The Thing (1982)
The Thing (1982)

Genre: Sci-Fi Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 49 min.

Release Date: June 25th, 1982 MPAA Rating: R

Director: John Carpenter Actors: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David, T.K. Carter, Donald Moffat, David Clennon, Peter Maloney, Thomas Waites

 


 

J

ohn Carpenter’s “The Thing” is quite possibly the finest horror movie remake ever made. Expanding on the ideas of the original (“The Thing from Another World,” itself based on John W. Campbell Jr.’s “Who Goes There?”), but twisting them with the 1980s’ affinity for nihilistic interpretations of evil alien invaders, Carpenter’s version also pushes special effects to a new level with unbelievably realistic models and animatronics, blood-curdling stop-motion animation, and sensational makeup from practical effects wizard Rob Bottin. Superb acting and fantastically eerie sets further supplement this cult classic, which has transcended its B-movie/slasher origins to become one of the quintessential examples of science-fiction horror.

Buried deep within the icy South Pole, Norwegian scientists discover the remains of a parasitic alien that is capable of imitating other creatures it comes in contact with. Having the ability to alter its cell structure to match the physical characteristics of other life forms, the ghastly “Thing” can essentially remain undetected amongst any civilization (thereby posing a threat to the entirety of mankind). After killing off all the scientists, a lone infected dog manages to escape to a nearby American outpost to begin a steady takeover of the unsuspecting humans stationed there. Led by helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady (an appropriately bearded Kurt Russell), the trapped crew must attempt to destroy the shape-shifting hostile while combating the uncertainty and suspicion rapidly consuming the group. As the body count rises and the temperature drops, a morbid question persists: who will survive and who will become the Thing?

The story is masterfully executed with dark, foreboding cinematography, claustrophobic sets, and wondrous grotesqueries. Like Ridley Scott’s “Alien,” Carpenter creates tension through the utilization of shots of blackened corridors, murky shadows, and quick glimpses of mutilated bodies (and extraterrestrial cadavers). Themes of isolation, distrust, and paranoia further escalate the suspense, while Ennio Morricone’s music, pulsing with bass notes and screeching synthetic sounds, recalls the work of Carpenter’s other projects (most of which he scored himself).

Kurt Russell portrays MacReady with an even temper and a commanding presence – a mediator who must take control and suppress the chaos amassing after discovering more and more victims. Everyone else fills in the roles of the crewmembers to perfection, with varying degrees of psychosis, irrationality, or fear. Wilford Brimley as the crazed Dr. Blair and Keith David as the aggressive Childs lead excellent supporting players, each possessing a degree of idiosyncratic uniqueness that increases the effectiveness of their deaths or perseverance. And, quite boldly, not a single actress makes an appearance throughout the picture, leaving the stereotypical hysterics up to the male cast. There’s also no halfhearted love story to get in the way of the survivalist terrors.

Far surpassing most of the CG work of the time, the practical creature and makeup effects throughout “The Thing” continue to amaze even today. James Arness’ original monster couldn’t have hoped to rival the slimy, glistening, misshapen monstrosities on display here. From the bleeding dog hybrid, with its frenetic red tentacles, to the maddeningly innovative severed head that sprouts spider-like legs before scurrying away, Rob Bottin’s inspired designs  (with a bit of help from Stan Winston) are the stuff of cinema’s finest nightmares. Alarming mutations and bloody dismemberments never looked so horrifyingly real. Even scenes involving needles and the drawing of blood seem to test the limits of squeamishness. Though some interpret the film’s significant style as overly repulsive or mere compensation for worthwhile substance, the result of mixing grand gore, nerve-wracking thrills, and a classic sci-fi premise is an unforgettable work of macabre high art.

– The Massie Twins

  • 10/10