Top 365 Films – #005 – The Thing (1982)

Top 365 Films - John Carpenters The ThingDIRECTED BY: John Carpenter

STARRING: Kurt Russell, Keith David, Wilford Brimley, Donald Moffat, T. K Carter, Richard Masur, David Clennon, Charles Hallahan, Richard Dysart, Peter Maloney, Joel Polis, Thomas G. Waites, Norbert Weisser and Larry J. Franco

BUDGET: $15m

EARNED (Domestic): $19.6m




Scientists in the Antarctic are confronted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of the people it kills.


John Carpenter’s The Thing takes us to the Antarctic where we see a helicopter chasing and shooting at a dog through the snowfields, leading to them reaching a small American research base where a group of scientists and workers look on. With the passengers dead and the helicopter destroyed, the group take the dog into the base and a small group led by MacReady go to the Norwegian camp to find answers, but find the place destroyed along with a humanoid that is not man nor beast. As they bring it back to the base to perform an autopsy, the dog morphs into a strange creature and begins to attack them. As they fight it off, they realise that they’re fighting a thing that can transform and take the appearance of anybody amongst them.


In the face of an unknown enemy that can transform into any living thing around you in a closed environment and can imitate them perfectly, who can you trust outside of yourself? The film is atmospheric and full of tension, helped on by Ennio Morricone’s score to hype up the paranoia the group feel as the film progresses, not only is it a truly great sci-fi film but a classic horror film in it’s premise, scene setups and the way they are executed. The characters have no idea who is who and the actors perform their roles like they have absolutely no idea who the thing is, which makes it even better for the film viewing audience as we begin to questions everyones actions in trying to figure out who is the thing. The set itself at a research base int he Antarctic, completely closed off from the outside world and totally claustrophobic within with it’s narrow corridor linking the rooms together, which are dim lit, plays heavily to the films strengths of adding tension and suspense amongst the characters, where their sense of paranoia and fear that the person next to them may not be who they seem leads to them doing things that would seem ‘out of character’ when describing that person, when they commit acts from sabotage, to premeditated murder. Another strength that the film has is the effects, the practicality of them, play a big part here to the thing’s transformations which range from clever to downright grotesque looking and I wonder if the younger generation will appreciate the look of them now for the time it was made in comparison to the FX overload that we sometimes get in a few films today. One of the few things to freak me out for a while after watching the film for the first time was nothing to do with the thing’s transformations, but when he attacks one member by what I assumed was shutting his mouth, it actually has his hand inside and stretches his fingers out, along with the persons skin. It’s literally ten seconds of screen time and it freaked me out more than the horror dog show and whatever else the thing had in store for the characters. The performances amongst the cast is terrific and convincing, especially with the two focused characters that butt heads throughout in Kurt Russell and Keith David, this is a great film and in my opinion, John Carpenter’s best.


FAVOURITE SCENE: MacReady administers blood tests to uncover who has been infected by the Thing. As he proceeds through the samples one by one, as tensions rise amongst, one of the samples automatically jumps when it meets with heat. This buildup and the reveal of who is infected is perfectly handled.

FAVOURITE QUOTE: ‘I know I’m human. And if you were all these things, then you’d just attack me right now, so some of you are still human. This thing doesn’t want to show itself, it wants to hide inside an imitation. It’ll fight if it has to, but it’s vulnerable out in the open. If it takes us over, then it has no more enemies, nobody left to kill it. And then it’s won.’ – MacReady

DID YOU KNOW?: John Carpenter and Kurt Russell both admit that after all of these years they still do not know who has been replaced by the creature and when. This movie has become part of the culture in Antarctica. It is a long standing tradition in all British Antarctic research stations to watch The Thing (1982) as part of their Midwinter feast and celebration held every June 21. In August 2003 a couple of hard-core fans, Todd Cameron and Steve Crawford, ventured to the remote filming location in Stewart, British Columbia and, after 21 years, found remains of Outpost #31 and the Norwegian helicopter. The rotor blade from the chopper now belongs to Todd and rests in his collection of memorabilia from the film. This film is considered a benchmark in the field of special makeup effects. These effects were created by Rob Bottin, who was only 22 when he started the project. The Dog-Thing was created by Stan Winston who declined screen credit as he didn’t want to take away from Rob Bottin’s work. Stan Winston receives a special thank you in the closing credits.


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