THE THING (1982)
A research facility in Antarctica comes across an alien force that can mimic anything it touches...
What can be said about The Thing that hasn’t been said before? John Carpenter’s sci-fi horror is now considered a masterpiece, but it wasn’t always so. In its year of release, 1982, The Thing didn’t connect with audiences (grossing just $19.5 million from a $15m budget), and had to be discovered and fully appreciated on VHS. Following on from Halloween (1978) and The Fog (1980), The Thing was always going to be a challenge for Carpenter, but the filmmaker upped his game to such an extent the world wasn’t ready for what he delivered.
Carpenter’s mastery at manipulating an audience is on full display during The Thing. As demonstrated in his previous movies, he completely understands what makes an audience tick and makes creating suspense look deceptively easy. Using this movie’s claustrophobic environment of a frozen research station, mixed with a Lovecraftian fear of the unknown, we’re taken on a terrifying journey that many copycats have tried in vain to replicate.
For the uninitiated, The Thing revolves around pilot R.J MacReady (Kurt Russell) and an Antarctic research team discovering a camp full of dead Norwegian scientists. Unbeknownst to them, the victims were killed by a predatory shape-shifting alien that crash-landed nearby and has been buried in the ice for aeons. It sounds ridiculous, but works perfectly thanks to the great performances, expert direction, and a haunting score by Ennio Morricone that heightens the psychological drama.
Russell’s at his best as MacReady, a man forced to lead a group of men fighting for survival. He has an innate charisma that makes him perfect leading man material. You want MacReady to survive and feel genuinely concerned when others become paranoid he’s ‘the thing’ in disguise. Supporting actors like Richard Dysart, Wilford Brimley, and Keith David form part of an ensemble who generate a tense dynamic of unease and suspicion.
Whether it’s blood tests or journal entries, the search for the truth is a nail-biting one that withstands repeat viewings. The Thing hasn’t lost any of its impact over the decades, and knowing what’s coming often makes things even more unbearable.
The famously ambiguous ending is also an impactful way to leave this story open-ended, and all the more depressing for it. Carpenter captures the mystery and darkness of this frozen continent, aided by Morricone’s minimalist score, creating the perfect atmosphere for such a strange tale to unfold.
It’s no surprise that Arrow Video have decided to release a Special Edition Blu-ray of The Thing, packed with bonus material and a 4K remastering. The Thing deserves every bit of love and attention Arrow’s new release bestows on it. The new visual transfer highlights Dean Cundey’s chilly cinematography better than ever before, while the special features contain about as much behind-the-scenes information one could hope for. Modern horror movies often disappoint because they’re lazy and predictable, so rewatching this masterful benchmark of the genre comes highly recommended.
director: John Carpenter.
writer: Bill Lancaster (based on the novel ‘Who Goes There?’ by John W. Campbell, Jr.)
starring: Kurt Russell, A. Wilford Brimley, T.K Carter, David Clennon, Keith David, Richard Dysart, Charles Hallahan, Peter Maloney, Richard Masur, Donald Moffat, Joel Polis, Thomas Waites & Norbert Weisser.