The Thing (1982)

If I was an imitation, a perfect imitation, how would you know if it was really me?

Childs – The Thing
Split-face from John Carpenter's The Thing.
The Thing – John Carpenter / Rob Bottin by Gwendal Uguen

Contents

  • Director – John Carpenter
  • Screenwriter – Bill Lancaster (Adapted from Who Goes There by John W. Campbell)
  • Starring – Kurt Russel as MacReady, Willford Brimley as Dr. Blair, and Keith David as Childs
  • For the Full Cast & Crew click here

A Glimpse into this Nightmare (Introduction)

Releasing in 1982, The Thing is a combination of science fiction and horror. Initially finding success as a novella by the name of Who Goes There?it comes from the mind of John W. Campbell, a revolutionary science fiction writer and editor.

If you are already familiar with The Thing, you’ll know its grotesque nature. One thing I will dive into a little later is the absolutely stunning use of body horror. If you are unfamiliar with the term, it is a subgenre of horror which depicts twisted and vile manipulations of the human body (usually but not always).

The film takes place at an Antarctic research facility during the early winter. Here, in the complex are twelve members of an American research team who battle with/against brain and brawn when they discover a shapeshifting creature in their midst. The situation becomes dire as the researchers struggle with their own mortality, revealing new desperation within each of them. Being culled by an alien creature, they each become something monstrous to preserve their humanity.

A (Synopsis) of Monstrously Average Proportion

If anything above sounded interesting to you, I recommend you watch the movie before continuing, as everything from here on out will be a more in-depth look at the film. Without further ado, let’s talk about The Thing.

The film opens with the workers of an American research base shocked at a Norwegian helicopter circling their camp and shooting at a dog. The aircraft is destroyed, and the pilots are killed. At the same time, the dog is let into the facility, and the Americans wonder, “What just happened?”

Determined to learn more, they send Dr. Cooper and pilot MacReady to the Norwegian base. Upon arrival, they find the facility has been destroyed, with an icy coffin and a malformed body that looks like it was once a person, which they carry back to study. Rookie mistake. As horror aficionados, I’m sure we can agree that you never bring a mangled corpse back home with you.

The clues pile up as the dog morphs into an otherworldly being with spidery legs, bestial arms, tendrils that whip about, and a mouth that gushes acid. The researchers feel confident in resolving their problems by shooting it up in flames. Until they conclude: that an alien able to transform and take the appearance of anybody or anything is among them. Which of the researchers are already infected? Who can be trusted?

From this point forward, the Thing takes an exciting approach with mind games fueled by depravity and desperation between monster and man.

My Favorite Scene

After an attempted murder becomes an actual murder, the researchers are tied down by MacReady despite their protests. Taking each of their blood and testing it by poking a heated wire into a blood sample. Their idea being if you are the thing, your blood would react with hostility towards the wire. This scene tenses with the hiss of sizzling blood narrowing down suspects tied to the couch. When it comes to the stoner of the group, Palmer’s turn, he starts violently shaking and explodes into a Venus flytrap of a man and gnaws down on Windows, the radio operator.

MacReady ignites their bodies as the room falls to chaos. Recouping, the survivors devise a plan to exterminate the thing. By burning down the entire facility, each of them makes peace with their final moments for the good of mankind.

The remaining few head down into the underground bunker, where they find the Thing waiting. In a climactic explosion, the thing perishes, or at least we hope it does. Before the credits roll, MacReady and Childs, both antagonists to one another, become solemn friends as they slowly freeze to death. 

The Tragic Thing About 2011 (Prequel)

Honestly, do not watch the prequel of the same name. It is a pure cash grab piggybacking off of the success garnered around the original. It fails to capture the originality and suspense of the 1982 movie. The prequel opts to use downright horrendous CGI in place of the fantastic practical effects of the original (which still hold up to this day, I should add)! Yet, I can find it within me to give it some praise.

One scene stands out in which Kate (protagonist) heads into the bathroom and finds some bloody teeth fillings and a shower with the floors and walls dripping with blood. Which then queues a call-back scene mimicking the blood test. Kate promptly checks everyone’s mouth for fillings; if they don’t have fillings, they could be considered the thing. I enjoy this scene most in the film because it reminds me of the blood testing scene in the original.

Despite having a memorable scene in the film, it gets ruined with poor writing and an even more terrible ending. The mystery of the original pushes it to create thought within the audience, which the prequel does not.

What drives my love for The Thing is how rational the characters are. Not in the prequel, though; you can’t have any good writing in the prequel…

(Review)ing a Nightmare

I rate The Thing, twelve dead researchers out of ten.

– Penn Miller

This movie is a tug of war between monster and man. And the rope they pull is steeped in tension and paranoia throughout the runtime. I adore (mostly) every minute.

The Thing is often considered the poster child if not a heavy influence in the genre of “body horror.” From the creature of split-face to the dog-spider hybrid spitting acid to the doctor melting his fingers into Garry’s face.

I wish my descriptions could give a solid image of the body horror of this film, yet they do not. At the very least, I recommend you watch some scenes on YouTube.

As much as I want to, I would not recommend this movie if you are squeamish. Despite being forty years old, the SFX holds up amazingly, and there is much of it.

If it isn’t already apparent, I love this movie. Even with an ending that fails to live up to the incredible act II, this is one of my favorite films, so I rate The Thing twelve dead researchers out of ten.

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3 responses to “The Thing (1982)”

  1. Love how informative this post was! Setting the info aside from paragraphs was easy to read and allows for good skimming. Thank you for giving an honest review of the film where you address issues with the plotline as even the biggest fans do not always appreciate every aspect of a narrative. I need to watch this film again as an adult. You have piqued my interest. -Destiny

    Like

  2. I like the set up of this page you guys provide us as an audience with a great teaser to the film while also providing us with a sound synopsis that isn’t too revealing giving us the chance to watch the film and enjoy the legend of this dark film

    Like

  3. I do not do scary movies at all but now I am curious. I’ve never seen or even heard of this movie but after reading this I would definitely give it a try. I want to see what ” body horror” is all about because i haven’t heard of that either. I appreciate how easy it was to follow and how it flowed into talks about the prequel.- Imani E.

    Like

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