The Thing

Bottom Line: It’s no Halloween, but it’s still decent B-movie fun.

Directed by: John Carpenter
Starring: A. Wilford Brimley, Charles Hallahan, David Clennon, Keith David, Kurt Russell, Peter Maloney, Richard Dysart, T.K. Carter

Director John Carpenter’s Halloween is almost a dictionary definition for the idiom “rags to riches”.  Carpenter spent all of 1962 through 1969 directing a series of short films; his first two works, 1974’s Dark Star and 1976’s Assault on Precinct 13, still struggle in obscurity.  Then comes 1978, and all of a sudden this average joe is now the filmmaker behind what could be the most influential horror movie ever made.  Essentially, all Carpenter did was build off the “shower scene” from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (and cast the lead actress’s daughter as his lead actress), but just that spawned numerous sequels and remakes, lowered SAT scores with the Friday the 13th saga, and designed an entire oeuvre for Wes Craven, in which every film from A Nightmare on Elm Street to Scream 4 leaks Halloween‘s own blood.  Carpenter continued with three consecutive works that, after his breakthrough, are easily recognizable.  The third follow-up was The Thing, a remake of the 1951 B-movie The Thing from Another World.  Let’s admit, this 1982 remake is lots of fun.  Much of John Carpenter’s style returns, with eerie cinematography that leaves more of the graphic violence to the viewer’s imagination.  However, the initial work should have been left to stand.  The trashy archetypes of B-movie atmosphere permeate casually, and as a result, any hope of terrifying an audience is demolished.

The Thing is an offshoot of science fiction known as “body horror,” acting in the likes of previous films of its nature such as Alien and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, films that enjoy putting bodily mutilation on display.  While up until the last half hour the film generates suspense by leaving it to our imagination, the plot is essentially a cross between those films.  A crew of scientists are traveling in Antarctica when all of a sudden, they begin to notice strange occurrences.  Eventually, it turns out there are life forms that have arrived from another planet.  Nobody has a clue what they are, so they are referred to generically as “Things”.  The “Things” are insidious creatures.  They have come to Earth to invade human life forms and adapt to their shape, something harmful to the human race.  But this grows even more dangerous when a pandemic is foretold.  Humanity could be conquered in a matter of hours.

The Thing is a mixed bag.  I’m not sure we’re really supposed to subscribe to such an exaggerated plot that affirms a decimation of our entire species.  Six decades ago, possibly.  Three decades ago, highly unlikely.  The “thing” that makes The Thing even less believable is the underwhelming (and likely unrealized) transformation into a corn-ridden cliché.  The script runs wild with derivatives of “It’s alive!”, “We’re not gonna make it!”, and “It’s gonna blow!”  On the other hand, these faults are somewhat possible to dismiss.  Understated Italian composer Ennio Morricone’s impeccably minimalist screeching score excels in creating a creepy atmosphere.  Even in the most laconic moments of the script, it’s an easy winner at making an audience tense up.  Then the true fun comes in the last thirty minutes.  Cue the old horror cliché: dun, dun, dun, duuuuuun….

B MINUS

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14 thoughts on “The Thing

  1. For whatever reason I’ve just never been as taken with 70s and 80s horror movies as a lot of people. I’d say Alien and Jaws would be the biggest exceptions, but even movies like Halloween and Friday the 13th never scared me as much as people made me think they would. Oh well, maybe I didn’t watch them young enough. Props for sticking by your opinion in any case 🙂

  2. As a remake of the 1951 B-movie The Thing from Another World, The Things ranks up there with Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) as best horror remake ever. It just might even be one of the best remakes period.

    • The one amenity that kept Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) from being lost in translation when being remade in 1978 was removal of cheese. Although it’s unfortunately associated most commonly with this corny shot (you probably know it by heart without even clicking), much suspense is a result of the great script. Although I haven’t seen The Thing from Another World (but I’d like to), I’d assume it’s what I’d imagine it to be, having seen several 1950s B-movies. The Thing had just as many clichéd lines as you could find in a 1950s B-movie. John Carpenter’s touch made it very enjoyable, however.

  3. Just one of those terribly freaky movies that starts off slow, and just builds up and up until the tension almost becomes too much for ya to handle. Great flick from Carpenter and one of his best. Good review.

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