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It's not often that one comes across a truly horrifying horror film, but John Carpenter's The Thing is just such a film, combining nail-biting suspense and gruesome practical effects to produce a movie that will leave you nervous of everyone around you. So, stay together and don't go anywhere alone. It's The Thing!
The story of The Thing revolves around the men of an American research base in Antarctica, forced to band together against an alien infiltrator that has lain dormant in the ice, at least until now. But how do you fight something that could be any one of you, perhaps even all of you? As tensions rise so does the body count, the monstrous creature killing off the team members one by one until they are forced into a desperate gambit. Whatever the thing is, it must not escape Antarctica alive, no matter the cost.
Everything about this movie feels claustrophobic and isolated, reinforced by excellent performances from the actors, perfectly capturing the fear and paranoia of the situation they're in. Nobody trusts anyone and everyone's a suspect, made all the worse by the horrifyingly gruesome nature of their alien impostor. To say this movie has great special effects would be an understatement, especially considering that The Thing predates CGI. The practical effects in this film are, quite frankly, amazing, with more than a few sequences that are so grisly and realistic that you'll swear the eponymous thing is a living, breathing beast. Combine this with the clever use of lighting, camera angles and allow the audience to sweat between attacks, and what you have is a creature that, despite being thirty years old, still manages to look better than many more recent movie monsters. It ain't no man in a suit; that's for damn sure.
Atmospheric and suspenseful, The Thing is a brilliant example of horror done right, eschewing cheap gore and jump-scares to create something truly frightening that will stick with you long after you've seen it.
Back in the 80s, it seemed John Carpenter could do no wrong, producing a string of classics such as Halloween, Assault on Precinct 13 and The Thing. The quality of his output might have declined since, but these films alone have cemented him a niche place in cinematic history for these films alone.
A remake of 1950s film The Thing from Another World it sees a group of scientists trapped in their Antarctic base pursued by a shape-shifting alien which can assume the shape of any one of them.
You could be forgiven for thinking that this is little more than a cheap Alien rip-off. After all, they share so many features: an isolated setting, a group of people being picked off one by one by a hostile alien, a growing sense of fear and a strong science fiction influence. You'd be dead wrong, though. Alien favoured tension and shock moments; The Thing is more concerned with an increasing sense of paranoia amongst the base's inhabitants as they slowly start to realise that they cannot trust anyone else, since they might already be infected by the alien.
It's this sense of paranoia and tension which carries The Thing. If you go in expecting a gung-ho actioner or a gory horror film, you will be disappointed. The plot builds slowly and at times will leave you feeling slightly bewildered (why are those men in the helicopter shooting at the dog?). Yet this lack of information helps you to buy into the paranoia which slowly starts to infect the inhabitants of the base. Other than knowing that something is not right, you are no wiser than they are and each new revelation only serves to increase the sense of fear and paranoia in both viewer and cast. It's a classic case of drip-feeding information in a way that builds a tense, nervy atmosphere rather than relying on classic scare tactics.
The Thing will infuriate some viewers. It is very slow-paced, with more emphasis on build up and atmosphere than blood and guts. The open ended nature of the denouement will also annoy some. I know only too well that some people, having sat through 100 plus minutes of film, want a resolution one way or the other. The Thing refuses to provide easy answers, leaving the viewer to decide the ending for themselves. This either makes it a very intelligent film or a complete waste of time, depending on your perspective.
There are some pretty gruesome special effects at times, but these are limited and gore hounds will not come away satisfied. In fact, it's precisely because the special effects are so limited that they are so effective. Due to budgetary constraints, they are used sparingly but effectively, adding a more immediate visceral element to the over-arching paranoia and tension.
The special effects hold up surprisingly well, even today. Relying heavily on models (rather than CGI), they have a more grotesquely real look than anything a computer, no matter how powerful, could churn out. Some of the effects are genuinely gross (it's this which earns the film its 18 certificate rather than shocking violence or bad language) and will turn the stomach of some viewers. Again seasoned horror film watchers will have nothing to worry about.
The acting is solid throughout, without being spectacular. To modern day eyes, some of the characters might look a little bit clichéd but this is only because, Hollywood (with its usual lack of imagination) has recycled this type of character endlessly in the last 30 years. When The Thing was first released, they were a little more unusual. It is fair to say, though, that there are a few stereotypes (some slightly distasteful), such as the taciturn, militaristic base commander who expects his orders to be obeyed without question; the hip 'n' groovy black guy, who is all mouth but a good ally in a tight spot
To be honest, there's not a great deal to be said about the cast in terms of their acting abilities. All of them quietly get on with the role assigned to them, but no-one really outshines anyone else. This is entirely appropriate since the film is more of an ensemble piece than a star vehicle. Even Kurt Russell - the film's nominal big name - is solid without being spectacular.
It's true that because of this some of the more incidental characters can get a bit lost and sometimes you struggle to remember who they are or what their function on the base is. It's also fairly obvious who is going to make it through to the end credits and who is going to die. But then, playing Spot the Corpse is half the fun of horror films anyway!
As with Halloween, John Carpenter is all over this film. Not only did he write and direct the film, he also composed the music. As in Halloween, he conjures up a minimalist score, played on a synthesiser that oozes tension and menace and creates atmosphere all on its own. Spielberg showed with Jaws how effective music could be in raising tension and it's a lesson which Carpenter has clearly taken on board.
Proof that remakes are not always bad things, The Thing is also great example of how to create a horror film where atmosphere, paranoia and tension are more important than cheap shocks, blood and guts. You could even make the case that The Thing is amongst the last of a dying breed. As the 80s progressed, blood, guts and ever more elaborate kills became more important than atmosphere, a trend which has pretty much continued until recently. If The Thing really is amongst the last of its kind, then it's a hell of a way to go.
Best of all, copies can often be picked up second hand for a couple of quid (and not much more new), so there's no reason not to try it.
Director: John Carpenter
Running time: approx. 109 minutes
© Copyright SWSt 2012
The Thing - released in 1982 - is John Carpenter's remake of the classic 1951 science fiction/horror The Thing from Another World about an alien that menaces a remote Antarctic outpost. Although Christian Nyby is credited as the director of The Thing from Another World it seems to be an open secret that the film was in fact directed by Carpenter's hero Howard Hawks. Nyby was Hawks' editor and it appears Hawks gave him the credit as a favour for his service and loyalty. Carpenter's special effects heavy interpretation is more faithful to the source novel Who Goes There? by John W Campbell (where the alien could change shape and mimic life forms) but this is a rare example where two different versions of the same story can be enjoyed as strong entities in their own right. Carpenter's film opens in strange and intriguing fashion. A dog races across the vast open whiteness of Antarctica chased by a helicopter containing a sniper attempting to shoot it from above. The helicopter is from a Norwegian polar base and the chase takes them to a camp belonging to their American counterparts. The Norwegians meet their end before they can harm the pooch and the Americans are rather shaken and confused by this unexpected drama over what simply appears to be a harmless dog. They decide to visit the Norwegian camp to get some answers and the mystery becomes even more puzzling and unsettling. Unknown to them, the dog they have saved is not a dog at all but an alien creature the Norwegians found buried in the permafrost. "You think I'M crazy! Well, that's fine! Most of you don't know what's going on around here, but I'm damn well sure SOME of you do! You think that thing wanted to be an animal? No dogs make it a thousand miles through the cold! No, you don't understand! That thing wanted to be US!" This extraterrestrial xenomorph takes on the exact appearance of its victims - a trait that soon makes it exceptionally difficult to know who is still human at the American polar station.
The Thing was Carpenter's first mainstream studio film and but didn't do very well, its proximity to the family friendly box office blockbuster E.T. blamed for its lukewarm reception. Steven Spielberg aside, the grotesque special effects by Rob Bottin were not a plus to many critics. To some, the film was rather disgusting at times but these Cronenbergesque moments of body horror are rather quaint to look back on in this computer age and not without a macabre sense of humour. The reputation of The Thing has grown steadily over the years and it's held in much higher esteem today. It's a claustrophobic horror that makes good use of its isolated location and otherworldly snow bound setting to set the characters against one another. "Somebody in this camp ain't what he appears to be. Right now that may be one or two of us. By spring, it could be all of us!" There is no sense of time here and we are literally at the ends of the earth and light years from civilisation. Interestingly, the film's musical score was composed by Ennio Morricone rather than Carpenter and it's suitably atmospheric and memorable. This is a bleak and downbeat film but an absorbing one and the glittering white capped surroundings are beautifully shot. There is some wonderful matte painting work too by Albert Whitlock (Whitlock worked on three Hitchcock films including The Birds) that helps give The Thing a more epic sheen.
Kurt Russell is once again the Carpenter lead (as bearded pilot MacReady) and there are decent supporting actors like Wilford Brimley and Richard Dysart. Perhaps some of the characters in the base lack personality but Carpenter's film is scarier than the original and he uses misdirection very skillfully in some of alien transformation scenes. The alien in Hawks' version, when revealed, was just a large man lumbering around like Frankenstein. Not terribly scary to modern eyes. Here the alien is far more frightening and dangerous. An intelligent chameleon that will literally get inside you and take control. What Carpenter's film doesn't have of course is the charm of the original and anything quite so memorable as the Arctic team fanning out to get an impression of the size of the ice encrusted UFO they find buried. However, the focus on stress and suspicion is intelligently developed by Carpenter as the Americans become almost as inhuman as the alien itself. Carpenter described the film as "the study of the effects of fear on a human being" and the characters are believably terrified at times!
What is quite interesting about The Thing is that it forms part of what Carpenter calls his "apocalypse trilogy" with Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth Of Madness. The Thing is certainly the best film out of these three though and finds the director near his prime years. Carpenter (to use pretentious jargon) is an auteur who writes, directs and also composes his own music. His principle hero is Howard Hawks (although Carpenter's work is more pessimistic) and many of his films are essentially modern westerns with horror, science fiction and action elements. He was inspired to become a filmmaker by his love of Hitchcock, Forbidden Planet, King Kong and Ray Harryausen and his debut feature - 1974's Dark Star - started life as a $60,000 student project but so impressed during showings at film festivals it eventually gained a theatrical release. The familiar trademarks and techniques of John Carpenter are empty rooms and streets (emptiness represents suspicion and generates anticipation), flawed Hawksian heroes we can sort of relate to, pyrrhic victories, distrust of government and authority, electronic music with accentuating notes, a love of anamorphic Panavision, and minimal exposition when telling a story. He went off the boil in the end but he was great in his day, establishing his reputation making modestly budgeted films outside the confines of Hollywood. If you like Carpenter films like Halloween or Escape From New York but have never seen this then The Thing is worth watching.
The unflinching special effects might put a few viewers off (Carpenter hurls that dusty crypt door wide open rather than leave anything to your imagination here) but The Thing is a superior horror picture that still looks great.
John Carpenter is the man often accredited with inventing the slasher genre with his low budget, groundbreaking "Halloween" (1978), but his true masterpiece was the gruesome, funny and paranoid "The Thing" (1982).
A relentlessly bleak and scary film about a group of men stranded in an Antarctic camp doing battle with a shape-shifting alien, it's arrival in the cinemas unfortunately coincided with a far more heart warming close encounter - Spielberg's misty eyed tale of a shriveled, prune-like creature with big Disney eyes, a glowing finger, and a desire to "phone home".
"E.T" cleaned up at the box office and was universally loved; "The Thing", with it's band of squabbling men getting picked off one-by-one in a spectacularly gory manner horrified many reviewers - it was almost universally slated by the critics.
It perhaps also didn't help that "The Thing" was also a remake of a well respected sci-fi classic,"The Thing From Another World" (1951). It was a film that Carpenter clearly loved, featuring clips of it on the TV in "Halloween", and he quotes a few of it's more iconic images in his remake. However, he dispenses with all the Hawksian banter and banding together in the face of a common enemy, the female character, and the boring, lumbering creature of the original, and follows more closely the source material, "Who Goes There?" a novella by John W Campbell.
The film follows twelve men stationed at an American research base in the Antarctic as the winter sets in. They are isolated and bored, killing time by playing pool, cards, smoking weed, watching re-runs of old gameshows. We also meet our hero early on, one of the camp's helicopter pilots, R.J MacReady (Kurt Russell), who will prove to be the kind of nihilistic, non-conformist hero Russell specialised in in the early Eighties, like his one-eyed renegade Snake Plissken in "Escape from New York". The kind of loner who takes on heroism as a survival method rather than an altruistic vocation.
(While there is a character called McReady in the original novella, it doesn't mention his initials - the added R J recalls another famous rebel in an earlier novel and film - R P McMurphy from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest".)
MacReady certainly seems different from the rest of the group, happy to sit alone in his shack drinking whiskey and playing chess - badly. On the excellent www.bigdeadspace.com, a website devoted to the Antarctic written by people who have actually spent time there, there are several reviews of the film. Listed as a prevalent character trait amongst those who spend most of the year thousands of miles from civilization in an inhospitable environment is "anti-intellectualism".
MacReady's choice of pastime certainly seems to separate him further from the group in this respect. But we also get an early hint that he doesn't always play by the rules when he loses to his computer, and responds by branding it a "cheating bitch" and dumping his drink in its circuits.
The camp's amiable boredom is shattered by an approaching helicopter. It has come from a neighboring Norwegian camp, and is chasing a dog across the vast expanse of snow and ice. From the helicopter one of the crew is taking pot shots at the dog with a sniper rifle.
The helicopter lands, and is blown up by a poorly thrown grenade; the surviving Norwegian is quickly picked off by camp commander Garry (Donald Moffat) as the half crazed man rampages towards them firing wildly at the dog, which seeks refuge in the American camp.
MacReady and Doctor Copper (Richard Dysart) head over to the Norwegian camp to find out what's going on, and find a scene of murder and madness. In the darkened rooms of the devastated base, they discover a man frozen solid with icicles of blood hanging from slashed wrists; an empty ice sarcophagus; and something twisted, agonized and barely recognizable as human smouldering in the yard. "What is that, a man in there or something?" asks Copper. "Whatever it is, they burned it up in a hurry." responds MacReady.
Taking the remains back to camp, Doctor Blair (Wilfred Brimley) performs an autopsy and makes some startling finds - while the corpse's internal organs are perfectly normal, the body was set alight while going through some sort of hideous transformation.
Meanwhile, the Norwegian dog has been acting rather strange, stalking around the camp with weird, stiff movements - very un-doglike, in fact. The camp's sled dog handler Clark (Richard Masur) puts it in with the other huskies, and very shortly, the Thing reveals its true nature...
Beyond that, I'll try not to reveal any more of the plot, as with most films that would nowadays be labelled a "thrill ride", a newcomer will benefit from knowing as little as possible about it.
Suffice to say, when I first saw it as a teenager, I was rendered a gibbering mess by the claustrophic, tense first half an hour; then got completely blown away when it really kicks off, jaw on floor. I was scared, gobsmacked and excited, like when I first watched "Jaws" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark" as a kid. It's one of those kind of films, where you're scared and laughing at the same time, and then watch it over and over again in an attempt to recapture how you felt when you first saw it.
Back on www.bigdeadspace.com, while praising the film's intuitive feel for the dreariness and boredom of overwintering in the Antarctic, the reviewers affectionately pick out things that aren't authentic - from the thickness of the camp's walls to the crew's easy access to flamethrowers. Another recurring criticism is of Rob Bottin and Stan Winston's utterly insane special effects, pointing out all the latex and make up.
In response to that, and absolutely any criticism anyone cares to offer "The Thing"'s special effects, I'll paraphrase another Kurt Russell character, Jack Burton from "Big Trouble in Little China" - "Exactly, it's real and I can touch it."
My main problem with today's CGI effects is that no matter how spectacular or lifelike they are, they are so pristine and intangible. You know on a fundamental level that they are created by a computer, an no matter how superficially realistic the images look, you know it simply isn't there.
There is some good old fashioned stop motion in "The Thing", and I always marveled at Ray Harryhaussen's stop motion creations. I couldn't help the feeling that all the countless hours he spent with his monsters, moving it a little bit, taking a shot, moving it a bit more, somehow passed a little of his humanity onto the creature.
Rob Bottin's effects in "The Thing" still stand up as the most astonishing in modern cinema, one instance where the prefix "Special" is completely appropriate. Whenever the Thing breaks cover, it is done with such a unexpected burst of wicked, cruel and imaginative contortion of dog and human form. In some respects, you are almost distanced from the violence and gore by just how outlandish the creations are.
The Thing prefers to stay low and pick off it's victims one by one, out of sight. But when it's forced out into the open, it isn't just killing people, it's destroying them, perverting their bodily form and corrupting their features into a mean-spirited, malignant parody of their former selves.
Many critics and audience members were turned off by what they perceived as excessive levels of gore. "Gore" instantly makes you think "blood", and while there is quite a bit of the red stuff about, Bottin wisely decided to vary the palette in the creature scenes - there's also quite a few sickly whites and yellows, viscous greens and sinister blues going on. It was a wise choice. Before writing this review, I watched again the famous heart attack scene, and although I've seen it maybe thirty times before, I still couldn't quite get over how horrendous it was. Having copious amounts of blood around may have tipped it over into the unwatchable.
We are also reassured by the men's reaction to the atrocities - I mentioned earlier how "The Thing" is a funny film. There are no jokes, no zingers, no one liners, and nothing they say comes across as particularly scripted, apart from the occasional but necessary expositionary speech.
The dialogue is terse, no nonsense, and earthy, and every time the Thing erupts onto the scene, our thoughts are pretty accurately voiced by one of the characters.
Clark: "I don't know what the hell's in there, but it's weird and p*ssed off, whatever it is."
and perhaps the film's most famous line: "You've gotta be f*ckin' kidding."
This leads to the performances. Again, some critics at the time complained about the lack of emotional substance or identifiable characters. This I completely disagree with - you don't need extensive back story, major dialogue or heavy thesp-ing to identify with characters in a Sci-Fi horror flick.
"The Thing" offers virtually no back story to any of the characters, and is all the better for it. Each character is a clearly defined representation of a frightened man in extraordinarily dire circumstances. Played completely straight, but with endearing gallows humour, each performance gives you a neat character capsule, in some cases, just from body language or a couple of lines of dialogue.
Twelve men facing something they can barely get their minds around, let alone deal with, and their reactions range from full on freakout, to cowardice, through to anger, determination and all out heroism. You are invited to identify with all these emotions, and the sustained tension is aided by a smart script, which ensures nobody does anything completely stupid.
How many otherwise decent action or horror films completely ruin things by having a "Yeah,Right!" moment, when a character does something absolutely idiotic, just to advance the plot? Bill Lancaster's economic script is tight and no nonsense - virtually everything the characters do in this film makes sense, perhaps what you might do in such a situation.
All this is elevated by Carpenter's superbly controlled direction, and Ennio Morricone's chilly, stripped down score.
It's sad how Carpenter's career has slid away in the past couple of decades. Here his camera prowls corridors and peeks around corners, watches characters from doorways, creating a sense of deep unease, and the set pieces are strung out so long you can barely take it, then delivers an outrageous pay off.
Morricone, famed for his masterfully OTT operatic scores in Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns, provides an uncharacteristically understated score for this film. The insistent theme suggests something patient, waiting, a slow heartbeat of an implacable, merciless enemy.
On it's original release, "The Thing" bombed at the box office and was savaged by critics; but, much like the creature itself, it slinked away into the dark and found itself a new form - VHS.
It was perhaps the perfect form for it to take, especially in the heyday of the horror and the video nasty, the early Eighties. There on VHS it found many an eager viewer, and from there it steadily built a devoted cult following.
Then all those kids grew up, and some of them became today's movie critics. Now almost thirty years later, "The Thing" is perhaps the most revered of the cult classics, a box office disaster turned venerable touchstone of a much maligned genre.
I suppose it was always so - I'm sure in thirty years time, people will be looking back at the "Saw" movies and praising them as existential parables about the futility of mankind trapped in the devious schemes of an omnipotent tormentor.
"The Thing" remains John Carpenter's masterpiece. While "Halloween" is still as lean and relentless as the soulless Michael Myers, it really shows its age, and the temptation is to reach for the fast forward button when the characters actually start talking in their sub B-movie dialogue.
"The Thing" however, apart from some really dated moments involving computers, still feels contemporary and grounded in blue collar reality. It is perhaps top on my list of "Films to bust out on friends who haven't seen it yet".
And when I have kids, I'll wait until they're old enough to ride their bikes down to the video shop - if they still exist then - and stick this on for them. F*ck certification, I owe it to my offspring. I can't wait to see the look on their dear little faces...
(This review originally appeared on Ciao! under my alias, Midwinter.)
Amongst the greatest of John Carpenter's movies, and a re-make released in cinemas two weeks after E.T, The Thing is the original claustrophobic horror movie that defined a generation and continued the trend Carpenter had of creating authentic and modern B-movies that felt as though they ought to be A-list. Set entirely in and around a remote Goverment Arctic monitoring station, the film follows the lives of a group of scientists as they fight an alien presence that quite literally emerges from out of the icy wastelands that surround them and proceeds to take them out one after another. But how do you fight something that can look and act as you, that can infect anyone it comes into contact with and is relentless in its determination to wipe out its enemy?
Starring the late Wilford Brimley, best known for his previous roles in Cocoon and Remo;Unarmed And Dangerous, and Kurt Russell who played Snake Plisken in Carpenter's Escape From New York, the film is chock full of stomach-churning special effects and plenty of moments that will make you jump out of your skin and is also complete with the kind of downbeat ending that loyal fans have come to expect from Carpenter's films!
Much like the remake of The Fly, directed by David Cronenburg, the emphasis here is as much on the blood and gore as it is on the suspense and if you are even the slightest bit squeamish there are a few scenes that should defintely be avoided including one in paticular when the alien first breaks out of its host body!
If nothing else, this is the perfect example of Carpenter at the height of his career and is definitely a film not to be missed if you have never made time to sit down with it before!
This 1982 remake of the original 1950s film is one that has eluded me for a while now, but I finally got round to watching it, wondering what all the fuss was about. Instantly, I was met with a very suspenseful and riveting sci fi horror, with good acting, direction and music that all set the scene brilliantly.
The plot is a rather simple one, but this is often the way with great films. A team of researchers at an Antarctic station find the nearby Norwegian station seemingly having been attacked, its inhabitants dead and a curious empty ice structure sitting in the middle, as if it had contained something. The only survivor is a dog, which they take back and put with the other dogs. Before long, all hell breaks loose, as an alien parasite starts to infiltrate the group, imitating their physical appearance. As the researchers become suspicious and paranoid as to who is real and who has been inhabited by the alien, trust disappears and man's instinct for survival kicks in.
This is an incredibly tense film, and the most clever thing about it is the fact that we're as much in the dark as the characters themselves. We quickly find out that the alien has the capacity to take over humans' bodies all over the world, and the unspoken truth is that these researchers are the only way of stopping it before it gets to mass civilisation. However, without knowing where the alien actually is, and who it has inhabited, there's no way to stop it.
Kurt Russell heads the cast as Mac, the leader of the team, but really, it's an acting display all round that gets the thumbs up. There are no real amazing performances, but the key thing to note is that everything is so completely believable. Director John Carpenter gives us exactly what we should expect from him in terms of his control behind the camera: there are plenty of slow scenes where the only sound is nature itself, and when a sound does invade your ears, it's often placed well enough to make you jump or at least send goosebumps down your spine. The paranoia element is perfectly done by the cast, and you really don't know who is 'imitated' and who is still completely human. There's no real rhyme or reason to things, and it's not like we have snippets of scenes where we may even guess who has been taken. In fact, there are a number of red herrings along the way which keep us guessing even more.
Carpenter's love for gore comes through as well, with the alien itself being projected as a mass of flesh, tissue and bone with no particular shape, amalgamated with the body of its victim. You get the odd half face, a head that has grown giant spider-like legs, a strange concoction of bodies and heads of various creatures, and tentacles flailing about all over the place. It's quite gruesome albeit typical 80s plastic makeup and special effects. It works very well, and does the job it needs to.
Also attached to the power of the film is the score. Ennio Morricone has a brilliant way of moulding a score to a film in just the right way, evoking emotions in the viewer without them realising it, and attaching certain styles of music to certain characters. Here, the suspense element is the key, and the score certainly put me on edge while watching it. I couldn't take my eyes off the screen, and there were enough false alarms with the music building before fading away, that when the building up ended in a jumpy moment, I just wasn't prepared for it. Brilliant music, and a clever card to play by Carpenter, who usually likes to control the music himself.
While the film obviously has its main plot as being a group of men in the Antarctic trying to stop an alien from taking over the human race, it goes deeper than this, and really attaches itself to an examination of the human psyche. The fact that fear and the unknown can evoke so much trepidation and anxiety amongst grown men, armed with guns, flamethrowers and goodness knows what else, and what's more men who are all friends, means that this is a tense and nervous study of psychology as much as anything else. One particular scene sums it up, where Mac decides that they all need to have their blood tested against a soldering iron to find out who has been infected. Incredibly tense: Carpenter and Morricone must have been absolutely loving working on this scene, and indeed the whole film.
The ending is very clever, with a build up of tension (of course!) giving us a final scene that just leaves you sitting there thinking and shocked as the credits roll in near silence, gentle music barely playing in the background. Morricone has the last say here, for sure.
A great film, and if you can put up with the gruesome nature of the special effects, and the extreme tension that the film exhibits, then you're in for a treat. It takes a simple yet clever plot and makes it a masterpiece. Highly recommended film.
Directed By john Carpenter
staring Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley and T.K. Carter.
Frozen in Antarctica for millennia, now thawed and chewing its way through Kurt Russell research team,
John carpenter's space creature is the most alien , alien I have ever seen in a film.
A bloody, mucus-wreathed, shape-shifting barf festival, it is hungry, and seemingly unstoppable,
part bug-eyed monster and part infection it makes the Scott-Giger creature from " Alien" seem positively reasonable in terms of mindset and motive.
Scotts "Alien" Just wants to eat and lay eggs, But "The Thing" is savagely destructive. and very cunning too, driven by an inexplicable intelligence.
It is the essence of everything alien ... It is beyond understanding ....
And that is why it is so terrifying and will have you grabbing for the cushion or diving behind the settee.
What turns this remake of the 1951 monster-on-ice picture in to something primal and spectacular is the way John Carpenter balances the gore with nerve twisting suspense among the members of Russell's team.
As the husky dogs burst (Hello Alien3) and the severed human heads sprout spider legs.
Trust starts to evaporate, no-one knows who will turn out to be "The Thing" next.
I also have to say that the best part for me was the "Blood test scene" when Kurt Russell realizes that every cell of "The Thing" is a separate organism and tries to flush it out in a scene that resembles Blind Date with extra carnage!!
The performances are great, with Kurt Russell relentlessly hard-bitten, and the truly cool thing about "The Thing" is its guts; No way would such a downbeat monster movie be given the green light by censorship today.
Agreat film but do admit i hate Kurt Russell with a beard!!
You can not help but laugh in certain areas i guess it comes with advancement it sfx's watching this film you can really see the rubber etc.
However do not let a bit of FX get in the way of your viewing the film is good and very watchable nearly 30 years down the line. It is a classic and belongs with every DVD collection.
A remake of the 1951 original, John Carpenter's The Thing is a superb horror film centered around a group of researchers in a remote post in the Antarctic who discover that their closest neighbours, a group of Norwegian scientists, have all either killed eachother or commited suicide, and study of their video records reveal that weeks before their demise they discovered what appears to be a huge alien craft buried under the ice.
Without giving too much away, it turns out that they recovered something that was not dead but merely frozen in the ice; a bizarre and terrifying shapeshifting lifeform that assimilates its victims in the most hideous way imaginable before taking on their form and mannerisms.
The film is thus part paranoid psychological thriller, part old-school monster horror, and with John Carpenters utterly terrifying low key pulses-of-synth soundtrack that thumping away subtly thoughout to great effect.
This is combined with some superb old-school latex, model and stopmotion creature-effects that appear frequently throughout the film's numerous inventive yet horrifying scenes. Infinitely more convincing and impressive than the lazy CGI of today, these help raise the film to classic status, along with the aforementioned chilling music and some excellent tension filled performances, including that of lead protagonist 'Macraedy', aka Kurt Russell, who tries to take control as things begin to fall apart and the crew of the outpost turn against one another in a flurry of paranoia and barely contained violence.
The film has a murder mystery 'whodunnit' appeal too, as you try and work out which characters might be the creature, and all in all is simply nothing short of a masterpiece of modern horror. Easily one of the best horror films ever made.
note: also appears in part on Flixster and The Student Room
The Thing is without a doubt one of the best film remakes ever. Re-imaging the 1951 Howard Hawks-Christian Nyby film The Thing from Another World, it is also therefore an adaptation of the novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr.
The film takes place in 1982 on an arctic research base, where some Americans arrive to find a group of Norwegians screaming at them incomprehensibly. Something isn't quite right. Nevertheless, helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell) and Dr. Copper (Richard Dysart) visit the Norwegian camp to find it utterly ransacked. Thus, they return to their own part of the base and herd in the stray dog that was with the Norwegians. However, it decimates the other dogs in the kennel and appears to be host to some sort of a monster that transforms into a grotesque form when it is threatened. At this point it will attempt to transport itself into another host through contact.
This film really works as an excellent and terrifying look at paranoia in a desolate setting. It has numerous famous scenes, such as the blood test scene in which each of their blood is tested to see if they're the monster, and the ending is also relentlessly, savagely bleak. The film has also been noted by film scholars to reflect the AIDS anxiety of the time, with the all-male paranoia that is present in the film. The film is notable for its stunning creature effects, and also has a great performance by Kurt Russell in particular.
A wonderfully tense and horrific sci-fi classic with Carpenter's usual masterstrokes. This is a great piece about paranoia and isolation, and the effects are wonderfully original and vile. I would argue the case that this has one of the greatest endings in film history - just quite how bleak this film ends up being is difficult to describe. Ennio Morricone's soundtrack also helps create an atmosphere of high tension.
John Carpenter's The Thing, a remake of the 1951 film The Thing From Another World, which in turn was based upon the John W Campbell novella Who Goes There?, is exactly what you come to expect from Mr Carpenter: pure awesomeness.
The story revolves around an unnamed extraterrestrial life force, whose ship crash-landed in Antarctica leaving the body to freeze into dormancy. Of course, that was before a Norwegian research team dug it up again. Soon enough Kurt Russell's motley crew of American researchers find themselves accommodating an unwelcome guest, a shape shifter who can fatally absorb and imitate any living organism. Before long dogs are growing tentacles, people have teeth in their chest, and decapitated heads are sprouting legs and going for a stroll. Take this and throw in a healthy dose of cabin fever and mutual distrust, and you have a recipe for disaster.
One of this movie's greatest features is the special effects, which considering the year of release are nothing short of spectacular. Although the film is sparse on CGI it more than makes it up for it with a series of disturbingly lifelike animatronics, which are in their own way much more grotesque than anything a computer could come up with. This, along with the bleak and isolated arctic environment, makes a thoroughly unnerving film.
The movie also delivers a very insightful look into the human psyche. Although the threat is mainly extraterrestrial the characters soon turn on themselves as the bizarre nature of their enemy casts the seeds of mistrust and betrayal amongst them, leaving the cast and audience unsure about who exactly is still human.
The Thing will always rank as one of the cleverest and well directed supernatural horrors of its time, and like a fine wine it only gets better with age. If you only ever see one John Carpenter film in your lifetime, make it this one.
I remember seeing the original black and white version on the TV quite a few years back and to be honest it was poor. Not really that much to live up to you might think when shooting a remake but John Carpenter takes this film to a lofty cinematic high.
The film is set in the Antarctic at a desolate and remote research station. There is a small team of scientists and some ancillary staff, cook, doctor etc. They peace is disturbed one day when a helicopter appears in the sky and the people aboard are trying desperately to shoot a dog which is literally running for its life. They fail and the chopper crashes killing everyone aboard.
The dog holds a secret, the dog is not a dog.
It is housed with the other sleigh dogs at the station and a number of crew set off to the helicopters base to find out what is wrong. What they find there is frightening.
And when they return some of the stations compliment of staff are somehow different.
The film stars one of my favourite actors, Kurt Russell and he gives a strong macho performance. He may not be the brains at this isolated research station but he has brains enough to stay alive when all hell on earth is unleashed.
Soon the dog is tearing itself apart and bits of it are becoming 'something else'. But that is just the beginning. Soon everyone is doubting the humanness of their fellow man. Then the fun really starts.......
Even killing yourself is not an option!
This must rate as one best Sci Fi movies of all time. The special effects are just stunning, severed heads sprouting legs and scuttling off, chests popping open revealing nasty looking teeth inside and all manner of weird abominations roaming this cold and deathly station.
The ending, if I'm honest, I didn't see coming and it really was superb.
The film is centred inside of the cold, cold research station which gives it a claustrophobic feel. The crew simply have nowhere to run and you can feel their fear realising they are cornered and must fight to survive against a horror beyond their comprehension.
John Carpenter has managed to bring a creeping terror and subtle dread into this movie. The atmosphere builds as the discoveries are made is a slow and deeply malign manner.
This film is a cut above many if not all of its genre and you really should see it if you can. But be warned this is not a movie for the squeamish or for those of you who 'jump' easily.
Kurt Russell gives a superb performance, but then he always does.
Let me start by saying that if Kurt Russell had not been in this movie it probably would have been a so-so film. However he lifts the whole film, in my opinion.
The film is based on the novel by John W Campbell Jnr and is a remake of the original black and white movie made in 1951 called The Thing from Another World.
An American research team are in the Antarctic when one day there world is turned upside down. Firstly with some crazed Norwegian in a helicopter trying to shoot dead a poor running dog and then later when things start happening around the base.
The dog it seems is not a dog and soon some of the scientists are not human at all. It seems there is a malevolent alien parasitic organism that has been discovered and then released by the Norwegians and it can take the form of any living thing. Firstly though it kills and absorbs its victim.
If it makes it out of the frozen wastes all civilisation everywhere will become extinct.
The problem is how to tell the real person from the new alien copy?
This really is a cracker of a film. I am a huge Kurt Russell fan anyway but he gives a great performance here. It is very bloody in parts and the 'morphing' of the dog/dogs is gruesome. The part where the mans head falls off, grows legs and makes a run for it is horrible. Remember this was made in 1982 so the special effects should not be that good but believe me they are first class.
The ending is superb and has a great surprise waiting for Kurt.
The DVD comes with a plethora of extras, A commentary by John Carpenter, Amazing Outtakes, An 80 minute documentary and a few other bits.
If you haven't seen this film yet, do so at the first opportunity.
The THING !
This is john carpenters remake of the 1950's classic, but is actually very close to the original, "the thing from outer space", which was also taken from or at least greatly shaped by the novella "who goes there?" By john w Campbell jnr.
A research team in a desolate and isolated Antarctic research station find an alien creature which has been buried in the ice for an estimated 100,000 years.
Needless to say when it accidentally defrosts all hell is let loose on the poor researchers. They now have to fight for their lives against a foe the like of which they can barely comprehend.
The creature can turn into anything or anyone.
It can split itself into many parts and is devilishly hard to kill.
Paranoia sets in as the remaining people fail to tell friend from foe.
The incredible special effects really make this film stand out from the rest of its ilk.
The combination of special effects expert Roy Arbogast and John Carpenters directing makes for a fantastically memorable film.
The film is has a wonderful creeping atmosphere and the ending is really superb.
When the mans chest opens up bites of the doctors hands and then the head detaches falls to the floor, grows legs and tries to run off it is really something to see and never to be forgotten.
Kurt Russell gives a superb performance, but then he always does.
There is a huge abundance of extras packed onto the disc,
A commentary by john carpenter.
An 80 minute documentary.
The obligatory outtakes, (my favourite).
Some storyboards designs.
Cast & filmmaker's notes.
The film is also split into 37 chapters.
Language: English, French
Subtitles: English, French, Portuguese, Swedish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Czech
Region: region 2
Number of discs: 1
Run time: 104 minutes
The thing is an exception to the rule that remakes are never better than the original. In it, scientists in the Antarctic are confronted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of the people (or animals) that it kills, and that's it. The plot isn't complicated because it doesn't need to be. It's about the horror and paranoia experienced by these scientists when they discover something they could never have imagined.
By focusing inside the facility and on the small rooms with few wide shots, it gives the film the claustrophobic, tight look the film requires. There's also a great sense of isolation, particularly with some of the outside shots when all you hear in the background is the whistling of the wind.
The music is very minimalistic, never overwhelming the scenes, but just giving us a creepy glimpse as to what's to come. The acting is first rate, and Kurt Russell is especially superb. The actors play off each other well, as they all descend into suspecting everyone else of being infected. The ending is downbeat to say the least, and stays with you for a long time afterward. Hardly anyone ends a film like this, and I'm glad the director, John Carpenter, had the guts to keep it.
It is quite simply one of the greatest horror films you will ever see, and a personal favourite of mine. Highly recommended.
John Carpenter once commented that youll never see anything like The Thing again. Unless old Johnny boy allows for a remake (the treatment many of his earlier films are now receiving) or a much discussed sequel, this statement is likely to hold true for quite some time. Since its release in 1982, the whole bastion of the horror genre has tried, and failed, to deliver anything as eye-opening, visually perplexing, beguiling, claustrophobic, tense, shocking, horrifying or superbly scripted and acted as Carpenters re-imaging of Howard Hawks 1951 flick The Thing From another World. Not bad for a remake, huh?
An alien ship crash lands in Antarctica over a millennia ago and is subsequently dug up by a Norwegian science team, awaking the creature aboard from its deep frozen slumber. But this is no ordinary creature. This alien has the capacity to assimilate any biological organism it touches, producing a perfect copy, and only reveals its true form in a defence mechanism of blood soaked tentacles, sharp teeth and an orgy of gore. After devouring its way through the Norwegian camp, The Thing finds company in the presence of an American team of bored and bickering hippies, including enigmatic helicopter pilot R.J MacReady (Kurt Russell). Following one of the greatest monster reveals ever conceived (involving a dogs head splitting open) and with paranoia and mistrust beginning to splinter the group, MacReady must work out who amongst his colleagues is The Thing before all are transformed into perfect imitations.
Whilst The Thing owes many a nod to the cold war paranoia and assimilation shared by Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (thanks to the themes of John W. Campbells original short story Who Goes There?), its the addition of an enclosed and desolate Antarctic environment, bickering bored scientists played by a wonderful ensemble cast and an original take on the creature feature that makes Carpenters movie so highly memorable. The crimson bloodbath on show may seem the pre-eminent factor of The Thing, yet the ease with which it moves from horror, to science fiction, to character drama exposes the film as so much more than your typical bog-standard horror flick. Carpenter ensures scenes swing between set pieces of flying gore and dismembered limbs to themes of paranoia and mis-trust to make for an equally compelling exercise in characterisation and suspense.
Indeed, some of the more intense scenes are delivered as the survivors within the camp argue which of them, if any, might still be human. A good thing then that Carpenter hired the finest ensemble cast of the time to deliver a convincing portrayal of a group going bat-shit crazy in a claustrophobic setting. Allowing enough time for the audience to care for and understand the motivations of characters (Palmer always antagonising Windows is brilliantly understated) it is the skill of the actors when faced by the incomprehensible threat amongst them that ensures the tension is wracked up to ten. And when you have the rugged charm of Kurt Russell (who previously starred in Carpenters Escape from New York) on board, an actor of the old-school hero variety where he uses brains rather than brawn, you have someone to root for against the titular beast as well.
Despite the refreshing intelligence of the screenplay (intelligent in that it avoids the usual quagmire of horror clichés), it really does play second fiddle to The Thing. Moving away from the bland and not particularly scary man-in-a-monster-suit, Carpenter revolutionised the way an alien encounter could be perceived on screen. Horror had a new face, so to speak; one that remains hidden and transforms with every new incarnation assimilated. You never know where the damn Thing is! Ironically, Carpenter had created a genre-defining monster-in-a-man-suit horror flick and, with that, scope for a breed of terror reminiscent of Aliens chestburster sequence.
Indeed for the film to really work it is vital that the tension built up in previous scenes is provided with the release it deserves. So, when The Thing bursts open from its warm human hiding place in a hideously twisted mutation of blood, gore, slime, puss and tentacles, its unlikely to disappoint. In the assured hands of Rob Bottin, the effects are both shocking and original, serving to illustrate not only how realistic prosthetics and fake blood are compared to the elaborate and over-done CGI employed today, but also why The Thing has stood the test of time as a sci-fi classic. What really makes The Thing unique within the vaults of horror are the sequences that have come to transcend the movie and take on a reputation of their own, for which Bottin is mostly responsible. A revered film usually contains at least one such sequence. The Thing contains three
When Doc Copper (Richard Dyshart) pushes the heart paddles against Norris (Charles Hallahan) chest for the second time, the sequence that follows will leave your jaw dropping. Palmers (David Clennon) response of Youve got to be kidding only adds to the extremity of one of cinemas greatest visually realised scenes. The now often copied blood test scene (recently spoofed in The Faculty) produces one of the biggest jump out of your seat moments, as a seemingly dialogue driven moment is suddenly injected with another of Bottins twisted concoctions (this time with a venus fly-trap styled head). A masterclass of slow-burning intensity resulting in a terrific pay-off! These are sequences most other films would struggle to recover from, so just how do you end a film following such excess? With no real conventional ending, just a final beautifully scripted sequence ending with probably the greatest final line from any film, ever
For a film that plays its hand right from the start by showing the titular monster near enough at the beginning of the film, The Thing certainly has some balls. When you add a brilliant opening shot of the wide, desolate expanse of Antarctica (the antithesis of the claustrophobic action that will later take place), a fantastic and haunting synth score by Ennio Morricone and some fine tuned action set pieces, one starts to recognise the genius encapsulated throughout The Thing. That its influence stems as wide as Predator (which re-uses Carpenters opening shot) and Reservoir Dogs (essentially the same film bickering men in an isolated warehouse where not everyone is who they seem) is a timely reminder of how far reaching the film has proved in cinema lore. Indeed, The Thing has many faces to its name not only is it Carpenters best film, its also the best remake ever produced and one of the best films ever crafted. They simply dont make them like this anymore.
Overall - If in space no one can hear you scream then in Antarctica your screams are simply snuffed out by Morricones haunting score! The Thing is a masterclass of suspense and excessive gore-filled moments, featuring a number of genre-defining twists, an intelligent script and classic scenes aplenty. What more could you want?
Where to buy - Well Amazon currently have it available for near enough £15. Whilst it's worth the money, you're likely to find it cheaper at other retailers if you shop around. £7 is a typical price in HMV and the like.
Director: John Carpenter
Screenplay: Bill Lancaster
Kurt Russell ... R.J. MacReady
Wilford Brimley ... Dr. Blair
T.K. Carter ... Nauls
David Clennon ... Palmer
Keith David ... Childs
Richard A. Dysart ... Dr. Copper (as Richard Dysart)
Charles Hallahan ... Vance Norris
Peter Maloney ... George Bennings
Richard Masur ... Clark
Donald Moffat ... Garry
Joel Polis ... Fuchs
Thomas G. Waites ... Windows
Running Time: 109 minutes
Genre: Horror / Mystery / Sci-Fi / Thriller
© Clownfoot, June 2007.
John Carpenter's apocalyptic The Thing was released in cinemas just two weeks after E.T. in 1982. The two movies could hardly have presented more contrasting ideas about extra-terrestrial life, and it was Carpenter's uncompromisingly bleak vision that lost out at the box-office. But his audacious remake of the Howard Hawks 1951 B-movie The Thing from Another World has since been acknowledged as a classic in its own right, not only for its pioneering makeup and special effects techniques, but also for its bold treatment of an alien "infection" that eerily foreshadow s AIDS-inspired blood contamination scares. Whizzkid Rob Bottin was responsible for the surreal and stomach-churning make-up effects that are so crucial a part of the film's success--without his utterly convincing creations Carpenter would never have been able to make a monster movie without a "man in a suit"--and filming on a glacier in British Columbia ensured the complete authenticity of the Antarctic setting. Kurt Russell leads a strong all-male cast who powerfully convey their isolation and distrust of one another--in more ways than one this is a film about alienation. The uneasy atmosphere is enhanced by an icily monochrome score from Ennio Morricone, as a series of unforgettable horror set-pieces lead to a wonderfully downbeat finale. On the DVD:: The bonus features are exemplary, notably the excellent 80-minute documentary, "Terror Takes Shape", which covers all aspects of the production; and the relaxed, friendly, informative commentary by director John Carpenter and star Kurt Russell--a model for how all commentaries should be. There's also an outtakes reel with some tantalising stills of unused footage. Text and stills-based montages illustrate the location design, conceptual artwork and various other aspects of the production. The sound mix is Dolby 5.1, although the non-anamorphic widescreen picture is not all it could be. --Mark Walker