That is one nasty thing, and trust me, I have never been told that in my own life, at least I don’t think I have!
Screenplay By: Bill Lancaster
Directed By: John Carpenter
John Carpenter is a master of minimalist horror and science fiction. The man behind such works as Halloween and They Live would have to be. The Thing is another excellent minimalist effort from Carpenter. It is a horror science fiction yarn, it is tight, taught and claustrophobic. The music, the actors, the setting, the camera work and the effects combine to create an intriguing and closed off atmosphere. While we can’t relate to an alien space creature killing people or mimicking them, we can relate to the feeling of being stranded with the walls closing in on us.
Kurt Russell is a man’s man, so is Keith David for that matter. A major complaint lobbied against The Thing is its lack of characterization, but The Thing isn’t about the characters or getting to know those characters. The Thing is all about a group of men trapped in a lose-lose situation where they have no idea what is going on or what will come next. Unsuspecting faces are necessary to compliment guys like David and Russell who are required to be bad asses in the face of adversity. But, there is a difference in their heroes, they aren’t idiots. In a lot of ways Russell’s MacReady is a precursor to John McClane from Die Hard. Yes, he is a bad ass, but he also thinks and comes up with solutions that involve more than muscle.
The major drawing factor in The Thing for me was the air of doubt surrounding the entire film, and the excellent effects. Carpenter himself does a great job of creating doubt before anything has gone awry, we know that something is up with that dog, but it’s also just a dog so there’s that voice in the back of your head telling you that the dog is distracting you from the real danger. After the alien makes its presence known and we learn of its “powers” The Thing becomes not a whodunit, but a who is who. We don’t know who is a mimic, and truly at any moment any character could have been a mimic. This is aided by the effects employed by the gore masters of this film, the alien is freaky and gnarly. In every incarnation the alien is an apparition to behold, an assault upon our sensibilities.
The Thing has taken a place in history as one of Carpenter’s best works and as one of the best science fiction films ever. While I did have a few minor problems with some logic gaps and some easy outs that were given to the characters, I would have to agree with The Thing’s place in history. It is a tremendous science fiction story, and a taut suspense horror film. The Thing is a lesson to all young sci-fi/horror filmmakers out there who want to see how to actually make a small movie that works, and what a lesson it is.