JOHN CARPENTER’S ‘THE THING.’ (1982) DIRECTED BY JOHN CARPENTER. BASED ON THE NOVELLA ‘WHO GOES THERE?’ BY JOHN W. CAMPBELL JR. MUSIC BY JOHN CARPENTER AND ENNIO MORRICONE. SPECIAL EFFECTS BY ROB BOTTIN. STARRING KURT RUSSELL, KEITH DAVID, PETER MALONEY AND A. WILFORD BRIMLEY.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
It’s shocking nowadays to read over the bad reviews this film initially garnered on its release, and then to compare them with the rave reviews it’s received retrospectively and continues to receive to this day.
Either those early critics really, really got it wrong or it was simply a case, as some people think, of THE THING’s having simply found it too hard to compete with two other films that were released at the same time.
Namely, Steven Spielberg’s E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, which of course presents an altogether different, more positive view of alien visitors from Outer Space, and Ridley Scott’s BLADE RUNNER. 1982 was clearly a good year for science fiction movies…!
Suffice it to say here that this film is widely regarded nowadays as one of the best horror movies ever made and John Carpenter, its creator, one of the best horror movie directors. Did I mention that I saw him perform his movie soundtracks live in Dublin’s Vicar Street last Halloween Week? I didn’t? Well, gather round, friends, and I shall tell you a wondrous tale…!
Haha, I’m only joking. I told that story enough last year. Today we’ll just talk about THE THING. So, um, well, here’s the thing, geddit? See what I did there?
It’s the story of a highly malevolent, parasitic alien life form that somehow finds its way onto an American scientific research station in Antarctica, after thousands of years of being buried nice and cosy-like in the ice.
That’s a hell of a story, isn’t it? Something similar happens in the marvellous horror movie, HORROR EXPRESS, starring Hammer royalty Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, and also TV detective Kojak, aka actor Telly Savalas. Who loves ya, baby?
Anyway, once the lads at the research station encounter THE THING for the first time (in their dog pound as it’s initially taken the form of a cute cuddly bow-bow), they still don’t even grasp the enormity of the situation they’re in. This is only the beginning of the horror for the men, whose lives on the station are probably isolated enough and tough enough as it is.
THE THING has the power to take on any life-form it chooses, but only if there’s already an existing life-form for it to take the shape and form of, if you get me. It sneakily decides to take on the appearance of various scientists at the station, and the only way for the other brainiacs to tell the difference is by doing a blood test, which isn’t always convenient:
‘Um, excuse me, Mr. Thing, would you mind awfully just taking a seat here and giving me your arm? It’s only a little prick, you’ll hardly feel it, and you can TOTALLY go back to killing us all afterwards, I promise! We even have lollipops here for anyone who gives blood. Hey, how about those Mets, huh…?’
Kurt Russell, deeply attractive in a full beard and with his thermal long johns on under his outer clothing, is the main character, R.J. MacReady, and the scientist who’s the most proactive in trying to track down and destroy THE THING. He’s (Mac) ready for anything, geddit? His answer to everything is fire. It’s hilarious.
Every time he spots anything that remotely resembles THE THING, he turns a flame-thrower on it and no exceptions. If he’s not careful, he’ll forget himself and end up scratching his arse with that flame-thrower or trying to turn on the TV with it. It reminds me of an episode of THE SIMPSONS where they’re trying to figure out something, I forget what, and Marge ends up saying ‘No fires!’ to all of Homer’s pyromaniacal suggestions.
The feeling of suspicion and paranoia that builds up in the station as the men all view each other now as potential enemies is so strong, it’s almost palpable. Everyone’s all, like, let’s just sit here, real nice and quiet-like, where we can all keep an eye on each other, real friendly-like.
No-one trusts anyone else and, when mens’ tempers are frayed in such an isolated and claustrophobic situation, things can be triggered almost accidentally, bad things.
Again, it’s like that episode of THE SIMPSONS in which Bart Simpson, Milhouse Van Houten and Martin Prince each have shares in a rare comic-book, the first RADIOACTIVE MAN comic or something, but they quickly grow to distrust each other, each thinking that the other is planning to commandeer the comic for itself. There are very few situations in life that can’t in some way be compared to an episode of THE SIMPSONS…!
The special effects in THE THING are amazingly good, stomach-turning and extremely gory. They’re so good it’s actually incredible to think that they were created a whopping thirty-five years ago and yet they’ve never been bettered since.
Please don’t argue with me about this. I am a woman. I am programmed to win every argument, without exception, and I fight dirty, too, and I’ll resort to tears if I have to, haha.
Although there are some excellent horror film franchises on the go today (INSIDIOUS, THE CONJURING, SINISTER, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, to name but a few), no-one’s ever really managed to scale the dizzying heights that John Carpenter and Rob Bottin achieved together all those years ago. Maybe no-one ever will.
I read online that the film is screened every Winter, along with THE SHINING, for the lads at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. That’s funny and kinda sweet but it’s also a bit like showing ALIVE as the in-flight movie on an aeroplane or a virus outbreak film in the hospital waiting-room to people experiencing, well, um, a viral outbreak. Funny but inadvisable, haha. Maybe even a little tactless…!
I’m off now to make a nice cup of tea to settle my stomach after all those gory special effects. I only wish there were some way to do it where I didn’t have to get up from my chair, wash a cup, get the teabags, boil the kettle… Wait a minute. Where’s me flamethrower…?
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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