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The Thing (1982 film)

A 1982 science fiction-horror film directed by John Carpenter.

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A nearly unmatched fusion of sci-fi and horror. 95%

  • Aug 10, 2013
Rating:
+5

My first encounter with John Carpenter's The Thing was back around November of 2001, where I only saw a snippet of the movie on TNT. Just my luck, I tuned in at one of the most gruesome scenes in the movie. Even at the age of 14, when I was more seasoned to creepy films, still found it too disturbing to follow through the rest of the movie, and just tuned in to something else (probably The Simpsons). I wouldn't come into contact with this movie for another eight years.

In September of 2009, I went to the nearby Family Video to look for a good movie to watch. I found a copy of The Thing at the store, and looked at the description of it, and thought to myself "Hey, I remember watching a bit of this a while back." For a mere dollar, I rented The Thing and I don't regret it at all.

STORY

The Thing is set in Antarctica 1982 (when this movie was released), and an American research team is shocked when a Norwegian scientist lands his helicopter nearby and starts shooting at a runaway dog. Due to a language barrier and overall panicked state the Norwegian is in, he can't properly communicate to the Americans, accidentally blows up his helicopter, and shoots one of the Americans in the leg. The Norwegian ends up getting shot and the American research team takes in the dog that was fleeing from the helicopter. Things start to turn awry when MacReady (Kurt Russell) and Doc Copper (Richard Dysart) investigate the charred remains of the Norwegian research facility and bring back a mutated, humanoid corpse to their facility.

CHARACTERS

What I think helps make The Thing such a great movie is that the characters feel like real people. The cast is a group of men stuck in a research outpost in the Antarctic, and they certainly act like people who've been stuck in a frozen, confined place for a long time. They're not really bad guys, but they're certainly not people that are totally likeable. A lot of them are cranky, probably from being stuck in the same place out in a frozen continent. Palmer (David Clennon) sticks out as the most awkward of the bunch, since you see him smoking marijuana and rambling about some government conspiracies. While MacReady steals the show, Childs (Keith David) is probably my favorite since David is such a great actor and does a great job a playing a man with a sense of reason and is a tad against MacReady when he claims authority in the group.

My only real grip with them is that they seem pretty unprofessional for a group of government researchers in the Antarctic, but this could also be that they're in a bout of downtime allotted by the government.

It's also worth noting that Wilford Brimley plays Blair, a medical scientist who loses his mind in the wake of these Things taking over the crew of the research outpost.

HORROR/SPECIAL EFFECTS

Because The Thing is a sci-fi/horror hybrid, the horror element is extremely important. Thankfully, with director John Carpenter and special effects artist Rob Bottin working on this movie, The Thing has some of the best horror you can get in this genre.

Thanks to excellent story and character development, a great location to set up the movie, and amazingly creepy monsters, this movie is replete with natural feelings of isolation, tension, and dread. Being stuck in a research center in the middle of Antarctica, not knowing that someone else in your research team might actually be a nefarious, invasive alien lifeform, this will certainly creep anyone out.

Given the premise of alien lifeforms taking over other lifeforms with grizzly results, I can easily see how this movie was extremely influential to Visceral Games when they created the Dead Space series.

Rob Bottin has to be one of the best special effects artists that ever worked in cinema. His animatronic monsters in this movie are some of the creepiest you'll ever see because aside from the fact that they look so disgusting, they look very realistic, too. It's crazy that this movie came out in 1982, yet the various Thing monsters in this movie look better than some of the best CGI effects available today.

I don't want to give away too much of the scary parts in this movie, but one of the creepy scenes that sticks in my head the most has to be near the beginning, when that dog that escaped from the Norwegian scientists mutates in the dog pen and turns into a sheer abomination that doesn't look like any living creature of this Earth.

It's funny to note that some of the materials used to bring these special effects to life, because according the documentary that came with the collector's edition DVD of this movie, Rob Bottin used a bunch of K-Y jelly to give the mutated creatures a slimy, greasy look.

STORYTELLING

Carpenter was at the top of his game when directing this movie, and like any director worth his salt, relies on the "show, don't tell" principle of storytelling. Only the necessary amounts of dialogue are used to give background to certain things. What really struck out at me was the scene where Blair was researching the Thing cells, and you see a computer screen depicting highly-pixelated images of the Thing cells taking over the dog cells (taken from the mutated dog's corpse) and spreading to the others. Not a single word was used to explain how the Thing cells work in this scene, yet it gave us all the information we needed to understand the Things.

SOUNDTRACK

Ennio Morricone's compositions in this movie are some of the best music compositions for horror motion pictures you'll ever hear. Morricone departs from his background in using a whole orchestra and uses primarily electronic keyboards to create the music here. The minimal nature of most of the tracks in the movie's score is perfect for the chilling atmosphere here, since it enhances the said atmosphere and imagery instead of distracting you away from it. The music here is so great, I actually bought an MP3 copy of Morricone's score for this movie.

MATURE CONTENT

This is not a movie for the kids to see. There's a good deal of profanity, some drug use, and intensely creepy monsters and gore. You see a dog mutate (with plenty of gore coming from the dog as it mutates) and attack other dogs after it mutates. There's also a scene where a man gets his arms bitten off by one of the Things and it mutates into something really ugly that I can't describe in words, you have to see it for yourself.

There's also a scene of a slain dog with an ax embedded into its neck. I know that some people are pretty sensitive to seeing animals getting killed in movies, so if this is a concern for you, you may not like that scene or of the dogs getting attacked by one of the Things.

FINAL WORD

In John Carpenter's filmography, I think The Thing is his crowning jewel. If you love horror movies, this is a mandatory movie to have in your library.

I should close in saying that sometimes, there is justice in the movie world. The Thing was originally not received well when it first came out, but thankfully it became a hit on video and has now gotten the "classic" status it totally deserves.

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August 10, 2013
It is actually a pretty faithful, modernized adaptation of the novella. This is an illustration of the "Blair monster"  from the original story, if you're interested:

http://www.outpost31.com/books/images/WGTThingpic.jpg
August 10, 2013
Thanks for linking that drawing. That rendition of the Thing certainly looks creepy due to its clear "hodgepodge" structure consisting of other animals, though I think the Thing mutations in Carpenter's adaptation still look creepier.
 
August 10, 2013
agreed. I liked the way you discussed the monster effects here. This is one of those remakes that was definitely better than the original. Did you see the movie prequel they made recently?
August 10, 2013
I didn't see the prequel and I really have no intention to. I heard that John Carpenter's The Thing isn't really a remake of The Thing From Another World but rather a more faithful adaptation of the novel Who Goes There?.
August 10, 2013
oh yeah, you are correct. since that earlier movie was just 'inspired' by it? The prequel was intended to kick off a possible remake of this film....but since it did not make much in the box-office, who knows if they'll follow through....
 
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More The Thing (1982 film) reviews
Quick Tip by . March 16, 2013
posted in Movie Hype
John Carpenter's The Thing is one of my absolute favorite horror movies.  Even though the movie came out in 1982, Rob Bottin's special effects still look absolutely disgusting and amazing all at once.  Though it's not just stellar animatronic puppets and other effects that make this movie such a masterpiece, there's such strong senses of dread, tension, and isolation in this movie that'll at least give you the chills when you're watching it.      …
review by . June 07, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
John Carpenter's The Thing is funny, but not enough
         Apparently John Carpenter saw Alien and thought, "Hey, I can do that, and I can toss in bits of The Thing from Another World and Invasion of the Body Snatchers as well." It is unfortunate that he didn't do it as well. John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) has none of the impact of those classics.      The story is the now-familiar one of scientific researchers at a remote facility in the Arctic who must defeat an alien before …
review by . November 06, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
I'm at that stage in my movie watching days where horror films have no affect on me anymore. I've seen them all: Halloween(1978), Rob Zombie's Halloween, Friday the 13th(1980), Friday the 13th(2009). It just seems that horror doesn't scare me any more like it use to, at least that's what I thought until I saw John Carpenter's "The Thing".               The Thing is not like most Sci-Fi horror, most Sc-Fi horror films use eerie space ships …
review by . November 14, 2008
The Thing (1982)
One of the most creative and disgusting horror films of our time, John Carpenter's `The Thing' has held its own ground through more than two decades, still producing the loud cry of "Euewwwwwwww" from both new viewers and old. Never has there been a slimier, stealthier, more appalling evil that what comes out of the snow in this spectacular film.     The film opens at an American camp in Antarctica, when the men's routine day is interrupted by a crazy Norwegian flying into their …
review by . February 09, 2009
One of my favorite sci-fi, and horror films has always been Ridley Scott's 1979 classic Alien, and for a while now I've been looking for a film that would make for a good late-night double feature (excluding the sequel, Aliens). Of course, when I searched I mostly found rip-offs that couldn't hold a candle to the levels intrigue, and suspense set by Scott's film; in fact, most of them were simple rip-offs of Alien.     I finally found this version of The Thing after having liked …
review by . October 30, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
This movie came out when I was born, and I saw it few years later, and watching it recently I have enjoyed it for the second time, even more so! The speical effects are amazing! This movie can stand the test of time, because not once during the movie have I thought that anything looked fake, plastic or not believable.     Kurt Russel and the crew are great, stranded on a work site in Antarctica, when the weather become cold, they have no outside contact and they discover an alien …
review by . December 14, 2003
posted in Movie Hype
An alien theme plays as a helicopter flies across the South Pole landscape. Below it is a wolf dog, running through the snow. Apparently, the helicopter is chasing the dog. The pilot emerges with a gun and begins firing at the creature as it runs towards a base of American scientists.Soon, this doesn't sound as strange as it seems. Kurt Russell stars as the American scientist who learns the secret of the creature: it's over 100,000 years old, frozen beneath the ice, and pissed off. We also learn …
review by . September 27, 2000
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: .     Cons: ..     I can accept space ships crashing into the Arctic. I can accept strange, weird creatures that invade your body. I can accept the fact that once these creatures invade you, no one can tell you aren't the you that you were but now you are a them. I can accept exploding bodies that split in half and expel some multi-legged slime ball thing that invades your camp.      I can accept the fact that once your body splits …
About the reviewer
David Kozak ()
Ranked #22
I'm a morbid cynic who thinks very, very differently from most other people. Chances are, if the majority says X is the greatest in its category, I'll disagree with that notion, because I tend … more
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About this movie

Wiki

Director John Carpenter and special makeup effects master Rob Bottin teamed up for this 1982 remake of the 1951 science fiction classicThe Thing from Another World, and the result is a mixed blessing. It's got moments of highly effective terror and spine-tingling suspense, but it's mostly a showcase for some of the goriest and most horrifically grotesque makeup effects ever created for a movie. With such highlights as a dog that splits open and blossoms into something indescribably gruesome, this is the kind of movie for die-hard horror fans and anyone who slows down to stare at fatal traffic accidents. On those terms, however, it's hard not to be impressed by the movie's wild and wacky freak show. It all begins when scientists at an arctic research station discover an alien spacecraft under the thick ice, and thaw out the alien body found aboard. What they don't know is that the alien can assume any human form, and before long the scientists can't tell who's real and who's a deadly alien threat. Kurt Russell leads the battle against the terrifying intruder, and the supporting cast includes Richard Masur, Richard Dysart, Donald Moffat, and Wilford Brimley. They're all playing standard characters who are neglected by the mechanistic screenplay (based on the classic sci-fi story "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell), but Carpenter's emphasis is clearly on the gross-out effects and escalating tension. If you've got the ...
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Details

Director: John Carpenter
Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi
Release Date: 1982
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: September 9, 1998 ; October 26, 2004
Runtime: 108 minutes
Studio: Universal Studios, Universal Pictures
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"The Thing ~ yeehaww!"
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