The Thing (1982)
Release Year: 1982
Director: John Carpenter
Screenwriters: Bill Lancaster, John W. Campbell, Jr. (short story “Who Goes There”)
Starring: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David, T.K. Carter, David Clennon, Richard Dysart, Charles Hallahan, Peter Maloney, Richard Masur, Donald Moffat, Joel Polis, Thomas Waites
A group of American scientists in the Antarctic are confronted with a shape-shifting alien that can assume the shape of anything it kills.
The set-up for The Thing is one that lends itself perfectly to a paranoid Horror story, which is probably the reason why author John W. Campbell, Jr.’s orginal Sci-Fi novella “Who Goes There?” has been adapted for the screen four times. Of the four (one of which is the 2011 prequel to Carpenter’s version), the 1982 The Thing is the closest to orginal story, and undoubtedly also the best. Kurt Russell (Death Proof, 2007) heads up the crew as the level-headed and ressourceful helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady. Russell is perfectly suited for the part and The Thing was the third of five collaborations between Russell and Carpenter, who seemed to be able to do nothing wrong together. The film opens on a sunny day in the Antarctic with a Norwegian helicopter chasing after a dog running towards the American base. The Norwegian is killed in the scuffle and when they later discover that everyone at the Norwegian base are dead as well, and that they apparently found something that had been sleeping in the ice, our lovely cast of characters is in deep trouble. The slow build-up of dread and paranoia is note-perfect interlaced with shock moments of pure Body Horror as the thing is caught on more than one occasion in the midst of adapting and transforming into a new mold. The effects are truly dazzling and the sound effects that accompany them (along with the excellent score composed by the director) are spot on. Carpenter’s The Thing is one of three great Sci-Fi films released in the same year (the other two were E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Blade Runner) and so competition was fierce, but The Thing has had just as lasting a life post-cinema as the other two, which is a testament to its quality and effectiveness. A must-see for fans of Sci-Fi Horror and/or Body Horror.
If you have difficulties figuring out who is replaced by the creature and when – don’t worry. Both Kurt Russell and director John Carpenter admit that they didn’t know then and still don’t know now.
Picture Copyright: UIP