Logline: At a research station in Antarctica, a group of men fight for survival against a shape shifting alien that assumes the appearance of whomever it kills.
Review: John Carpenter’s The Thing is a nail biting and gripping remake of Howard Hawks’ The Thing from Another World (1951). Carpenter’s version is a more faithful adaption of the original short story “Who Goes There?”, upon which both films are based. One of the key differences between the original and the remake is that Carpenter’s alien is able to shape shift and assume the appearance of the crew members.
Like Ridley Scott’s classic Alien (1979), The Thing is a hybrid film combining science fiction and horror. The film relies heavily on its characters and their interactions. None of the men trust each other and paranoia and delusion begin to set in. The paranoia filled atmosphere is what makes The Thing such an effective film. Having already shown his mastery of suspense in his seminal horror film Halloween (1978), Carpenter keeps viewers on the edge of their seat for most of the film.
The Thing is known for its gruesome special effects which are quite remarkable. It is surprising that the film was not nominated for an Oscar in this department. This was probably due to the fact that the film was poorly received upon its initial release, unable to compete with a more friendly alien in Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extraterrestrial. In the years since its release though, the film has become a cult classic and the film that Carpenter is most remembered for besides Halloween.
Kurt Russell, a Carpenter regular, leads the all male cast and he is great as the pilot MacReady. All of the actors are very good, though in their respective roles. Donald Pleasance, a Carpenter regular, was the original choice to play Dr. Blair. Not to discredit Wilford Brimley, who does a fine job in the role but I would have loved to have seen what Pleasance would have brought to the character.
There are so many great scenes in The Thing but my favorite remains the blood sample sequence. The Thing is anything but your average monster movie. It is a unique film in which all of the characters are doomed from the start.
Rating (out of ****): ***1/2