 1980’s in that is is a psychological horror movie, playing on the basic of fears; in this case, not knowing what or who can be trusted. This creates one of the best tools for entrapping an audience within the movie as they try to figure out which of the crew are actually human as, unlike many other films, you do not see who is an alien due to The Thing being able to perfectly imitate any living object that it is allowed to consume.
On screen this helps to create mistrust between all of the crew, as they are in the same position as the audience in this case, but also helps to create a bond between the two parties (characters and audience) as they enter on this journey together. Yet, while on this journey, we as an audience are treated to some of the most well executed physical effects seen in a movie in many of the transformation sequences with The Thing.
Compared to the modern horror movies, where the alien can be added in via a computer after the original scene has been shot, this movie has to rely solely on creating something that is believable on-screen while at the same time the look and sound of the alien are both horrifying. This is shown at its best when one of the crew members suddenly become ill and has to be revived by another crew member, when all of a sudden his entire chest turns into a set of jaws biting off both of the resuscitator arms. Then, not satisfied with this, The Thing begins to mutate into a new being creating a horrific looking creature which is part human, part spider, part dog and more – making it vile, horrific, and humanoid looking.
At 30 years old this year, The Thing still stands up with many modern horror movies in terms of its plot and acting being of a decent standard. However even on Blu-Ray, the film is beginning to look a bit dated with some of the shots looking very much like they are shot on a set located in a movie studio and not the thousands of miles away from civilization that we are led to believe where this event is taking place . However, I feel that this is what helps to add to the feeling of the movie as the mind tends to overlook these matters and focus on trying to figure out who is really who they say they are.
This movie leaves you, the viewer, disgusted by the horror and yet somehow wanting more of this same movie due to the many unanswered questions such as: Just how did the Norwegians come across this ship in the first place? What ever happened when Childs (Keith David) goes missing towards the end of the movie? What ever happened to the survivors after the credits? Did The Thing survive?
Some of these were set to have been answered in the 2011 prequel of the same name directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. in his first full feature film and starred Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Die Hard 4.0, Final Destination 3), Ulrich Thomsen (Hitman, The International) and Joel Edgerton (Warrior, King Arthur), however that is another review for another time.
This movie is on the list of “movies you MUST see before you die” and is well deserving of its place on there. With its excellent blend of superb physical effects and gripping story you should find plenty to enjoy here – perhaps around Halloween with all the lights off?