The Thing (1982)
Frequently Asked Questions
Twelve men—helicopter pilot R.J. "Mac" MacReady (Kurt Russell), base physician Dr Copper (Richard Dysart), biologist Dr Blair (Wilford Brimley) and his assistant Fuchs (Joel Polis), geologist Vance Norris (Charles Hallahan), meteorologist George Bennings (Peter Maloney), sled dog handler Clark (Richard Masur), radio operator Windows (Thomas G. Waites), cook Nauls (T.K. Carter), mechanic and helicopter pilot trainee Palmer (David Clennon), head mechanic Childs (Keith David), and station manager Garry (Donald Moffat)—on a U.S. National Science Institution outpost In the Antarctic encounter an alien lifeform with the ability to assimilate, transform, and take the appearance of anyone amongst them.
The Thing is based on the short story "Who Goes There?" by American science fiction writer John W. Campbell, writing as Don A. Stuart [1910-1971]. It was first published in the August 1938 issues of Astounding Science Fiction magazine, of which Campbell also became editor. The first film adaptation of this was the 1951 movie The Thing from Another World (1951). A prequel to John Carpenter's 1982 version, also titled The Thing (2011), was released in 2011.
The film does not explain the purpose of the American team in Antarctica. Antarctica has no indigenous people or permanent residents. The Antarctica Treaty, signed by a number of countries in 1959, dictates that Antarctica must only be used for peaceful and/or scientific purposes. Considering the extensive laboratory equipment and presence of several doctors, it is assumed that the men are a part of a scientific team occupying the residence to maintain facilities during the Antarctic winter, as most research occurs during the milder summer months. In Campbell's short story, it was explained that the science crew were there to study and perform experiments regarding the dynamics of magnetics and magnetism in subzero conditions. On the audio commentary to the DVD release of the film, John Carpenter says that he wanted to make a different type of horror film about a group of intelligent, well-read guys going up against an otherworldly, almost unstoppable alien that challenges everything they know. This could then fly in the face of accepted "slasher" horror ideas where stupid teenage protagonists are picked off one by one. Also, Carpenter had the idea that each of these men had a reason for wanting to be away from the rest of the world. Which is why they are a skeleton crew manning the station during the winter months.
That question is not answered in the movie. Viewers have suggested several possibilities. The Thing may have been (1) the pilot, (2) a passenger, (3) a stowaway, (4) part of the cargo, (5) a prisoner being transported to some interstellar prison, or (6) a collected specimen. In an early version of the prequel The Thing (2011), the Thing was one of many species collected by the alien race piloting the spaceship, but this revelation was later dropped from the finished film.
There's really no explanation. The wobbling of the vessel and the flame that bursts from the back end could suggest that something was wrong inside the ship. This theory suggests the spaceship landed on Earth either by accident or as an emergency landing. Apart from the small burst of flames, however, there seems to be nothing wrong with the structure from the outside. The burst of flames could simply have been due to friction from the spaceship entering the Earth's atmosphere. The wobbling could likewise have been caused by proximity to Earth's gravitational pull or simply a mannerism of the craft's flight, such as a maneuver used to slow down the spaceship before entering the Earth's atmosphere. This theory would suggest the spaceship intentionally entered Earth's atmosphere. A third theory is that the spaceship belonged to some other interstellar race that had become infected by the Thing, wreaking havoc not unlike what we see within the film and causing the ship to crash—perhaps intentionally. This last last chain of events was also included in an early script for the prequel The Thing (2011), but later removed during production, and since this movie was written by a different team of writers, it may not have necessarily been the intention of the writers of the original film.
Three theories have been offered.
(1) If the Thing was piloting, crashing in Antarctica was probably an accident as the Thing would certainly choose a landing area with an abundance of lifeforms, although it's been argued that the Thing may have chosen to land in an isolated, inconspicuous place, as landing in a heavily populated area might have resulted in a much more organized and efficient response, wherein the ship would be quarantined, making it impossible to infect another life form. The Thing may have known the best strategy was to start someplace remote, so virtually nobody would know until it was too late, although it is stated the spacecraft crashed about 100,000 years ago so this would not have been an issue, as man was still very primitive.
(2) If the Thing was a stowaway or passenger and had gotten loose and would be attacking the crew, crashing in Antarctica may have been an intentional attempt by the besieged crew to mitigate Thing's ability to spread by landing in a desolate and hostile environment. Antarctica is one of, if not the only, place on the planet in which there are areas with virtually no animal life. Had the Thing been piloting the spaceship, it would have been extremely unlucky to crash in the small section of the Earth in which it would not be able to find life forms to assimilate. This supports the theory that something other than the Thing was piloting the spaceship. Note that the Thing discovered by the Norwegians had attempted to crawl away from the crash site, only to freeze on the ice. It seems unlikely the Thing would intentionally crash in Antarctica and then attempt to crawl away from its ship. This further suggests that however the spaceship ended up in Antarctica, it was either an accident or a deliberate attempt by the crew of the spaceship to avoid letting the Thing reach life forms. But if one takes the implications of the Norwegian camp and what happened to the American camp, it appears history continually repeats itself when coming in contact with the Thing. So it's quite likely the pilot of the ship crashed on purpose to stop the Thing.
(3) It was simply a matter of coincidence. Whether the spaceship was deliberately being piloted towards Earth or due to a malfunction, it approached Earth from below, such that its angle of descent just happened to be aimed at Antarctica. As soon as the ship was caught in the Earth gravitational pull, there was little opportunity to deviate from that course.
While we know that the Thing is not affected by bullets, we know that, if it wished to stay hidden in its dog form, it would have to act wounded if hit. The Norwegians were likely trying to slow it down to catch up with it so they could deal with the Thing properly, i.e. explosives or fire, hence their use of thermite grenades and the many cans of kerosene they were carrying.
The Norwegian said to MacReady and the men, in Norwegian: "Se til helvete og kom dere vekk. Det er ikke en bikkje, det er en slags ting! Det imiterer en bikkje, det er ikke virkelig! Kom dere vekk, idioter!" This is translated to: "Get the hell outta there. That's not a dog, it's some sort of thing! It's imitating a dog, it isn't real! Get away, you idiots!"
In the real world, neither the armed forces nor any police force train their members to wound the individuals they are shooting at; they are trained to shoot to kill. The Norwegian had shot and wounded one man already and was continuing to fire. Garry was simply doing what was necessary to end the gun fight quickly and to protect his fellow camp mates.
Affectionally called 'Splitface' by fans, the backstory and demise of this creature is detailed in The Thing (2011), the prequel to this movie. It is a Thing that impersonated a Norwegian researcher and got heavily injured during an explosion. In a crippled state, it attached itself to another researcher and fused with him so that the new body could sustain the injured one. It was ultimately burnt with a flamethrower and, in its death struggle, it burst out through a wall, ending up burning and dying outside.
It assimilated Bennings. The remainder that was left on the table was mostly the dead part that had been burned back at the Norwegian camp. This part, along with the near-assimilated Bennings-thing, were burned. However, the possibility also remains that a part or parts of Splitface could have detached from the body, escaped, and hidden in other areas of the complex, as this theory ties in with the fact that each individual part of a Thing has a goal of self-preservation, as evidenced by the Norris head Thing attempting to escape by detaching itself from its body.
It was Palmer despite the fact that he has no dialogue during the scene. The script verifies this, as does his attire later in the film when they lock up Blair (he wears the same coat as he nails a board over a window). Palmer was sent because he was the back-up helicopter pilot.
Earlier in the film, Fuchs reads to MacReady from Blair's notebook that the burnt remains of the alien still contain some cellular activity; they are not dead yet. This implies that the alien could still take any of the science crew although these events are never shown in the film. Later, Fuchs suggests to MacReady that if it only takes a small part of the alien to take over an entire organism, then people should eat out of tincans and only eat meals that they have cooked and prepared by themselves as this would be a way for the alien to prevail, again implying that the alien could get to you slowly just by touching without having to assimilate immediately. There is a scene earlier in the film, in which the infected dog is seen walking into a room, and an unidentified man's shadow can be seen on the opposite wall. This implies that the dog infected either Palmer or Norris at this point.
A simple explanation would be that when a Thing assimilates someone, it rips through their clothes (as evident when Windows discovers Bennings' torn and bloody shirt and jacket in the storage room seconds before he sees him being assimilated, and Nauls finding either Palmer's or Norris' torn longjohns in a kitchen trash can stained with dried blood). And given the fact that none of them expected to need extra clothes on a helicopter trip, so if Norris and Palmer were things, if they assimilated Mac, they would have a hard time explaining why he is naked when they get back to camp. So they decided it was best not to take him then. Another theory is that Mac could still have been a thing. Even though he tied everyone down and came up with the hot needle blood test, it might very well have been that the test was a "crock of shit" as Childs put it. Then the Palmer Thing sacrificed itself by acting as if the blood test was successful to draw any suspicions away from Mac. However, this theory is less likely as it goes against the very nature of The Thing (self preservation above all else).
There are two more possibilities here. The first and probably most logical is that one of them is still human at this point. Even if Palmer was the Thing, him leaving in the chopper and reporting Mac and Norris dead would not be a good move; it could easily be investigated. The second possibility is that neither Palmer nor Norris know that the other is a Thing, though this is highly contested. Just because Palmer and Norris were both revealed as Things later does not mean they were both Things at that given moment. We see Norris collapse later in the film. This is after Fuchs has informed us that a single cell of the Thing could (but not necessarily would) take over a whole person. Considering the manner of Norris' death, it could be suggested that he had been infected by a Thing (either through saliva from the dog, infected food, or whatever) and that at the crater Norris was still human, albeit, an infected human. Palmer, on the other hand, was almost assuredly a Thing by this point, though not brave enough to attempt to assimilate two people at once (which might have caused a crash and death for all). Interestingly, if Palmer was a Thing from the moment we see his shadow facing the dog, then later when we witness Childs and Palmer sharing a joint, it is conceivable that Childs became infected. Not that Childs becomes a Thing, as we witness in the blood test scene, but that he could have been well on his way to becoming a Thing.
The shape and size of the block of ice is a deliberate ploy on the part of director, John Carpenter to reference the form of the alien in the other film version of the story, The Thing from Another World. Carpenter persuaded the production designer to watch the earlier film and design the ice block accordingly. The block of ice was quite big with some type of weird outline carved in it, suggesting a large and relatively thin creature. The shape of the Thing is revealed in the prequel, The Thing (2011). It is very dark-skinned, with large crab-like legs, talon-like digits and a large mouth with long sharp teeth; wide-shots of the burnt corpse of the creature make it look like that of a giant beetle. It is heavily implied that this is not the "true" shape of the Thing, but another assimilated creature from another planet and that what we see isn't even the form of the creature it assimilated as it could have altered its shape to suit its immediate need either before or while it was frozen. Note the similar Blair-Thing at the end, the Splitface-thing as it tries to kill someone in the prequel, and even the Norris spider-head, all of which show traits from the people they previously infected but change their shape to something that better suited their immediate need. So a Thing consists of billions of individual cells that can cooperate to form individual parts or entire organisms, choosing the shape of what it needs to be. For more information, get the DVD release of The Thing and listen to the commentary by John Carpenter and Kurt Russell.
One of the many questions and plot lines with no definite answers, though there is one explanation that seems more logical. Due to the tension of the scene of the men determining who got to the blood (Garry or Copper), all of them seem to have forgotten that Windows had the master keys last. In the scene when Windows gets the storage room keys from Garry and walks into the room to lock it up, we clearly hear him drop the keys when he runs out of the storage room after he discovers Bennings being assimilated. A few moments later, everyone except for Blair and Clark are outside huddled around the Bennings-Thing right before MacReady burns it. Just prior to being told about Bennings by Windows, Fuchs tells MacReady that Blair has locked himself in his room. This would have been a perfect opportunity for Blair to sneak out of his room, get the keys lying on the storage room floor, open the freezer locker in the storage room, and tamper with the blood by slicing the bags with a knife or razor (or even just the sharp end of the keys) before going out to kill the sled dogs, as well as destroy with the tractor and helicopter. However, we never see Garry or Windows recovering the keys at all before Garry is seen the next morning giving the master keys to Copper to use to go open the freezer locker.
When stored, blood plasma is nearly frozen, and would take several hours for it to thaw out and run the way it did when we first see the fridge locker several hours later in the morning with a trail of blood seeping from it when Copper arrives to open it. Therefore, the blood must have been tampered with quite a while ago which would point to the previous evening or night: more evidence that it could have been Blair. Other evidence pointing to Blair is that he is a biologist, he would understand that the blood could be used as a test to expose him as a Thing (if he was infected at the time), or if he was not infected at the time, he could have realized the possibility that the blood could be used as a means to infect the other men of the camp, as a part of his theory that one cell could take over an organism, and eventually the world. Of course you can't discount the possibility that it was either Norris or Palmer.
The possibility of Norris or Palmer tampering with the blood isn't so far-fetched. If someone needs to simply request the keys from Garry, it's possibly either Norris or Palmer (now infected) asked for the keys for something trivial before anyone even knew the dog was a thing although it likely that Garry would have remembered. There are several keys on Garry's clip, and anyone could have asked for them citing another purpose: gathering supplies from a locked room, fuel for the helicopter, etc. Garry could have handed over the keys, either to Norris or Palmer, who would open the fridge, tamper with the blood, lock it back up, hand the keys back to Garry and go on about their business. Unless someone was seriously injured, Copper likely wouldn't be going to check on the blood very often. So a lot of time could have passed from the time the blood was tampered with to the time it was discovered. (Also, if one takes the prequel into account, the Norwegian camp also came up with a similar blood test that was destroyed before it could be administered. The Thing would have carried that knowledge from that camp to the U.S. camp and decided to ruin that test as quickly as possible)
In the television version of the Thing, an additional voice over at the beginning of the film states Norris has a heart condition and his character notes in the screenplay by Bill Lancaster mention it. Sometime after being assimilated by the Thing, we see Norris grimacing with pain while he is taking off the flamethrower on his back before helping the other men board up the outside doors and windows during a moment of stress. A few minutes later, when Norris sees Nauls returning alone from MacReady's shack, he clearly grabs his chest and sweating, as if in great pain before the others run in. Another minute later, while struggling with MacReady, he is thrown to the floor, passes out, and is rushed to the medical room where Copper attempts to revive him, first with CPR, then with the defibrillator. On the 2nd application of the defibrillator, the Norris-Thing reveals itself, biting off Copper's arms. There are two possibilities as to why the Norris-Thing had a heart attack: (1) It was a ploy by the Norris-Thing to get away from the men, faking death with the intention of either escaping or simply waiting for an opportunity to assimilate a lone individual, or (2) when the Thing assimilates a life form, it takes on an exact replica, including diseases and other characteristics. Thus, the Thing was unable to sustain its existence as Norris-Thing because the Norris model's heart had failed.
In regards to Theory 1, the Burned Corpse-Thing brought back from the Norwegian camp uses a similar ploy, faking death until it has the opportunity to attack an isolated Bennings. What the Thing may not have counted on was the application of electricity from the defibrillator, which it likely perceived as an attack and prompted its attack on Copper. In regards to Theory 2, the Thing is never shown to have the ability to shape-shift from one person to another, or one creature to another. When the Thing assimilates the dog at the Norwegian camp, it stays in this form until it turns into the amorphous shape it uses for attacking. Since the Thing does not appear to be capable of transforming its shape without directly assimilating another life form, it can be suggested that the Thing is only capable of replicating life forms with which it is in immediate contact. In this theory, the Thing is only able to exactly replicate what it immediately finds. In Norris' case, the Thing replicates Norris exactly, including his heart condition.
Whilst Norris was being treated in the infirmary, Clark grabs a scalpel off a table and hides it. In the next scene when MacReady wants to tie everybody down in order to do the blood test, Clark moves closer to Mac, pretending to support him in his idea. When Mac is arguing with Childs, Clark pulls out the scalpel and charges at Mac. So Mac turns and shoots Clark in the head. The shots of the scalpel are done in the foreground while something relatively important is happening in the background so lots of viewers miss Clark holding the scalpel. Lots of viewers thought Clark was just going to punch Mac, making Mac shooting him a bit extreme. Clark hiding the scalpel in his hand is much more clearly seen in the widescreen versions of the movie. The pan and scan versions omit Clark's hand holding the scalpel which would otherwise be on the far left of the screen. Also, at this point it was everyone against Mac. Everyone thought Mac was infected, so for Mac it was kill or be killed. Even if Clark had just intended to tackle MacReady, shooting him would have been Mac's only option. If Mac had simply tried to fight Clark, the rest of the team probably would of joined in and fought Mac, over-powering him. However, because Mac was willing to shoot Clark, it showed the rest of the team that he wasn't afraid to kill someone who made an attempt on him. Which is why as soon as Mac shoots Clark, we cut to everyone else already tied up. After Mac administers the test to Clark's blood and he's ruled out as assimilated, Childs calls Mac a murderer. However, Mac was also acting in self-defense.
Probably because such exposure would make Palmer look more human and help him gain a little more trust. Palmer only speaks out when Windows has also seen the spider-head. Palmer-Thing might normally have been willing to let the head escape but, once it had been seen by a human, its survival was compromised anyway. Hence Palmer-Thing could as well take the opportunity to make an exclamation (acting like a "surprised human"), thus diverting suspicion from himself. Whatever the reason, it is clear in the movie that Thing imitations (clones) do not necessarily look out for other Thing imitations, and they are described in the short story as being "selfish". Mac himself says that they would crawl away from a hot needle to save itself. It is also possible that Palmer was still self-conscious and, thus, would react normally and bring attention to the Norris spider-head. As Mac says "Watchin' Norris in there gave me the idea that... maybe every part of him was a whole, every little piece was an individual animal with a built-in desire to protect its own life.". Which perfectly mirrors the human's in the film. They work together until one of them is compromised, then they turn against each other until they know they're safe again.
One of the biggest questions of the film that is never fully explained. We will first break down the sequence of events and then explain the motives behind each from a human and Thing perspective. Sequence of events: (1) Blair runs the computer program and discovers the possible threat the Thing poses, (2) Blair kills all the sled dogs and destroys the tractor (off-camera), (3) Blair destroys the helicopter, (4) Blair injures Windows and destroys the radio, (5) Blair is locked up outside in the shed, (6) Mac is questioning Blair in the shed as to the whereabouts of Fuchs, and (7) Blair has clearly been assimilated: he is building a ship, attacks Garry, etc.
Now, the question is asked, why would a human Blair kill the dogs and destroy everything? At this point, it is very clear that Blair understands the situation and feels that his comrades do not. He is afraid that the Thing will escape and infect the entire planet. He kills the dogs, destroys the helicopter, and destroys the tractor to isolate the men. Although Blair says, "no dog can make it a thousand miles to the coast," he was more or less referring to a dog on its own, and not a team with a master. He may have also killed the dogs to prevent infection when we see Clark at the dog kennel sorrowfully looking at a dead dog with a fire axe in it's neck, though we know that an axe would not be sufficient enough to prevent that but keep in mind that Blair has lost his sanity at this point. Blair destroys the radio so that no outside help can be reached; it could be another way out. If this was the case (that Blair was assimilated after his lock-up), it was either Palmer or Norris that got to him while he was locked up in the tool shed. Somewhere during the 48-hour period that Mac refers to on his tape recording would seem logical.
The Thing perspective: The Blair-thing would have destroyed the tractor, radio, and helicopter to prevent the men from escaping and to keep them from reaching outside help. The dogs were killed to make his motives seem more human. The Blair-thing's plan worked; he was seeking isolation so that he could build a craft to escape. This makes it look as though the Thing's intentions are not to assimilate the entire Earth, but to simply get off the planet; had the Thing wanted to assimilate the entire planet, it could have just as easily stolen the helicopter as Palmer and fly to the nearest base, country, whatever but this assumes that the thing would only be able to pilot a helicopter as Palmer but this does not seem likely as it is building some kind of craft as Blair/thing.
Just before being locked up, Blair tells Mac to watch out for Clark. Again there are two plausible possibilities as to what he meant, depending on whether he was infected yet. If Blair was still human, then it would have likely been that since he knew how the Thing worked, he deduced that since Clark had been isolated with the dog-Thing for a long period of time, there was a very strong chance Clark was infected. If Blair was a Thing, then he would have been trying to throw Mac off, drawing suspicion towards a man who was still human whilst the Thing continues to infect the team.
Another possible, but remote, theory is that Blair was infected during the autopsy of the burned corpse-Thing or the remains of the dog-Thing. It was a cellular infection which took some time to gain control of his body and "conscious" mind. The Thing gained more control as the cellular infection increased over days. We know this is a considered by Blair. As the infected individual's body is slowly taken over, they remain conscious during this state but unaware that they are infected, but their actions are subtly influenced by the Thing's ever-increasing hold over them. Blair destroyed the dogs, tractor and chopper. The dogs being killed was a completely human response backed by his scientific knowledge that any one of the dogs could have been inadvertently infected during their attack in the kennel cage by hostile or cellular infection. In his destruction of the tractor and chopper, the Thing influenced his decisions.
Think about it... The Thing was a masterful strategist. It had been alive for eons and assimilated hundreds, maybe even thousands of beings and intellects, a theory referred to by Fuchs when he has his private conversation with Mac about Blair's notes. Many of its actions had a two-fold and even three-fold win-win situation that still gave it an edge in the final game. Yes, Blair destroyed the tractor and chopper to prevent the infection from spreading to populated areas (human response), but he also destroyed them to hide the fact that he had stolen parts from both. The crew was less likely to investigate a smashed, ripped-apart tractor or chopper to see that all of the parts were there. Blair was well aware of military protocol and knew that his mental breakdown would call for them to isolate him, giving him time to assemble the parts and build a craft to get him to the nearest populated area. The craft was never meant for long distance travel. A third goal in destroying the tractor, chopper and communications was to prevent anyone from getting out until they were ALL infected. Military protocol would have been to capture and quarantine all parties involved until it was determined who was human and who was not. The Thing could not take the chance of someone contacting the rescue team and revealing the alien infection. However, Blair was not the only one who may have been infected by cellular means during the autopsy, as Fuchs may have also been infected!
We see Blair performing the autopsy and Fuchs "sniffing" and going through the clothes of the Burned Corpse-Thing and other items there. Those garments and items are soiled with possible dried blood and other body fluids. Fuchs is seen standing there listening to Blair while going through the items without gloves or other personal protective equipment. Since the scene ends this way we can assume that Fuchs assisted Blair in other ways during this autopsy even if it was just "Hold this" or "Move that." Cellular infection is highly probable at this point. This theory would also explain Fuchs' disappearance. By the time he talked to Mac, he knew that cellular infection was a strong possibility. Blair at this point was isolated and locked up (or so we thought), but Blair was secretly moving about the camp collecting and assembling the last of the parts and tools he needed to finish his craft. It is very possible that it was Blair who killed the power and walked past Fuchs' door in the dark. By the time Fuchs got outside to chase this suspicious person, he found Mac's undergarments.
If cellular infection was possible, by this time Fuchs' actions would be influenced subconsciously as well, since he was infected during the same time period as Blair. Thus, after finding Mac's undergarments, Fuchs heads to Mac's shack, possibly planning to snoop around for more proof that Mac was infected before accusing him publicly (clearly a human response). While there, he stuffed Mac's shorts in the oil furnace, this being a subconscious influence by the thing to keep an ally hidden. In all likelihood, Fuchs began to question his own actions on the walk back to the main compound and came to the realization that he "must" be infected to have just done such a strange thing rather than exposing Mac. The Thing only attacks when discovered or "attacked." Why wouldn't a self-realization spark an attack as well? At this point during Fuchs self-realization, the thing begins to reveal itself, going for a more quickened "hostile takeover" of Fuchs rather than the cellular option. As Fuchs begins to change and lose the last of his humanity, he does the only thing he can, setting himself on fire in the snow.
Another hint that Blair has been infected before he destroys the radio and communications equipment is that his intentions, as "the thing", are to destroy any means of communication (radios) that will allow the remaining humans of the research outpost to contact the outside world and warn them of "the thing" that they unleashed from the ice. Blair, as "the thing", could prevent the humans from warning the rest of the world to either proceed with caution when approaching the arctic facility, or to isolate or even destroy the facility from afar. Once Blair, as "the thing" was completely sure that the existence of the creature was safe and only known to the remaining humans in the facility, "the thing" could take as much time as it needed to slowly and surely assimilate the rest of the crew.
While Blair may have been infected on a cellular level when he autopsied the first remains of the thing early on in the film, it was slowly infiltrating his entire body, copying him slowly, to the point that Blair might have realized what was going on, causing his intense paranoia, enough to where he breaks down completely and attempts to kill everyone and destroy the communication equipment.
The theory of cellular assimilation is possibly debunked by what happens to Bennings. The dog runs up to him and licks him, in theory this would be enough to begin cellular transformation yet he is the first on screen aggressive assimilation we see. If he was already being infected on a cellular level which is easier to hide why would this be necessary?
A sign that Blair was himself when he was first quarantined in the outdoor shed by the others was that when MacReady and the others talk to him from outside the shed door to ask the whereabouts of Fuchs, we see that Blair had hung a noose from the ceiling, possibly in an attempt to hang himself before the thing had time to take over. Perhaps he realized that his remains would still have cellular activity and he figured suicide was pointless. Perhaps he just couldn't bring himself to do it. Or perhaps he made the noose intending suicide, then his mind was finally assimilated and the thing stopped him from taking his own life. It's also worth noting that in the same scene, Blair tries to talk Mac into letting him back into the main camp. The Blair-Thing was clearly taking advantage of its isolation, so it seems strange that it would run the risk of joining back up with the rest of the men, since he would not be able to continue working on his craft without drawing suspicion. Thus it would be logical to say that Blair was human (or at least in the process of being assimilated) at this point; he really did feel bad about his actions and want to leave the shack.
But the other alternative is that the noose was a ruse. If Blair was a thing at that point, he would want to give the appearance of being normal, while still remaining isolated. A human Blair would, naturally, want to come back inside. But he would have to come up with a way to prevent that, without looking suspicious so he could keep working on the underground spaceship. If you were human, and trying to plead your case that you're recovered, would you leave something as obvious as a noose hanging over your shoulder? It has the same effect as saying you're sane while eating a bug.
It's entirely plausible that Blair rigged the noose as an insurance policy on the off-chance that the men would decide on their own to let him back in, or talk to him at some point. He begs to be let back in, but anyone talking to him would be able to see the noose hanging behind him, and would then assume that he's still not all there. MacReady certainly notices it, as after Blair's normal conversation and outward appearance of being back to normal, his only reply to Blair about being allowed back into the outpost is a rather non-committal, "We'll see", followed by cutting him off mid-sentence as he further pleads to be let back inside.
One theory that Blair has been infected early on is that he deliberately gets himself isolated by acting insane and out of control. Once he's alone in the cabin, outside of the surveillance of the other remaining crew members, he can begin digging the tunnel under the shed and building his ship that will allow him to escape to the mainland, or possibly even to outer space.
In the original story, "Who Goes There?" on which this movie is based, the character or Blair has a nervous breakdown and they isolate him in solitary confinement in a cabin. Like the movie, the short story never states when exactly Blair was assimilated, but it is possible that he was assimilated beforehand and fakes the nervous breakdown. In the cabin, the Thing, in Blair's body, begins building an anti-gravity device to get back into space, or to leave Antarctica, but before it can complete it, the other crew members realize what is happening and they kill the Blair-Thing before it could complete its objective.
Carpenter and Producer Stuart Cohen have indicated that their plan was for Blair to have been infected at a very early time, as he is in Campbell's short story. Cohen goes on to indicate that MacReady's line upon the discovery of the spaceship, "Blair's been busy out here all by himself" is to indicate that Blair was a thing for quite awhile, long enough to have adequate time to build the spacecraft.
It's also worth noting that between the scene where he runs the computer simulation, and the time we see him again destroying the radio room, the yellow button-down shirt he was wearing has disappeared. The theory is that the thing rips through your clothes when it takes you over, so the disappearance of the shirt between the two appearances could definitely be because the shirt was destroyed in the take-over. We certainly see that the take-over destroys clothing, as Windows sees Bennings' destroyed shirt and vest in the storeroom after seeing Bennings in mid transformation.
Fuchs tells MacReady in the Thiokol Snowcat that Blair "Locked himself in his room and won't answer the door." The assumption is that he's despondent after running the simulation, or is prepping for what he's about to do, but it's also possible that after running the simulation and taking the gun, he was surprised by Norris or Palmer and assimilated during that time. As we see when Blair attacks Garry, all Norris or Palmer would have to do is be standing outside Blair's door and put their hand over Blair's mouth to prevent a scream, and the assimilation would already be happening. Then they would just lead Blair back inside and lock the door behind them. That would explain why Blair loses the shirt he's been wearing all along prior to the radio room rampage.
This question is not directly answered by the film. The Thing does not necessarily have to go to a heavily populated area immediately, but find a means to escape the camp where its presence is known and being opposed. Ultimately, it must find other life forms to assimilate. This leads to a few possibilities. (1) The craft was to be used by the Thing to travel to another base in Antarctica or another country where it would have more life forms to replicate, or (2) The Thing was building a craft to travel into space away from Earth (the less likely explanation). Considering how small the craft being built was in comparison to the original crashed spacecraft, it is highly unlikely the Thing would be able to build a suitable craft from spare parts capable of traveling to somewhere else in the galaxy with known life forms. (3) The Thing was building the craft as a means of transport to get it to the crashed spaceship in the hopes of repairing it and flying it somewhere else, a theory given credence by the 2011 film where an infected human also makes his way back to it. Since, unlike the prequel film, Blair had destroyed most of the vehicles (apart from one or two small tractors that may not have been capable of traveling far), it had to make due with what it had, and so used the parts it could salvage (and possibly knowledge from prior victims) to improvise a simple vehicle that would do until he could get access to the more sophisticated flying saucer.
Although the craft being built does resemble a flying saucer, it is unclear if the craft was intended to fly or travel on land (such as a snow mobile or hovercraft). Obviously, the craft would have to travel some distance before reaching the ocean, which would have to be traversed in order to reach another country. If the craft was capable of flight, the Thing could feasibly fly to another country. If the craft was intended to travel on land, then its purpose would be to find another base with humans, or a population of life forms, such as penguins, fish or birds. Of course, a hovercraft would be capable of both land and water travel. After replicating a penguin, fish or bird, the Thing could then just swim or fly to another country as that life form. It seems much more likely the Thing would attempt to assimilate as many life forms in Antarctica and use those to spread to other areas, rather than attempting to immediately travel to the nearest large landmass, most likely South America. In the original story that this film was based on, the thing in Blair's body nearly finished building an anti-gravity device in a shack in which it has isolated itself. The device would let it return to space using atomic power, but the remaining crew end up killing the thing before it can use the device to return to space or possibly fly to another heavily-populated area on Earth.
From what we see in the movie, there seem to be two general ways in which a Thing can imitate another being. The firstway could be dubbed a "hostile takeover". Which is where the Thing uses its tendrils to absorb its prey, while its body functions as some sort of womb where a copy of the absorbed prey is created. We see this occurring with the dogs, and also with Bennings' assimilation. When Blair is conducting the autopsy on the burned corpse of what remains of the dog-Thing he cuts out the half-formed replica of a dog. The Thing essentially makes an extra "copy" from its prey. Each "copy" of the Thing (or "imitations" as they are called in the film) is basically an exact replica or "clone" of the Thing in the form of the person or animal it kills. The other way is where the Thing infects another being with its cells, and the host is being taken over. This last process is most interesting, as it is never explained whether (1) people or animals that have become Things immediately die in the process of being assimilated by the Thing which then mimics its victims voice, actions, and feelings, (2) the victims regain consciousness after assimilation and essentially host the Thing clone apparently unaware that they have been assimilated, until the Thing decides to take over the host's actions, or (3) the victims retain consciousness while being assimilated from within. Several of these mechanisms seem possible, depending on how assimilation occurs, as evidenced in the movie.
In the film, evidence is pretty strong in regards to the first theory. It is stated that the Thing, even smaller parts of it (such as blood or Norris spider head), have an interest in self-preservation. This suggests that any actions taken by an infected life form, such as the dog fleeing the Norwegian camp or the Thing planting evidence to frame MacReady, are deliberate actions by the Thing to preserve itself. The Thing perfectly mimics its victim and waits until it has the best opportunity to attack another life form or simply has no choice. The dog-Thing does not attack at the camp until it is isolated with the other dogs, all of which are snarling and presumably about to attack the dog-Thing (dogs having a highly developed sense of smell, and possibly having smelled that this dog-Thing is no real dog). The Norris-Thing does not reveal itself until it is on the table with the defibrillator being applied to its chest. The electric shock of the defibrillator may have been seen as an attack by the Thing. The Palmer-Thing does not reveal itself until the moment when MacReady tests its blood with the hot wire, attacking because it knows it will soon be burned otherwise. The Blair-Thing likewise avoids the other men until it is confronted in the bunker. All situations suggest the possibility that the Thing has entirely assimilated life forms and is imitating them until forced to reveal itself. The computer simulation created by Blair suggests the Thing can replicate by attacking, consuming and replicating cells, presumably using the DNA and material from the attacked life form to reform itself and thus make multiple imitations (clones) of itself.
However, in an interview on the Thing DVD special features, Charles Hallahan (Norris) points to the scene in which the men appoint MacReady as leader of the group following Windows' attempt to retrieve a shotgun from storage. Norris, who is presumably the Thing at this point, is originally offered the role of leader by Garry but declines stating that he doesn't believe he is up for it. Hallahan states that he always believed Norris knew at this point something was wrong with him and refused the offer because of the slight feeling that he may be the Thing, which directly supports the second theory. Norris later has a heart attack, which could be seen as an element of the real Norris and his heart condition or it could have been a ploy by the Norris-Thing to attempt to gain isolation from the group. It should be noted though that one of the co-producers of the film, Stuart Cohen, expressed surprise at Hallahan for this theory and said it had never been discussed. Therefore it can be assumed that this was only Hallahan's thinking and does not chime with the intentions of the film makers themselves. Of course, it is also possible that The Thing was acting as Norris would in an attempt to remain hidden as long as possible and that Norris would have turned down the offer of the gun if he hadn't already been assimilated.
According to the third theory, it is possible that, if an organism is infected with cells of a Thing, it would be conscious while it is being assimilated from the inside. This theory implies that assimilation normally occurs through infection with a few cells that slowly start to multiply and assimilate the host cells inside. This would explain how Blair (and possibly Fuchs) got infected during the alien autopsy. If Norris was also infected this way, then his actions (i.e: refusing a leadership position) are explainable. If this theory is correct, then assimilation would normally be a slow process; the host could become aware of his infection and attempt to take action against the Thing, possibly making his condition known in order to be destroyed along with the Thing. There is a possibility that Fuchs noticed he was being taken over and, therefore, killed himself. Alternatively, if assimilation needs to proceed quicker, then the Thing simply attacks its victim to cause more infections. This means that the host's cells are taken over much faster, and assimilation occurs almost immediately (as per the first theory). This may be what we see during the assimilation of Windows by Palmer-Thing; as he is bitten and is almost instantly taken over.
Regardless of theory, it is clear that the Thing becomes capable of controlling the assimilation or host, retains their memories and skills, and uses them in whatever way possible to its advantage.
The best explanation is that it was far too early; the Norwegian threat (for the Thing) had been eliminated, and it was safe for now. It probably wanted to scope out the entire camp before going after anyone; look for isolated parts of the camp that would be good to assimilate other victims. The Thing may have also considered that, in the event it was discovered, Clark would be a liability because of his seclusion with the dog. In an interview on the Thing DVD, Richard Masur calls Clark the red herring in the script. The Thing is smart, almost as if it is playing chess with the men in the camp. It knows how to misdirect suspicion on the un-assimilated, to keep suspicion away from those who were assimilated. Therefore suspicion would definitely be on Clark because of his isolation with the dog, leaving it free to assimilate someone not suspected while all eyes were fixed on Clark. Also, the Thing may have simply been biding its time. It decided to stay hidden until it was alone with Palmer or Norris, and then again when locked in the cage with the other dogs. It waits for a few moments, thinking it's completely secluded and able to assimilate all the other dogs, then having significantly more numbers on its side. Unfortunately for the Thing, Clark heard the commotion as did MacReady, leading everyone in the camp to discover it.
This is not addressed in the film. In The Thing (2011), the ship had made a long diagonal tunnel when crash-landing. Afterwards, the creature crawled out of ship and to the surface through that tunnel. At first, the ship was completely buried in ice; at the end of prequel, however, the creature returns to ship and activates its engines. The ice cave crumbles, and ship becomes visible from above, too, which explains the crater in 1982 movie. The video footage discovered in the 1982 movie briefly shows the Norwegians somehow clearing the ship with thermite explosives, but they may have been widening the access tunnel or trying and failing to unearth the ship itself. On closer reflection, it should be obvious that the gargantuan crater where the ship rests could not have been dug out with thermite, unless the Norwegians had shipped truly enormous quantities of the explosive to the Antarctic for this very purpose (and such a large operation would already be internationally known). The prequel presented the more credible scenario that they only cleared a smaller access tunnel, and that the ship melted itself out of the ice when it was briefly activated.
This could possibly be an error of continuity from a directing standpoint since it could have been several seconds rather then a few seconds between the shots. However, there are a few possible explanations. First, the men could really have had that much confidence that the Thing had been killed that quickly. Second, they had fear that the flames could catch other things on fire, such as the wooden planks on the ceiling of the dog kennel that the Thing grabs on to. This is supported by the scene later on where Mac burns the Norris-Thing creature in the MedLab, the others immediately run and grab extinguishers but Mac tells them to wait until the burning Norris-Thing stops moving. About 10 seconds later, the men again ask Mac to let them put out the fire and he screams at them: "Just wait!" as Mac figured out that it takes a lot of fire to kill the things and just setting them on fire and then extinguishing the flames right away does nothing. Third, they might have acted on instinct. Another aspect is that, in the conditions of the Antarctic weather, fire is the greatest hazard to life as shown by the final scenes. In this situation a fire that could potentially destroy the base would have been perceived as the greatest danger facing them before the reality of the Thing had been appreciated.
In an interview in the special features of The Thing Collector's Edition Blu-ray disc release called The Men of Outpost 31, Thomas G. Waites says that he showed up during rehearsals wearing sunglasses and said to John Carpenter, "I want everyone to call me Windows from now on." For a reason that none of the actor's ever found out, Carpenter agreed and left that in the film.
The Thing itself may most accurately be regarded as "asexual". It is neither male nor female as it does not procreate by having sex but rather consuming living cells and replicating them. Meanwhile, it also assumes the sex and likely the human gender construct (masculine, feminine or so) of whatever it has replicated and is imitating, but regardless the Thing is described as an "it".
Childs claims to have seen Blair outside. It seemed like a rational statement, as he knew for sure there were only three other people still alive and one person who they were not certain about. Since the other three survivors had left in a group, the one isolated individual walking away might have been the Blair-Thing, having escaped from the shack. Also, moments after the group see Childs run out of the base, the power goes out, suggesting Childs did see Blair. Of course, all of the survivors were both under a lot of stress as well as exhausted and sleep-deprived, which would have made it harder for them to think clearly, so it possible that Childs was hallucinating or that his mind was otherwise playing tricks on him. It's interesting to note; when the group goes to give Blair the test, there is a long ominous shot of the facility. The camera pans into the coat room where Childs was guarding, Childs is gone, the door has been left open and snow had begun to build up at the entrance. Moments later, Nauls sees Childs run outside. It's possible Childs was attacked and assimilated, and we see the now-infected Childs run off into the storm. It's also possible that Childs was searching all around the facility for Blair and we simply see him running through a corridor.
As with pretty much every other question, we don't know. In his final scenes, Fuchs chases a shadow when the lights in the lab blow out and he runs outside where he discovers a torn piece of clothing on the ground with MacReady's name sewn on it. Later, MacReady, Windows, and Nauls find his body in the snow where he is dead and his body is burned to a crisp. Whether or not he burned himself or the Thing burned him is hard to say. It is possible that he burns himself upon learning that MacReady could be a Thing after discovering the ripped jacket. He could have burned himself if the Thing had come to attack him. The Thing could have burned him just as a way of getting rid of him. After discovering Fuchs' dead body, MacReady and Nauls head up to MacReady's shack to look around when they see the lights on inside after MacReady had claimed to have turned them off when he left the shack a day ago. Nauls returns alone claiming to have found a torn jacket with MacReady's named on it stuffed in MacReady's oil furnace in the shack (the same torn piece of clothing that Fuchs found on the ground just before his death).
(1) Fuchs burned himself after discovering MacReady may be infected. Fuchs may have done this out of fear and confusion. Perhaps the Thing was setting him up as the person who was supposed to expose MacReady. If Fuchs had burned himself, it would explain why the Thing had to re-plant the evidence (the torn piece of clothing with MacReady's name stamped on it) in Mac's shack.
(2) Fuchs killed himself by setting himself on fire with the lighted flare he had after a near-attack from the Thing who either followed him outside or was already outside waiting for him. The Thing may have tried to attack Fuchs, and in response Fuchs killed himself to prevent that from happening. This would also explain the evidence being re-planted. An intriguing variation on this theory is that Fuchs realized he himself was being taken over. It's been shown earlier that when a Thing is discovered, it will reveal itself and try to take action, so why would a self-realization not trigger the same reaction. The logic here is that Fuchs somehow realized he had been taken over or at least deduced some reason why there was a good chance of him being taken over. Then either the part of him already assimilated opted to change tactics to "hostile takeover" (similar to what happened to Bennings) or he simply decided to keep the process from being completed. Either way, he stopped it the only way he could, by lighting himself on fire.
(3) Fuchs was murdered. The Thing may have killed Fuchs to make sure that there were no scientific minds capable of forming a test, as Blair was locked up and Copper had been drugged. It would have been easy to do; Fuchs was holding a lit flare, so dousing him in fuel would have probably done it. But possibility #3 (this) leads to another unanswered question; why not assimilate him? Fuchs was gone for an extended period of time, and it would have made the men very suspicious. It is important to note that a scene, though never released, details Fuchs as being impaled by a shovel, which would suggest one of the Things killed him. Another possibility is that Norris and Palmer (who were later revealed to be the Things) are seen with flamethrowers. It is possible that one of them got a hold of Mac's jacket and after ripping it he planned on placing it somewhere to frame Mac. But after Fuchs saw him (his shadow), he quickly threw Mac's jacket on the snow, maybe to lure Fuchs out on the open so he could have better shot at killing him with flamethrower.
(4) Fuchs accidentally burned himself to death while attempting to fight a Thing.
(5) Fuchs deliberately killed himself before he could be assimilated as a Thing.
The most logical answer is that they were to be used to quickly melt ice if the need arose. This is presumably the reason the Norwegian base also had flamethrowers in the prequel.
They were presumably intended in case the need arose to use a dog sled. This is a perfectly common means of transportation in snow-covered areas (particularly the Antarctic), and it would be useful if the snow-cats or the helicopter were to break down.
There is only one Thing that is never fully accounted for. During the blood test, Mac places a needle in Palmer's blood, causing a Thing to jump out of the tray. However, this particular Thing is never destroyed as the men are distracted by the Palmer-Thing revealing itself. The Palmer's Blood-Thing probably attempted to remain hidden. Also, we did see that the Burned Corpse-Thing did have enough cellular activity left to infect Bennings, and so it's not impossible that a small piece of it broke off and hid for its own survival. In fact, given that "Splitface" survived being burned alive, it's not impossible that some cellular activity is still left in the remains of the Bennings-Thing or Fuchs (assuming he was infected before being burned). However, it is equally possible that any of the aforementioned Things were destroyed when the base was. Also, if the blood creature wasn't destroyed when the base was, it would likely freeze very quickly. We know the Thing can survive being frozen, and a small puddle of blood would likely go undiscovered. (It was however too small to be intelligent, reacting on instinct only; this is why the blood test could expose it in the first place.)
It is also unknown if the frozen suicide victim in the Norwegian camp was infected or if any other thing samples of remnants were left in labs or frozen in the surrounding area. A deleted scene in the 2011 prequel shows this man killing himself to avoid assimilation; the particular Thing he feared was a smaller, scuttling organism that is never accounted for. It never appeared when Mac visited the ruined Norwegian camp, perhaps suggesting that it had frozen by then (but it would be very much viable if ever thawed). Then there is the spaceship itself, which may have numerous thing corpses or samples aboard.
The movie itself is somewhat vague on the exact timeframe, but it seems to take place roughly over the course of a few days, though exactly how many is unclear. Note that when Mac is recording his tape, he mentions that the storm has been hitting them for roughly 48 hours. The storm in question seems to start some time on the second night, meaning that by the time Mac made his recording, a period equivalent to three days must have passed (assuming his estimate was correct). This would mean that by the end of the movie at least four or five days have passed since the opening scene.
Chronologically, it goes something like this:
-Day One: The opening scene of the film where Lars and Matias arrive at Outpost 31 (the same point at which the prequel left off). Mac and Copper go to investigate the Norwegian base and find the Burned Corpse-Thing, which Blair attempts to examine unsuccessfully. The dog-Thing also reveals itself in the evening, and Blair performs a more successful autopsy.
-Day Two: Mac, Norris, and Palmer investigate the crater, discovering the UFO. Fuchs starts to discover that something's going on when Blair refuses to leave his room. Bennings is suddenly infected, leading to the burning of Splitface and the remains of the dog-Thing. Blair finally snaps, leading him to destroy everything, and is subsequently locked up in the tool shed.
-Day Three: The men also discover that the blood samples have been tampered with, leaving Garry, Copper, and Clark as the primary suspects. Its about this point that Mac begins to take over. Also somewhere between Day Two and Day Three the snowstorm begins. Mac begins working with Fuchs to try and find an alternative test to figure out who is human and who is a Thing. Some time late at night, Fuchs mysteriously disappears.
-Day Four or Five: Mac records his tape. (Assuming his calculations are correct and the storm started late Day Two, this would have happened late on Day Five.) A lengthy search finally reveals the burned corpse of Fuchs. Nauls finds Mac's torn clothes in his shack, leading him to become a prime suspect. Norris has a heart attack and kills Copper. Clark is shot. Mac figures out a blood test before deciding that the best course of action is to blow up the camp.
From a filmmaking standpoint, the gradual confusion in how much time has passed (whether it was intentional or not) could be argued as a clever and subtle means of capturing how the characters (all exhausted, sleep-deprived, scared, and confused) feel in their situation.
This is one of many things the film leaves ambiguous. Presumably the dog-Thing infects whoever the shadow belonged to. Now in the film there are four people confirmed to be infected before the blood test. Bennings, Norris, Palmer and Blair. Bennings can be ruled out because he was found in the middle of his transformation. That leaves three possible candidates- Norris, Palmer or Blair. While both the film and the original short story "Who Goes There?" were vague on when exactly Blair was infected, the shadow does not appear to match his appearance. (Note that the figure appears to be tall and thin, unlike Blair's large and somewhat obese structure.) Also, the shadow seems to have a full head of hair, whilst Blair has a receding hairline. Therefore, Blair can be ruled out as a suspect. Palmer would be the logical choice for assimilation because the Thing knows he is a helicopter pilot (the dog-Thing has heard him volunteer to fly Copper to the Norwegian camp but Garry sends Mac instead) and is therefore best suited to help it escape. Also he is a fairly quiet, reclusive character who generally does not draw attention, making it easier for the Thing to work undetected. The scene was originally shot using David Clennon but the shadow was thought too recognisable and was re-shot using a stunt actor named Dick Warlock, whose body structure was vaguely similar to that of David Clennon (Palmer) and Charles Hallahan (Norris).
Fuchs just felt Mac was the one most likely to be trustworthy. From Blair's notes he knew the Thing could have taken over anyone, but deduced that Mac had not been infected and felt he could trust him, which is why they work so closely together afterwards. As paranoia sunk in, Fuchs even became suspicious/fearful of Mac, as evidenced by his tense reaction when Mac approached him in his lab. This could have also been the intention behind the Thing leaving MacReady's torn clothes for Fuchs to find- since he would think Mac was a Thing, therefore breaking his trust and leaving him with nobody else to go to- resulting either him panicking and accidentally lighting himself in the process or burning himself because he saw no other way to avoid being infected.
While Childs keeps watch over the camp, Mac, Garry, and Nauls head out to the shed to give the blood test to Blair but discover the door open and Blair missing. They blow up the spaceship that Blair was making under the shed then set out to blow up the rest of the camp so that the Thing can't escape or resort to freezing itself again. As Garry attempts to plant dynamite in the storage room, Blair suddenly attacks and kills him. Mac and Nauls plant their dynamite in the generator room. Nauls wanders into another room and is not seen again. Suddenly, the floor boards are ripped up, and the Blair-Thing reaches through to get Mac. Mac tosses a lighted stick of dynamite at it, blowing up the Thing and the building. With the whole camp now in flames, Mac takes a seat outside. He is joined by Childs who has been out of sight for several minutes and claims that he went looking for Blair. In the final scene, they sit together, wary of each other, waiting for the fires to die down and the bitter cold Antarctic winter to overtake them.
The mother of all questions. Answer: unknown. It is as reasonable to assume that Childs is the Thing as much as it is to assume he is human. There is certainly enough time for him to be assimilated, but he does have an alibi. He claims he saw Blair out in the snow, and since MacReady ordered him to kill Blair, if Blair came back without the others, he was merely following orders. It is not hard to believe Childs' explanation; Garry, Nauls, and Mac had been gone for a good amount of time during their visit to the tool shed to look for Blair, and all of the men were sleep-deprived. Had Childs been a Thing at the end, he could have easily torched Mac with the flamethrower that he was armed with.
One case that could be made towards Childs being human involves taking into account the information given in the prequel, where it is revealed that the Thing cannot replicate inorganic material (i.e. piercings, fillings, joint replacements). While this fact is never confirmed in the Carpenter film, there is no evidence denying it apart from the scene where Nauls is killed by a Box-Thing (which was never shot and is therefore not canon). If you look closely in the final scene, Childs has an earring. Taking this logic into account it would be almost definitive proof that he is still human, since if he were a Thing he would have spat out the earring. The only possible explanation for this is that the Thing learned from its previous experiences and so whenever possible would attempt to replace visible inorganic material such as earrings. However, if Childs was infected, and spat out the earring, it could easily have been lost depending on his location (if he were outside at the time, it could have gotten buried in the snow; if Blair had assimilated him inside the coat room, it could have rolled under something). It's also worth mentioning that the men at Outpost 31 were not aware of this fact, so they would not have questioned him suddenly removing it. Also the remaining men were sleep-deprived and probably not thinking clearly, so they probably wouldn't have noticed the missing earring anyway, let alone question it. Therefore, it seems strange that the Childs-Thing would get down on the ground and waste its time looking for an earring for three reasons:
(1) As mentioned previously, most likely nobody would have bothered questioning it, since much like how Kate never had any experiences that led her to realize the Thing's cells function independently, Mac never experienced anything leading him to conclude that the Thing could not replicate inorganic material.
(2) Getting down and searching for the earring would leave him vulnerable, as someone could theoretically sneak up on him and attack him while he is not looking. Also he would have a hard time explaining why he is searching so desperately when there are more pressing matters at hand.
(3) There was really no need to do a perfect impression of anyone anymore. By this point, Mac was the only other survivor, and he was incredibly weak, freezing to death, and unarmed (Kurt Russell said that he had a torch/flamethrower under his coat during that scene), meaning that Childs could have easily assimilated him, and Mac would be powerless to stop him. The fact that he doesn't would strongly suggest that he is still human.
If we wanted to make a case that Childs was the Thing, we could say that when Childs saw Blair out in the storm he was being lured into being assimilated. The Thing got into the camp by getting Childs to open the door, and it got Childs in the process. It then kept Childs away from danger until the situation was over, like protecting the queen in a chess game. When Childs says, "What will we do?" Mac suggests they should maybe do nothing. The way Mac is watching and smiling at Childs suggests that Mac is almost certain Childs is the enemy and has won, but Mac accepts the defeat gracefully, and honorably, and even extends his bottle to Childs, so they can drink together. This could be seen as a big developmental leap for Mac, since the first opponent we saw him lose to was the chess computer, and he immaturely destroyed that opponent when he lost the game by pouring his drink into it and calling it a cheating bitch. Interestingly, in the novelization of the film by Alan Dean Foster, the book ends with Mac initiating a chess game with Childs.
Was Mac infected? There are theories that he was, but the evidence points to "no". Mac passes the blood test, and the possibility of him rigging it and managing to cheat his way out are very slim. Also, had he been infected, he would have most likely only taken one man with him to Blair's shed. This way Mac would be able to assimilate another victim. It is also hard to believe that Mac would kill Blair had he been a Thing. Had MacReady been a Thing before the blood test, he could have killed the remaining humans. Instead of tying up Palmer, he could have had Palmer tie everyone down, and while Nauls, Garry, Childs, and Windows were strapped down, could have burned or assimilated all of them. The fact that he does not do this suggests strongly that he is human.
Are both infected? Again, probably not. Some say the dialogue is awkward and cryptic, but there's no strong evidence whatsoever to assume this. The theory of Mac being infected because he gives Childs the bottle and then laughs is not strong; we never see the Thing employ the "single-cell assimilation" technique at all during the film, and we don't even know if it's possible. His actions are not strange; Mac had previously acknowledged that no one was going to survive. He says to Nauls and Garry, "We're not getting out of here alive, but neither is that Thing." Two comic book sequels were made in which Childs and Mac survive, pursued by the Thing. At the end of the second comic it is revealed that Childs is the creature. Whether or not these comics are canon is unclear. There is also a PS2 video game which carried on where the original film left off. In the initial scenes of the game Childs' body is found indicating that he was human. His cause of death is not made clear. At the end of the game the main character is rescued by a presumably human Mac flying yet another helicopter. Together they defeat a huge and grotesque incarnation of the Thing.
Yes, two alternate endings were shot, although only one has been seen. The first is a shot of the camp the next day, burned to the ground with billows of smoke rising into the air. In the distance we see a dog running away from the camp. The dog stops and turns, looks at the camp, then continues to run again. The second ending is mentioned on the DVD but has never been used. It showed MacReady in an office with evidence that he has just taken and passed a blood test. This sequence was shot for safety because of the downbeat ending, but was never shown to audiences, not even in test screenings.
The fates of MacReady and Childs are intentionally left open for the viewer to speculate on. The most logical answer would be that they both froze to death, seeing as their only source of heat was their burning base, whose fires probably would have died out by the morning. It was already established that the rescue team wouldn't be able to make it, and MacReady seemed to be aware that this was going to happen towards the end. However, some have argued that one (or both) of the survivors are actually Things. Childs could have been infected while he was searching for Blair, though this raises the question of why he does not attack the isolated and defenseless MacReady.
There are two alternate endings of the film which hint towards two different fates of the characters. One had MacReady in an office some time later with evidence showing that he is still human, which would mean that he survived, although as the scene has never been shown, it is not known if it would have indicated Childs to have survived as well. The other alternate ending shows the camp burned, and a dog (presumably a Thing) escaping, and since it does not attack either of the two survivors, it would probably mean they had frozen to death during the night. John Carpenter mentioned that if he ever did a sequel, it would have MacReady and Childs being rescued by a team alerted via a transmission Windows was able to get out before Blair went crazy. He would blame the aging of Kurt Russell and Keith David on their characters' exposure to the elements. This would suggest that the man who made this film intended them to survive.
A number of unofficial continuations exist which have suggested different fates of the characters. The video game, for example, implies Childs to have died but reveals that Mac survived. There is also a series of comics in which Mac and Childs are rescued but the latter is revealed to be a Thing. In the DVD commentary for the 2011 version of The Thing the writers/directors/producers postulate that Kate, the sole survivor from the end of that film will make her way to the US base via a snowcat in pursuit of the dog and arrive in time to rescue MacReady and Childs. The 2011 film also establishes that knowledge of the spaceship's discovery has extended beyond Antarctica so it is possible others are on their way to investigate and may save them. Outpost 31, the official The Thing fansite had a number of fan fiction stories which have tried to continue where the film left off. See here. The nature of the stories vary, and point towards different fates for the characters. The story "The Tape" reveals that Childs froze to death but leaves Mac's fate open. "The Thing EX: An Alternate Ending" reveals that Childs and Mac both froze to death (although a UFO is reported to have been found, suggesting one of them was infected). "The Aftermath" sees Mac and Childs return to the Norwegian base only for it to be revealed that Mac is a Thing and he's been infecting Childs through a bottle of whiskey. "The Thing II: Contagion" reveals that both Mac and Childs were rescued, but one of them is infected and accidentally spreads through another base, and the story ends with the implication that Mac froze to death in the Antarctic Ocean. "Unfinished Buisiness" takes a slightly more optimistic approach, revealing Mac and Childs to be rescued by a Russian expedition team who saw the explosions; both are revealed to be human and spend most of the story working to figure out how to destroy the Thing once and for all.
R.J. MacReady: Survives the events of the film (though it is a possibility that he froze to death some time afterward).
Childs: Survives the events of the film (though it has been argued that he was assimilated by the Blair-Thing, and it is possible that he froze to death as well).
Blair: Seemingly goes crazy and cuts off the group from the outside world by destroying the snow-cats, the helicopter, the radio equipment, etc. He claims he did this so The Thing couldn't be rescued and brought to civilization but it's also possible he was infected and did this so he could assimilate as many of the group as possible before their eventual rescue. The group lock him up in a tool shed away from them so he couldn't do any more damage. The survivors go back out to check on him and find that he had become or always was a Thing and had burrowed a small cave underneath the snow and had been building a small craft to escape the camp. The survivors track him down to the basement of the installation and rig the whole base to explode. MacReady kills the Blair-Thing with a stick of dynamite which also sets off the rest of the bombs destroying the majority of the installation.
Nauls: Heads to the basement to rig explosives with Mac and Garry. He wanders off alone to find a place to plant his explosives. He hears a strange noise and he isn't seen again but the Blair-Thing is seen attacking from the area in which Nauls had been, implying he was killed quick and quietly.
Garry: Goes with Mac and Nauls into the basement to rig explosives. He is attacked by the Blair-Thing, who sticks its hand into Garry's face and bonds directly with his face and kills him. He is then dragged off camera and presumably consumed.
Windows: When Palmer-Thing is discovered it escapes its restraints, fires a tentacle at Windows and pulls Windows' head into the thing's mouth and proceeds to attack him before Palmer-Thing throws him against a wall. Once Mac deals with the Palmer-Thing, he comes back inside to see Windows being infected and becoming a Thing. So Mac finishes him off with the flamethrower.
Palmer: Discovered to be a Thing during Mac's blood test. He breaks free from his restraints and starts attacking Windows. Mac manages to burn the Palmer-Thing and finish him off with a stick of dynamite.
Clark: tries to stab Mac with a scalpel, but Mac shoots him in the forehead before he's able. Mac tests his blood even though he was dead and he was still human.
Norris: After trying to subdue Mac, Norris has a heart attack and collapses. Copper shocks him with a defibrillator in order to try and resuscitate him to no avail. When Copper tries again, Norris' stomach rips open revealing him to be a Thing filled with Razor-sharp teeth and Copper's arms slip into the stomach-mouth and get bitten off. Mac burns Norris' body with a flamethrower. Norris' head detaches to try and escape but Palmer brings it to Mac's attention. So Mac finishes off the Norris-Head-Thing with the flamethrower.
Copper: While trying to resuscitate Norris, his arms get bitten off by the Norris-Thing and he presumably dies from a combination of shock, loss of blood, and possibly also smoke inhalation (as everyone is trying to get away from the Norris-Thing, while Copper is still left lying nearby as there was no chance for anyone to get to him without being attacked combined with the fact that Mac let the Thing burn as long as possible). Mac tests Copper's blood regardless and it's revealed he was still human.
Fuchs: Arguably the most mysterious death in the film. Fuchs is in his lab when the power goes out. He sees someone walk by and follows them outside with a flare to light his way. He finds some shredded clothing that have MacReady's name on them. Mac, Nauls and Windows go outside and find the charred remains of a body they assume is Fuchs. They all speculate that he either burned himself before he could be assimilated, tried to burn a Thing and accidentally burned himself or the Thing burned him.
Bennings: The group store the presumed dead, Burnt Corpse-Thing (a.k.a. Splitface) that Mac and Copper found at the Norwegian base. Bennings goes into the storage room to get some of his things out, and Splitface attacks him while his guard is down. Windows goes back to witness the Thing assimilating Bennings. The rest of the group find the Bennings-Thing outside trying to escape. Mac dumps a drum of fuel onto the Bennings-Thing and lights him on fire with a flare.
Cold War paranoia, especially given that the prequel film establishes a Soviet military base to be located a few miles away despite going against the Antarctic treaty (which states guns aren't permitted in Antarctica) in event that they were to be attacked by Soviets. Note the rifles Windows reaches for are locked in a cabinet that he has to break open, possibly due to the desire to save them for emergencies. As for Garry having the revolver; Garry is clearly the station manager and likely a sort of security guard as well. Being in the most hostile and isolated part of the world, it's possible for someone to have a mental breakdown and become dangerous, harming themselves or others (as Lars was initially believed to have done in the opening scene). Garry carries the sidearm likely as a precautionary measure in case any members of the research station try and attack one another, or as we saw at the beginning of the film, to defend the base against an attacking force. However, the novelization mentions that Garry also had some prior military experience, that he mainly carries the sidearm around as much as he does out of habit more than anything else. Palmer even jokes about wondering when "El Capitan was going to get a chance to use his pop gun", possibly suggesting that Garry's constant holding of his gun has occasionally been the subject of ridicule.
In general, people—whether they are hunters, privateers, archeologists, explorers or whatever—harboring a particular amount of firearms (as well as medical supplies and firefighting equipment, or other special tools) in a wilderness setting, away from civilization and civil services (albeit law enforcement or friendly military) has never been particularly unusual. The volume of such means and ways typically reflects the situation/environment at hand.
Three main theories in this regard. The most commonly accepted theory, which is the one mainly suggested in the film itself, is that either by its inherent nature or conscious choice it wants to take over the world and transform all lifeforms, that in effect it is an invader/parasite. A different theory is that it is not actually hostile at all, it simply wants to survive and go home, which is given credence by Blair's construction of his improvised spaceship in his lair. A less common third theory is that the Thing is actually a form of scientific researcher and investigates new planets and lifeforms by assimilating a sample of them.
The base was only equipped with a few basic weapons. A handgun, a few shotguns and two or three flamethrowers. While the creature was attacking the dogs, Mac sends Bennings to get Childs and the flamethrower in case they'd need it. After they fired on it with the shotguns and handgun, seeing that it didn't do any damage, Mac orders Childs to torch it figuring it'd be the best bet. Mac also had seen evidence of the Norwegians using fire against the Thing. He had seen the "Splitface" corpse at the Norwegian camp, which had been burned with kerosene. The Norwegians who arrived at the camp earlier were attempting to use thermite grenades against the dog, and their helicopter was loaded with kerosene containers. These hints from the Norwegians probably led him to believe that fire would be a successful weapon against the Thing. He didn't just jump straight to "flamethrower!" with no evidence.
Presumably the starting up of the spaceship's engines/grenade explosion weakened the roof of the ice cavern and it collapsed in between Kate leaving and MacCready, Norris and Palmer arriving. If the finale of the 2011 film is observed closely, after the Thing has fired up the engines, the ceiling of the cavern fractures and begins to fall. There is a panning shot from the ship to the now revealed starry night sky above, showing that the ship has, in fact, been completely uncovered before Mac, Norris and Palmer arrive.
The Thing doesn't have an original form in the macro world. The Thing is a single-celled organism that works together with other single celled versions of itself to form different creatures. The Thing's original form is a single cell.
When the Thing assimilates a person, that person dies. The Thing is doing a perfect impression of you and hiding behind the mask of your face and tapping into your memories for useful behaviors to fool those around it. In the film, assimilated human beings setup MacReady as a red herring as well as other acts of sabotage. If you were alive and aware, you would surely wonder what you were doing trying to implicate other members of the team. This is also corroborated in the novelization.
MacReady's Introduction, The Other Norwegian Corpse, MacReady and His "Friend", Out on the Ice Field!, Lights Out!, The Discovery of Fuchs' Body in the Greenhouse, Mac and Nauls Check Mac's Shack, Alternate Death of Windows, Alternate Death of Nauls, The Death Throes of Nauls
Yes. It debuted at #8 at the U.S. box office. The movie's production budget was approximately 15 million USD and although it grossed close to 20 million domestically, the studio would not have made their total outlay back (due to marketing and distribution costs and the fact that theaters keep, on average, almost half of the box office for themselves). Despite not being a commercial success, John Carpenter has stated that of all the films he's directed, he's most proud of The Thing. In the DVD commentary, Carpenter and Kurt Russell theorize some factors as to why the film didn't perform better at the box office; they believe the largest contributing factor is that E.T. had been released the week before and was a major success. It had a PG rating, had a very light-hearted and optimistic view of alien visitation whereas The Thing was the exact opposite. Then Poltergeist was released the week after. Kurt Russell also suggested that the AIDS virus was just becoming a very public disease at the time and this movie deals with the idea of an organism infecting blood cells which may have been very off-putting to the audience. Lastly, critics were not kind to the film either. They praised the special effects, but blasted the actual film. However, over time, the film has become regarded as one of the greatest science-fiction movies of all time and has gained a large cult following.
There is a prequel that was released on October 14th 2011 which chronicles the events at the Norwegian camp. The ending of the prequel is right when this film starts. There was also a video game released in 2002 which serves as a sequel to this film. It told the story of a special forces team sent in to investigate Outpost 31 and had some similarities to the "Resident Evil" storyline (a greedy corporation wanting to use the Thing as a bio-weapon). MacReady makes an appearence towards the end of the game. In addition there was also another sequel in the form a comic book series in the early 1991 called "The Thing From Another World" by Dark Horse. This title was designed to distinguish it from the Marvel character, The Thing (of Fantastic Four fame). This story followed on from the 1982 film and involved a Navy SEAL team rescuing MacReady who had managed to get seperated from Childs. One of the SEAL team is infected by a sea-lion before MacReady is brought back to a military base that he eventually escapes from. When Childs finally shows up he too is later infected. The comics ran for four series.
The Sci Fi Channel planned a 4 hour mini-series sequel in 2003. John Carpenter stated that he believed the project should proceed, but the Sci Fi Channel later removed all mention of the project from their homepage. In February 2009, a positive review of the abandoned screenplay for the Sci-Fi miniseries was published on Corona's Coming Attractions. In 2004, Carpenter said in an Empire magazine interview that he has a story idea for The Thing II, which centers around the two surviving characters, MacReady and Childs. However, Carpenter felt that due to the higher price associated with his fee, Universal Studios will not pursue his storyline. Carpenter indicated that he would be able to secure both Kurt Russell and Keith David for the sequel. In his story, Carpenter would explain the age difference of the actors between the two installments by having frostbite on their face due to the elements until rescued. The assumption of the sequel would rely on a radio-signal being successfully transmitted by Windows before Blair destroyed the communications room. Thus, after the explosion of the base camp, the rescue team would arrive and find MacReady and Childs still alive.
Much of the film was simplified in order to make the budget stretch further.
- Windows is called Sanchez
- At the Norwegian Camp MacReady bumps into a human arm pinned by a closed shut door still gripping an extinguished welding torch, he opens the door and the severed arm drops to the ground.
- Copper finds a tape recorder and plays it where he hears a Norwegian talking.
- In the ice-block room, Macready opens a stuck metal cabinet which dislodges a frozen human body missing an arm.
- The scene of them finding split-face outside is omitted.
- When the Dog enters the "Strangers room", he is heard struggling inside with it.
- Childs "shoos" off the dog as it wanders round camp from his greenhouse where he is watering his cannabis plants.
- After checking out the Norwegian video, Copper plays the tape recorder he found with the Norwegian talking and in the background a Thing attack can be heard taking place.
- The scene of them showing Split-face to the rest of the camp takes place further on in the film after Mac and Copper get back.
- MacReady is seen inflating a blow-up sex doll in his cabin whilst he watches the Norwegian video tapes of them discovering the saucer and ice-block Thing.
- The Dog Thing is not seen shedding its skin, instead the dogs all pounce on the imitation dog cutting to the next scene.
- MacReady hears Dogtown in an uproar and tells Clarke to go and sort it instead of alerting the base.
- When the men arrive at Dogtown, Clarke wades into the dogs attacking the intruder and pulls them away, hacking at the Thing with a hatchet when a Thing limb sends him sprawling.
- Blair is seen at a microscope observing Thing cells assimilating dog cells.
- Nauls is seen finding the shredded clothing in his kitchen.
- At the end of the Long-Johns scene when Childs asks Blair if he believes what the others are discussing, Blair says a few lines about the Thing entering their camp and getting to the dog before it fades to black.
- The Dog Thing examination takes place after Nauls discovers the shredded Long-Johns scene.
- When the men burn the Thing's remains Fuchs protests at the loss to science. When Childs goes to burn it he and Fuchs struggle with the flame-thrower until Childs shakes him off.
- Blair follows Garry into the radio room trying to warn him one of the men maybe infected and begging him not to let anyone leave the camp.
- MacReady plays chess against the computer again with his blow-up doll whilst he drinks Tequila and again pours his drink into its circuits. He is then distracted by the sounds of Blair sabotaging the helicopters.
- The scene with Fuchs and MacReady discussing Blair's notebook in the tractor is omitted.
- Clarke finding Blair has killed the dogs is omitted.
- Copper asks Nauls to drug Blair's food.
- The men discover the three remaining dogs have broken loose.
- The men find the tracks of the dogs and discuss how to pursue them, MacReady gives Bennings a list of equipment to ready.
- The men test upgrading the flamethrowers in a workshed.
- Bennings helps MacReady load up two snowmobiles with his equipment.
- Bennings MacReady and Childs take off on the two snowmobiles after the dogs.
- The men come across half of a semi-eaten dog carcass which the remaining Thing dogs fed on.
- As night closes the men enter a valley and see one of the Thing dogs sat in the snow, its back to them, feeding on the other half of the dog. The men circle the animal wondering where the third and final Thing dog could be. As Childs readies the flamethrower, Bennings is pulled beneath the ice by the third Thing dog, only his head remains above the ice.
- Childs interrogates Clarke about the dogs escape.
- Palmer is seen dismantling the engine of the helicopter, puzzling over a missing piece of equipment from it.
- Palmer asks Childs what happened to the helicopter engine part.
- MacReady asks Palmer to disassemble the snowmobiles to stop anyone else escaping.
- Nauls attempts to feed Blair in the shack but the food is thrown back at him with Blair responding he won't eat anymore drugged food.
- MacReady destroys the weather balloons.
- Childs allows Clarke to go to the bathroom as the lights go out all over the camp. The men can be heard in the rec room stumbling over each other and crying out in fear. Childs hits the alarm as MacReady, Sanchez (Windows) and Palmer come back from the outside. The men realize the generator has been switched off as they stumble over each other in the pitch. Garry goes missing.
- Childs and Palmer search the corridors for Fuchs, Childs warns Palmer not to stay behind him.
- Norris watches Copper who comments on him having a checkup for his chest pains.
- Palmer and Childs find power cables in the kitchen have been physically ripped apart.
- Nauls and MacReady are seen investigating Mac's shack. The roof has been ripped away letting the weather inside. Mac comments the weather couldn't have done that. Nauls is startled by Mac's blow-up doll.
- Childs and Palmer investigate the greenhouse, the smashed in window has frozen his crop. Palmer burns them theorizing the thing could assimilate them and then the two notice Fuchs' frozen body pinned to the inside of the door with an axe through the chest.
- Sanchez (Windows) tries to pull the axe out but it won't budge, Childs and Palmer theorize there wasn't enough time to assimilate Fuchs so it killed him instead.
- The Spider-head sequence is omitted, instead it is replaced with MacReady torching Norris's infected blood to see it reacting to the fire.
- Copper is the first to be tested instead of Sanchez (Windows).
- Childs accompanies MacReady and Nauls to Blair's shack.
- As the men return to the compound something cuts the guideline and Childs is blown away into the storm.
- In the Rec Room Sanchez (Windows) prepares Molotov cocktails, Garry rigs an electrical device to two portable generators. MacReady prepares some capsules with a clear liquid (Cyanide), Nauls readies some dynamite. Garry wires the door to his generator whilst MacReady blocks off the other Rec Room entrance.
- Two hours later the men wait in the Rec Room discussing whether or not to go out after it. They hear noises deep in the compound. Garry readies the trap and The Thing crashes in through the ceiling amongst them all.
- Nauls takes refuge in a bathroom stall, his leg is broken. The Thing pursues him inside as Nauls hears it pawing at the door he hides behind.
- Covered in frostbite and singing a Mexican song, MacReady smashes through the compound in a bulldozer lined with hydrogen tanks from the weather balloons.
- MacReady and Childs play Chess in the ruined camp.
Seeing as how the novel is a short story and published in 1938, there are a significant amount of differences. However the essence of the book is captured in the film and it is more faithful than the 1951 version.
- The film updates the setting from the 1930s (around the time the book was published) to what was then present-day in 1982 (the year the film was released).
- In the novel, the American team discover the ship and the Thing, there are no Norwegians, and when the ship is uncovered by the thermite charges it is accidentally destroyed.
- In the novel, they deduce the ship had crashed on Earth ten million years ago. Whereas in the film, it was only 100,000 years.
- In the novel there are 37 people stationed at the camp, in this film there are only 12. This may have been done for a number of practical reasons. First, it simplifies the narrative, as in a two-hour film it is easier to develop a smaller cast, not to mention is makes it easier for the audience to learn to identify every character by face. This also may have been done to heighten the drama, as it becomes far more tense when a small group of people who have been working together for months are turned against each other by their paranoia.
- MacReady, Bennings, Clark, Norris, Blair, Copper, and Garry all appear in the novel as their same characters, though Bennings is called "Benning", MacReady is spelled "McReady" and he's Garry's second-in-command. Whereas in the film, Mac is simply a helicopter pilot who assumes the role of the leader when Garry is suspected of being infected.
- The book is slightly vague on the action sequences (likely in an attempt not to be too gruesome by 1930s standards) but the attack on the dog kennel is in the book as well as the film. Here, the first Thing to be discovered is killed by electricity.
- In the book, electricity is used as the primary means of destroying the Thing. In the film, the characters rely largely on fire in the form of flares and flamethrowers, and in the case of Palmer and Blair, dynamite. This might be just to add a sense of realism, as the original book implied the device used to electrify the Thing was something the crew had thrown together before hand, while flamethrowers are a more practical tool used in Antarctic stations for melting ice.
- In the book, Blair was very eager to thaw out the Thing and once it gets loose, he has a complete nervous breakdown. The group isolate him immediately, the sequence of events take much longer in the film.
- In the novel, the group conclude that they need to isolate themselves and pretend everything is normal over the radio to avoid any rescue attempts until the Thing is discovered and dealt with. In the film, Blair takes it upon himself to isolate the group and the radio had been dead before they realized they had any problems.
- In the book, it's theorized (and ultimately implied) that the Thing is telepathic and can read everyone's thoughts and memories which is why it's able to perfectly imitate anybody including their personalities. In the film, this is never mentioned or theorized. It is more or less implied that when The thing takes over someone, it's simply an exact copy of them down to the very last detail, including thoughts and memories, which is why Norris still has a heart condition even though he's a Thing.
- In the book, Copper comes up with an extremely flawed and rather cruel blood test; A sled dog is conditioned by human blood injections to provide a human-immunity serum test, as in rabbits, which ultimately proves inconclusive because the dog had already been infected. In the film, Copper comes up with a blood serum test of mixing each person's blood with uncontaminated blood.
- In the book, it is implied that the infected people don't know they're Things. In the film, this is a possibility but given the maneuvering the Thing does, the infected people DO know they are not human.
- In the book, more and more people start becoming paranoid and having mental breakdowns due to not knowing if anyone else is human. Ultimately, one of the crew members is murdered and accidentally revealed to be a Thing which gives McReady the idea for his blood test. In this movie, MacReady comes up with his blood test after seeing how the Norris-Thing's head detached from its body in an attempt to save itself.
- In the film, Clark and Garry aren't infected (unless you count Blair killing Garry at the end) and Norris is infected. In the book, it's the opposite.
- The blood test McReady gives is very similar in both the book and the film. Mac's dialogue in the film is almost verbatim from the novel. In the book, everyone takes turns getting tested and when their blood recoils, they're immediately executed and burned. During the blood test, a total of 14 camp members out of the remaining 36 are discovered to be infected and killed, including Garry, Clark and another central character in the novel named Connant. Then a group of the survivors including McReady and Norris go to get Blair and give him the test, where they find he's been building a craft to escape the planet. The group dispatch the creature and that's the end of the novel.
- Copper, Norris, McReady, and roughly half of the 37 survived to the very end of the book and the creature is defeated, giving the book a happy ending. In the film, 10 of the crew (including Copper and Norris) die for certain, the Thing is defeated, but the last two people, MacReady and Childs' fates are left ambiguous, leaving the ending bleak and open to interpretation.