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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"I know I'm human. And if you were all these things, then you'd just attack
me right now, so some of you are still human. This thing doesn't want to
show itself, it wants to hide inside an imitation. It'll fight if it has to,
but it's vulnerable out in the open. If it takes us over, then it has no
more enemies, nobody left to kill it. And then it's won."
John Carpenter's "The Thing" is one of the most entertaining horror films ever made fast, clever and purely exciting from start to finish. This is how all movies of the genre should be made.
Taking place in the Antarctic in 1982, the movie focuses specifically on a group of American scientists. We are given no introduction to their mission, but are thrust into their existence when a pair of seemingly crazy Norwegians appears at their base camp, chasing an escaped dog. The Norwegians are killed, and the dog finds its way into the colony, which is when things really start to get crazy.
It is soon made quite clear that the "dog" is actually a shape-shifting alien organism, which manifests itself upon the physical form of its victims in other words, it begins to eat the Americans, and imitate them so well that the remaining humans cannot discern the difference between their friends and enemies
The pack of scientists, led by MacReady (Kurt Russell), begin to fight for their own survival, using wits instead of brawn. If the Thing is indeed amongst them, then how are they to go about revealing it? How many Things are there? How can the Thing be killed? (Or can it be destroyed at all?)
The creature's origins in the film are explained easily: Thirty thousand years ago a spacecraft plummeted to Earth, and was frozen in the Antarctic ice. The Thing tried to escape, and was discovered in the ice by the Norwegians, who unknowingly released it from its natural prison.
"The Thing," the movie itself, is similar to Ridley Scott's iconic "Alien" (1979). Many comparisons have been made the protagonists are stranded in a desolate area, stalked by a seldom seen foe that manages to kill them off one-by-one. However, "The Thing" for all practical purposes came first.
Based on the famous short story "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell, Jr. (writing under pseudonym as Don A. Stuart), the film was originally adapted as a feature production in 1951 by Howard Hawks and Christian Nyby. The result was "The Thing From Another World," an unarguable classic. But to be fair, it bore little resemblance to the short story, and Carpenter's remake does it more justice.
The idea of the Thing being able to adapt the physicality of anyone is what essentially makes this movie so great, and is the most vital link to the short story. In 1951 the special effects were simply too poor to reasonably portray the shape-shifting organism, but thirty-one years brought many advances in SFX.
Creature effects artist Rob Bottin does an excellent job of turning what could have easily become a cheesy gore-fest into a startlingly frightening (and realistic) mess of blood and fear. The Thing, although never actually taking one specific form, is constantly seen in a morphing stage, and the effects are simply superb. They still pack a punch twenty-two years later.
Ennio Morricone's score (nominated for a Razzie Award at the time) is a bit too electronic and tinny, but nevertheless haunting when used correctly.
From the fact that its cast consists entirely of males, to the fact that its ending is one of the most thought-provoking and untypical conclusions of all time, "The Thing" by any standards is unconventional Hollywood at its best. It comes as no surprise that, at the time of its release, "The Thing" performed poorly in theaters, and "E.T." released the same year and featuring a much kinder alien became the higher-grossing picture of the two (by far).
In the long run, however, "The Thing" is superior in almost every conceivable way. Spielberg's tale is outdated and flopped during its 20th Anniversary Re-Release. "The Thing," on the other hand, has gradually climbed a ladder of cult classics it is one of the most famous non-famous movies ever made.
Carpenter is notorious for having a very uneven career from his amazing "Assault on Precinct 13" (1976) to the magnificent "Halloween" (1978) to the disappointing and silly "Escape from L.A." (1996), "The Thing" remains his very best motion picture. Although its reputation over the years has never been honorary enough to land it a spot on most "great movies" lists, "The Thing" is still one of my favorite horror films, and upon close inspection masterfully crafted. It is a daring and ingenious thrill-ride that is simultaneously unique and chilling a genuine relief for film buffs who are tired of the same old horror knock-offs. This one, at the very least, is genuinely unpredictable.
* * * * ½ (4½ out of 5)
Directed by: John Carpenter, 1982
Looking back on John Carpenter's The Thing today a highly treasured cult favourite one has to wonder why it was dismissed by both the audience and critics when it first came out in 1982.
Steven Spielberg's extra terrestrial adventure about a sweet alien that phoned home (that stole the hearts of both children and adults world wide) had opened just two weeks before and was on its historic box office rampage. Bad scheduling may have had a greater impact than anything else on the fate of Carpenter's first big studio effort for Universal Pictures. Nobody was prepared moreover wanted anything so dark, gory and scary as this genuine remake of the famous 1951 original. This was the time of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.
It then makes for great movie history trivia, that The Thing has gained such a remarkable afterlife on video, DVD and television. Both financially and critically. Carpenter's version is less a remake of the Howard Hawks' version than a more faithful adaptation of John W. Campbell's short story "Who Goes There?' (on which both were based), and critics today point out how well Carpenter plays his characters against each other. Kurt Russell will never top this one, and he gets a brilliant sparring from the entire cast.
It opens in Antarctica with a sled husky running from a pair of crazed and armed Norwegian men in a helicopter. The scene is long, slow and uneasy. It feels like the Apocalypse. It oozes doomsday.
This scene comprises one of the greatest opening sequences in film history.
Ennio Morricone's moody synth score (heavy on naked thumping bass lines in classic Carpenter style), the windswept massive white of the desolate polar ice and the majestic husky running across the tundra chased by the chopper, compromises a completely mesmerizing piece of scenery.
A satisfying example of a movie that today 18 years after looks downright muscular in its simplicity.
The budget was big ($14 mill), yet it allowed Carpenter to visualize his ideas better than ever before. There's a brooding darkness to this film, making the whites and blues of the icy Antarctic claustrophobia seem poetic and almost angelic. Dean Cundey's extraordinary photography created a palpable chill to every shot. The careful preparation (the crew went into a record 11-month pre-production) paid off immensely.
Horror specialist Rob Bottin was handpicked for the many gory and grotesque special effects. Be warned there's a lot of splatter and gore here. The Thing is actually notorious for its creature morphing scenes. Some find them disgusting, some mere cult.
An argument could be made against The Thing being an Alien rip-off; it has its origins in an old sci-fi story and it creates tension by popping a crowd of people (note: all-male) on an isolated outpost (an Antarctic research facility) terrorized by an alien life form.
Where Carpenter was clearly inspired by Ridley Scott's 1979 masterpiece, his own alien movie is original and intriguing in its own right. There's a rhythm and an environment that equals Scott's in every way.
The husky was in fact half-wolf and half-dog, and it was noted that it never barked or growled on or off the set (Horror Takes Shape, the making of - DVD version).
Watch in awe at the scene where it walks through the hallway and stares at a human shadow, slightly tilting its head forward in stalking position like a wild wolf. This is a fine piece of animal training, sure, but that's not the point. This is as spooky as anything ever made in a horror movie.
Carpenter had all the right tools here, and he utilized them to perfection, making The Thing his best movie alongside Halloween.
Just to put things in perspective for you before I get into my thoughts on
this film, I am only 20 years old and have grown up in the era of CGI,
screen effects...and this movie was made around the same time i was
With that said, WOW, I only recently saw John Carpenter's version of 'The Thing', and what a masterpiece it truly is. I have long since been a fan of John Carpenter, in particular his works from the late 70's and 80's. In 'The Thing' John Carpenter has truly crafted a paranoia inducing, perhaps gut wrenching classic.
The movie is an update of the classic 'The Thing From Outer Space', but only like it's predecessor, this film is in full color, and the characters of this film have much more to worry about than an alien veggie
The film centers around a group of Arctic Researchers you encounter an alien lifeform capable of taking the form of anything it comes into contact with, and out of for that matter. Kurt Russell stars as R.J. MacReady, an alcoholic Vietnam Vet, thrust into the role of leader of a group of relatively cold and callous men all of whom are readily plunging into manic paranoia and somewhat madness once they realize that they are up against a creature that can take any form, be any one of them.
John Carpenter, more than in any other of his films, manages to create a truly believable and incredible atmosphere. When watching this film you truly get the sense of the dark,sinister, desolate surroundings, you feel and realize that these characters have no where to go...never for one second do you not believe they are stuck on a polar ice cap. Also, this film has perhaps one of the greatest endings to any film of it's genre, or any genre for that matter. I'm not going to give it away here, but to say that it will leave you wondering would be an understatement.
Kurt Russell is superb as MacReady....truly conveying the emotions of a man thrust into a situation of unimaginable horror, forced to lead a group of men who cannot trust that the man next to them is not the creature that has driven them to the brink of paranoia and emotional meltdown.
I don't care if this movie is 20 years old by now, the special effects in this movie are gut wrenching, mind blowing, and absolutely awesome. They blow away any CGI pixel based crap out there today. The 'Thing' itself is a truly horrifying and disturbing creation...unlike any alien you have ever seen in a movie before. Those who have a low tolerance for gore and blood had best prepare themselves for watching this movie.
This movie does what any good horror/sci fi movie should do, it really thrusts you into it's character's world. It leaves you wondering, what would you do, who could you trust if anyone you knew could be the creature waiting to feed on you, and take you over as well. The images, and ideals of this movie stayed with me long after i first saw it, and today as i write this review send a chill up my spine.
It is a true shame this movie is only now getting the proper recognition it deserves. A box office flop when released, now more then ever when movies are paper thin with plot, and one dimensional in effects, this film can be appreciated as a true masterpiece of sci/fi and horror.
If possible, get the Collector's Edition DVD, and enjoy it in anamorphic widescreen..the way it is truly meant to be seen. Marvel at the incredible scenery, the taught direction, the excellent atmosphere, the sweat inducing, gag reflex activating, and everything else that makes this movie great.
Watch it with the lights out, with a group of close friends...maybe even with a dog around...if you don't what i'm talking about...you will afterwards.
Don't let a classic pass you bye
I am ashamed to say it, but I have to admit, the first time I saw this
was only about a year ago. After seeing it, I immediately rushed out and
bought the DVD collectors' edition and have watched it many times since.
The film is terrific on many levels. It works as your straight monster or action type film, as a horror/sci-fi and also as a very intriguing look into the human psyche. The incredible sense of paranoia, mistrust and fear, lent not only by Carpenter's direction (which is stunning) but also by the incredible acting of the cast in general. Kurt Russell (obviously) is spectacularly understated in the lead role of MacReady, and, as a direct result he "feels" like a real person, rather than a hollywood "all american hero". The other cast members all carry off their roles with style, and the net result is an intensely believable atmosphere, and a truly fantastic film.
This is another one of those films that I remember staying up late to
watch on TV, scaring the crap out of myself at the impressionable age
of 12 or so and dooming myself thereafter to a life of horror movie
obsession. This is a GREAT movie, and stands as living proof that there
were indeed realistic effects before CGI.
Set on an isolated base in Antarctica, this version seems almost to pick up where the original version (The Thing From Another World) left off. The American scientists discover a decimated Norwegian base some miles distant. Everyone is dead, and only the half charred remains of some unidentifiable thing left to smolder outside the compound might offer any answers to what may have happened. The Thing is brought back to the American base and, too late, the scientists realize that it is alive and lethal. The Thing thaws out and is off, not only killing anyone and anything that crosses Its path, but also absorbing them, making Itself into whoever and whatever it wants. The film then turns into a brilliant paranoia piece. Everyone is suspect, anyone can be The Thing, and no one trusts anyone anymore. Gone is the strength and security found when human beings band together in spite of their differences to battle a monster. The group splinters and fear rules supreme. Who is the Thing?
The gore effects here are absolutely amazing and messily realistic. I could have done without the dogs head splitting open like a banana peel, but that's just the animal lover in me being picky: kill all the humans you want, but leave the kitties and puppies alone. Sanity and reason disintegrate rapidly as, one by one, the humans are taken over by the shapeshifting alien. The power of this film lies in its paranoia, and although I liked the original version, I prefer this one; the real threat lies within, and is scarier for the fact that it cannot be seen or easily detected. When it is forced out of hiding, it's wrath is huge and the results are horrific.
This is one of Carpenters best films, right up there with The Fog and Halloween. All of the actors give strong, realistic performances and the special effects are so powerful that they stand as their own main character. This film has something for any lover of the horror genre. Don't miss it.
John Carpenter's The Thing is hands down the best horror film ever made. Not only that, but it is also on of my personal favorite films of all time. What makes the movie so great? It's hard to put my finger on it. Everything just seems to work in The Thing, it's one of the rare occasions where everything just seems to fall in place. The film is even superior to Alien in creating a type of moody atmospheric hell. The fact that it's not only about the gore (which is wonderful btw), but it is able to create a paranoia that is unmatched in films. A truly wonderful film that is worshiped by all horror buffs, and anyone who has good taste in films.
Antarctica, winter 1982. The team on an American research base get
surprised by a couple of mad Norwegians who is chasing a dog with a
helicopter, trying to kill it. All the Norwegians are killed and the
Americans are left with nothing, but a dog, a couple of bodies and
questions. That's the beginning of the greatest horror/thriller film
I've ever seen.
From the very beginning all to the end you feel the tense, paranoid mood. Helpless and alone out in no-mans land. Ennio Morricone was nominated for a Razzie Award for his score. Why I don't know 'cause as far as I can see his score is simple, creepy and very good. It really gets you in the right mood.
The acting is great! The best performance is probably given by the dog who's just amazing. As for Russell and the others on two legs I can say nothing less.
You may think 1982 and special effects are not the most impressive? Well, think again! You haven't seen it all until you've seen this. Bodyparts falling off and creatures changing forms... Rob Bottin has done a great job witch today stands as a milestone is special effects makeup.
The movie didn't get a big response when it first hit the big screen due to other alien films at the time and so it's not very well known. In fact you can almost consider it an unknown movie. Nobody I've asked have heard of it. However the movie has managed to survive for over twenty years as a cult film on video and DVD. Twenty years is a long time and except for the haircut the movie is still pretty much up to date. This movie is to be considered a classic.
The movie is without doubt one of my, if not my favorite. I've seen it several times, but it's just as good as the first time I saw it. As a Norwegian the only thing I don't like about this movie is that MacReady keeps calling the Norwegians swedes!
Many people has got a film they think of as their favourite
My movie will always be John Carpenter's The Thing!
The main reason why this movie is a cult-film is perhaps the
splatter-effects created mainly by genius Rob Bottin and that this is the
movie that made Kurt Russell what he is today (along with Escape from
In my opinion, this is not a great film because of the effects, it has to
with the story, the atmosphere, and of course, the acting.
I have watched thousands and thousands of movies (3-6 every day
last 10 years), but none has had the impact on me as this one, not even
great "Das Boot".
Here's my suggestion to you who likes sci-fi and horror movies: Place yourself in the good chair of your home. Be sure you're not interupted by anyone. If you aint got a projector, sit close to your TV and watch this miracle of a film. Let it absorbe you, and you'll see it my way!
Best View Time: Late February between 5 and 9 in the evening.
Remake of the classic 1951 "The Thing From Another World". 12 men are
in a completely isolated station in Antartica. They are invaded by a
thing from outer space--it devours and completely duplicates anything
it chooses to. It starts off as a dog but gets loose--and has a chance
to duplicate any of the men. Soon, nobody trusts anyone else--they're
isolated--the radio is destroyed--their helicopter likewise. What are
they going to do?
The 1951 film had the thing just be a big, super human monster. That movie was scary. This one is too--but the story is different (and based more closely on the source material--the novelette "Who Goes There?") and it's scary in a different way. The movie starts right off with Ennio Morricone's extremely eerie score setting just the right tone and--when the Thing gets attacked--the amount of gore is astounding. There's blood and body parts flying all over--arms are bitten off, heads detach and--in the strongest one--one man is devoured face first by the Thing. The gore effects are STRONG and real nightmare material. I don't scare easy but I had to sleep with the lights on when I saw this originally back in 1982. Rob Bottin's effects are just incredible--how this picture got by with an R rating is beyond me!
It also has a very creepy feel--gore aside, it is very suspenseful. You're not sure who is what and Carpenter's direction and the score really build up the tension. One complaint--no one is given any distinctive personality traits. They actors just remain straight-faced and say their lines. That's annoying...but the movie still works.
This was a critical and commercial disaster in 1982--it competed with "E.T." and MANY critics complained about the amount of gore and there being no female characters in the movie. It's now considered one of John Carpenter's best. A must-see...for strong stomaches. NOT a date film!
An amusing note: When this was released Universal sent a note along with all prints of the film. They suggested to theatre owners that they play the film in an auditorium near the rest rooms. They were afraid that people would be so sickened by the violence that they'd have to be close to a facility to throw up!
John Carpenter shows how much he loves the 1951 original by giving it
the utmost respect that he possibly could, the only difference here is
that Carpenter chooses to stick to the paranoiac core of John W
Campbell Jr's short story. The secret to this version's success is the
unbearable tension that builds up as the group of men become suspicious
of each other, the strain of literally waiting to be taken over takes a
fearful hold. Carpenter manages to deliver the shocks as well as the
mystery needed to keep the film heading in the right direction. Be it
an horrific scene or a "what is in the shadow" sequence, the film to me
is a perfect fusion of horror and sci-fi. The dialogue is spot on for a
group of men trying to keep it together under duress, and Ennio
Morricone's score is a wonderful eerie pulse beat that further racks up
the sense of doom and paranoia seaming thru the film. The cast are
superb, a solid assembly of actors led by Carpenter fave Kurt Russell,
whilst the effects used give the right amount of impact needed. But
most of all it's the ending that is the crowning glory, an ending that
doesn't pander to the norm and is incredibly fitting for what has gone
on before it.
Lets wait and see what happens indeed. 10/10
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