Director – John Carpenter
Cast – Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, T. K. Carter, David Clennon, Keith David, Richard Dysart, Charles Hallahan, Peter Maloney, Richard Masur, Donald Moffat, Joel Polis, Thomas G. Waites
Release Year – 1982
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Horror legend John Carpenter had already made a name for himself in the horror genre with his 1978 classic, Halloween, and his 1980 flick The Fog. As if the guy could not give us anything better, he gave us what is by technical standards his best film to date…The Thing. A remake of the 1951 classic The Thing From Another Planet, this flick is by far the greatest remake of all time, and one of the top 5 greatest horror films of all time. With it’s landmark special effects and eerie subject matter, this is forever a true horror classic.
The Thing follows a group of scientists stationed on the South Pole during the dead of winter. They come in contact with an alien force that was buried deep under the snow over 100,000 years prior, until it was uncovered by a group of Norwegian scientists that suffered a very fateful demise. The alien is on board their facility and exhibit’s the power to shape-shift into whatever it kills. Soon enough the scientists begin to fall victim to the alien, and thanks to it’s shape-shifting abilities…no one can be trusted.
This is one of my favorite horror films ever, and it’s obvious why. The plot is one to marvel at. I love alien-oriented films, and the psychological horror thrown into the alien horror mix perfectly in this film. The ambiguous horror during the first half is expertly executed, leaving us with a strong sense of dread over what is going to ensue during the rest of the film.
John Carpenter’s direction in this film shows the true genius he was during the 80s. Each scene is perfectly set up. The sets are awesome and his camera work is nicely done. Carpenter combined three elements of horror in this film, and exhibited them perfectly. First off, the atmospheric horror. The mangled bodies of the deformed Norwegians found scattered about was an awesome touch, and the barren landscape provides the PERFECT atmosphere for this type of film. If there was ever a “nowhere to run” setting in a horror film, the barren landscape of the South Pole is the best there is. Next, his use of alien horror. The creature in the film was awesome, not simply because of it’s ability to shape shift, but because Carpenter gave us front row seats to experience the alien’s ability to do so. Watching the alien burst out of a dog and then several humans afterward was awesome and definitely helped with the pacing of a film that would seem limited in what it could do given where it takes place. We also get some of the sweetest kills ever seen thanks to the alien, especially the “autopsy” kill. Hehe. Lastly, his use of psychological horror. The psychological horror ensued thanks to the alien, which would inhabit a person without the rest of the crew realizing it. They would only realize it when the inhabited person would either sabotage the equipment, or the alien to burst out of the person in gory fashion when the crew found out said person was inhabited. The bickering and arguing that tears the group apart adds much conflict to the film. Each person decides to fend for themselves, trusting no one and refusing to render aid to those who need it. In order to defeat the alien, they must work together. But who can work together when you have no idea whether the person you are working with is an alien? It’s genius.
For a film just over an hour and forty minutes, this film paces remarkably well. Most of it is thanks to John Carpenter’s amazing direction, which keeps you glued to the screen. But also a tight screenplay from Bill Lancaster(who wrote the original Bad News Bears) helps as well. We don’t get any useless scenes nor ridiculous dialogue. Everything we see on screen is warranted, and that is a testament to good writing and direction.
I have no complaints for this film whatsoever, but I do have a comment…there are no female characters in this flick. It’s not a complaint, because in all actuality I was so engaged by this film that I didn’t even notice there weren’t any females until the film was over. John Carpenter stated that one of the characters was originally a female, but the actress became pregnant, had to leave production, and was replaced by a male actor. Oh well, this film is amazing as is, so I guess it didn’t really need any females. In a way I am glad because usually with psychological horror we see a male vs. female element during the butting heads scenes. For instance the male is more realistic with the problem whereas the female is more hopeful. We don’t get that in this film, and I’m actually quite glad about that.
Overall, this is an amazing horror film that I recommend to all horror fans. This film blends atmosphere, aliens, and psychological horror all into one expertly crafted and very gory piece.