Sphinx’s Spooky Spectacular Horror Film Review - The Thing

Welcome back readers to this week’s horror film review with the 1982 science-fiction horror remake of The Thing, directed by the widely known John Carpenter. The original film was released in 1951 in black-and-white, officially titled The Thing from Another World which is based on a 1938 novella called “Who Goes There?” that is written by John W. Campbell. Carpenter worked with Bill Lancaster (Burt Lancaster’s son) on a screenplay and wanted to keep it as closely tied to the original novella as possible.

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Making my viewing experience unique this time was the fact that my guide through these horror films, Deadite, had not actually seen this movie before in its entirety. For the most part (besides some of the action scenes Deadite had seen before), this was a new experience for both of us.

Plot: Looking out at the vast lands of Antarctica, there suddenly appears a man flying a helicopter who is horrifically trying to shoot a dog dead as it approaches an American research station. The Americans, led by pilot MacReady (played by Kurt Russell), watch the helicopter crash and upon investigation of the crash and the base that it came from, they come to realize that an extra terrestrial has been excavated from the snow and ice, yet all the people from the base are dead. During an autopsy by Blair (the one and only Wilford Brimley), it is discovered the alien had normal human organs. The dog that was being chased meanwhile, morphs into the alien as it devours some of the other dogs nearby trying to take over and absorb itself into one of the other living dogs. At this point, it is realized by the 12 men at the American base that this “Thing” can morph into anything and it is a battle of trying to control and contain the alien from taking over and killing all the men.

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What makes this relatively simple plot become an engaging story is the mystery that surrounds the fact that if the alien fully morphs into something, it is nearly impossible to detect. In addition, it appears to be able to multiply into different subjects at the same time. Throughout the majority of the film, you are left guessing who you believe may or may not be “The Thing” and we watch the roller coaster ride of the twelve men trying to solve this puzzle. It is this progression of the story that I found engaging as you start to make your own hypothesis of who you believe is the alien.

Acting: Even with a minimal cast of all dudes, each individual is unique and offers something different from the others. That includes the bad attitude of Childs (Keith David), the questionable leadership of Garry (Donald Moffatt), the logically thinking Dr. Copper (Richard Dysart), or the quiet headphone wearing Palmer (David Clennon), just to name a few. There even comes a point where you question whether or not MacReady (Russell) is who he says he is. The dialogue helps move the movie along and we see how what seems like classic cabin fever from being in the arctic for so long turns into outright paranoia once they realize the “Thing” has contaminated some of the men. From Brimley’s crazy actions to Russell's fights for survival, it’s interesting to juxtapose these veteran actors to the teenage/child actors I’ve been seeing in these other classic horror films.

Suspense: This movie is loaded with suspense, mainly from trying to figure out who might be the “Thing” and when they plan to attack the other men. The literal chills of following the team to the Norwegian base where the alien is first discovered and seeing its gruesome remains keeps you on edge. You figure that even though the men all think it’s already dead, there’s going to be that moment when it will come to life and it looks like something that not even my own worst nightmares could create. Following along with the story and trying to see how MacReady and the group will be able to finally destroy the “Thing” keeps you entertained during the entire movie.

Gore/Violence: I know I haven’t seen a lot of horror movies yet, but from everything I’ve been told few compete with the repulsiveness of this monster, which cost $1.5 million alone for this film. Watching the poor dog being ripped apart, seeing the monster in transition from being dog, to human, to whoever it happens to be, is truly disgusting to watch. The way it walks, the way it grabs on to the men, the many different ways it eats/kills the men makes this one of the grossest “things” you will see in any movie. Considering the special effects of the era, it is done well enough to still make you believe that what you are seeing is real.

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Other thoughts: What I was very surprised to hear was that this movie was a pretty big failure upon its release. With a budget of $15 million, it only made $19 million total. Whether that is bad timing with E.T. offering a more friendly alien to see that same year, or people found the gore to be a major turnoff in the theater, this movie over time though has become a huge cult classic. While some contemporaries even argued this as the worst movie of all time, it is now regarded as one of the greatest sci-fi horror films ever. John Carpenter’s use of sound and music is pure perfection and helps keep the suspense going throughout the film.

 I don’t recommend watching and eating something at the same time.

I don’t recommend watching and eating something at the same time.

Final Ranking: Even with its simple story line, I found this movie enjoyable. It gave me a different feeling of the horror genre, as we weren’t dealing with spirits or serial killers, but rather killer aliens that look gruesome in appearance. While there wasn’t a lot of character development at all, or background on anything really regarding the alien, it didn’t stop me from enjoying the ride. Sure the look and gore from the alien was excessive, but I believe that paid off in the horror you have in seeing it maneuver around and attack. Ultimately, I hope “The Thing” doesn’t show up in any of my dreams. I give this film a….

B-

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Sphinx