The Thing is a monumental body horror that also has claustrophobic tension and psychological horror to offer.
The Thing is a science fiction body horror full with gory exquisite practical effects, paranoia and horror action on the cold Arctic. It’s claustrophobic, it’s very eighties with roller-skates and with a terrifying alien that lets loose its gruesomeness and gore in multiple ways.
This film by John Carpenter is his first in the Apocalypse Trilogy. Although the end of times isn’t shown, how the story plays out, you can imagine it will bring forth the apocalypse and eradication of humankind in a most brutal way. In this first film it’s by alien invasion, the second film Prince of Darkness (1987) it’s the devil himself disguised as dark matter and in the third installment humanity will end with madness and cosmic horror in In the Mouth of Madness (1994).
MacReady works as a helicopter pilot on the Arctic at an American research facility. When they watch a helicopter from the nearby Norwegian research facility chase a dog it suddenly strangely crashes. They give shelter to the dog, but then weird things start to happen.
When they set out on an expedition to the Norwegian facility they find it abandoned and they find burnt dead bodies which they take with them to investigate what has happened. Unknowingly they now have brought the same doom upon themselves. An alien life form soon spreads itself amongst them, causing paranoia and death. Mac has to stop this alien from reaching civilization before all of humanity is taken over by this alien life form.
Why you should watch it
Although it’s a remake from the 1951 film The Thing from Another World and based on the novel Who Goes There written by John W. Campbell Jr in 1938, it’s a film that has gathered a cult status and has become an important film of the eighties and has its own authentic voice, tone and atmosphere.
It has delightful practical effects. It’s gory, it’s gooey, and gross, but it’s very originally made and well-crafted. The practical effects do bring the horror and the story to life. These practical effects stand out and create a horrifying effect. It’s a big element of the film and the created monsters that the people and dogs turn into are truly inventive monstrous creatures that are incredibly scary and disgusting.
Slimy spider-like creatures with creepy legs, two-headed people, horrible creatures growing out of corpses and much more. It’s a practical effects gore fest that knows how to make the most out of it and puts it to use in a great way, becoming true horror without ever becoming cheesy.
But it’s not all about the practical effects. The story isn’t forgotten and neither are the characters. They succumb to paranoia which results in psychological terror. Add to this an isolated place, a blizzard outside and inside no-one you can trust, and the psychological claustrophobic feel is tangible.
While the alien life force can imitate and merge with other organic bodies, no-one can be trusted. Everybody can be a fake, an alien. This element is very well put to use and turns a body horror film into something more than just relying on practical effects.
To make the party complete it is also a great nostalgic eighties throwback that really defines the eighties. The cook is always on roller-skates, the old computers, and the macho vibe for example are a joy to watch. The all-male cast full with testosterone shouting and jelling, macho behavior, create a chaotic screaming vibe and do take you back to that typical eighties film vibe. It adds real full to the fire and causes more friction and paranoia, ultimately resulting in bad decisions and more death.
The art decoration, the set design and the music create a desolate atmosphere that add to the terror and dread. The whole film is a mix of body horror, science fiction, psychological horror, and it even has a slasher vibe, while everybody is picked off one by one. This creative mix works really well and resulted in a horror film that belongs in the category most notable and important horror films.
My favorite part
Well of course all the monsters they have created are masterpieces of horror that are as horrifying as entertaining and so well-crafted that you cannot but look with admiration. They have come up with such creative and imaginative monsters and created them physically with animatronics so they do come to life is amazing. It’s always a joy to watch horror effects you can actually touch, it really does make a difference on screen. It feels more real somehow and the effort always deserves extra credits.
But the psychological scene when they have to test each others blood in order to find out who is an alien and who’s still human is a great scene with a great tensed buildup. It’s a contrast to all the alien monster chaos and although they all are quiet and the body horror seems far away, another kind of horror creeps up that is evenly dreadful. It makes the film stronger for it and the tension between them rises to an almost unbearable level.
Gore factor: ★★★★★
Gruesome factor: ★★★★☆
Originality factor: ★★★★★
Entertainment factor: ★★★★★
Cast and crew
The Thing is based on the novel Who Goes There by John W. Campbell Jr. The film is directed by John Carpenter and the screenplay is written by Bill Lancaster. It stars Kurt Russell (MacReady), Wilford Brimley (Dr Blair), T.K. Carter (Nauls), David Clennon (Palmer), Keith David (Childs), Richard Dysart (Dr Copper), Charles Hallahan (Vance Norris), Peter Maloney (George Bennings), Richard Masur (Clark), Donald Moffat (Garry) Joel Polis (Fuchs) and Thomas G. Waites (Windows).
Duration: 109 minutes. Music: Ennio Morricone. Cinematography: Dean Cundey. Edited by: Todd C. Ramsay. Produced by: David Foster, Lawrence Turman. Production company: The Turman-Foster Company. Distributed by: Universal Pictures.