Director: John Carpenter
Writer: Bill Lancaster
Cast: 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, Larry Franco, Nate Irwin, and William Zeman
Composer: Ennio Morricone
Release Date: 6/25/1982
MPAA Rating: R
After a flying saucer lands in Antarctica, a Norwegian research team discovers an alien creature buried near the crash site. Weeks later, helicopter pilot R.J. MacCready (Kurt Russell) and Dr. Copper (Richard Dysart) travel to the now devastated Norwegian base and locate the charred, mutated remnants of a mysterious lifeform. Before long, the ostensibly dead organism begins assimilating members of the American expedition, preventing MacCready, Dr. Blair (A. Wilford Brimley), and the other station occupants from trusting one another.
A faithful adaptation of Who Goes There? by science fiction author John W. Campbell, John Carpenter’s The Thing should be requisite viewing for fans of the original story. Notably, this offering deserves commendation for its topnotch performances, nauseating gore sequences, and claustrophobic atmosphere.
The Thing employs early 1980s practical effects while depicting a bizarre, shape-shifting organism similar to the one described in Campbell’s novella. In an early scene, for example, the face of a dog-thing peels open like a flower, releasing alien tendrils with which to assimilate other lifeforms. Later in the movie, a disembodied head with spidery legs—acting as an individual entity—attempts to scuttle away from the group unnoticed, leaving behind the decapitated torso of a main character. Additional highlights include melting faces, alien autopsies, and animal jaws forming from the chest of a dead man—all of which benefit from filmmaking techniques, some more dated than others, not yet possible during the production of Howard Hawks’ The Thing from Another World.
Likely influenced by Ridley Scott’s Alien, The Thing also features a variety of nuanced, down-to-earth characters with whom the viewer can relate. Specifically, the flawed but sympathetic attributes of Blair, Childs (Keith David), MacReady, and the other team members add a strong human element to this film, encouraging the audience to root for the survival of each protagonist.
Reminiscent in many ways of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978 version), The Thing offers a commentary on the paranoid undercurrents of modern society. Note, for instance, that the alien creature exploits a preexisting lack of trust within the group, thereby turning the human characters against one another—possibly a statement on the suspicious, impersonal nature of present-day interactions and relationships.
The Thing is a chilling (no pun intended), thought-provoking creature feature directed by Carpenter—master of cult cinema. Sci-fi/horror enthusiasts will therefore enjoy this production, which preys on fear of isolation to sustain a creepy, engaging atmosphere.
Overall Quality: 10/10
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