March 2, 2009

The Thing (1982)

*UPDATED 3/11*

I’LL MAKE THIS INTRO BRIEF and to the point:
If you love sci-fi and/or horror, you must see John Carpenter’s The Thing.

Plot: Scientists at a remote Antarctic research station are confronted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the identity of the people it kills.

As one of a dozen men inhabiting the research station, Kurt Russell is at the top of his game. He portrays helicopter pilot MacReady as a man who just wants to do his job, get paid, and get drunk – but then is partially forced, partially driven to take charge of the situation.

And forget everything you know about warm, fuzzy character actor Wilford Brimley (Cocoon, those Liberty Medical commercials); in The Thing he’s unpredictable, a bit frightening, and nearly unrecognizable (no Cap’n Crunch mustache) as a scientist who’s slowly losing his marbles.

Upon its release, The Thing was dismissed as a slimy, gratuitous remake of the 1951 sci-fi classic. But over the years, critics and fans have warmed to the film and appreciated not only Rob Bottin’s amazing pre-CGI special effects, but Bill Lancaster’s powerful screenplay, the bass-as-heartbeat musical score by Ennio Morricone (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly), the nightmarish sound effects of the creatures, and Carpenter’s masterful hand at creating an intense atmosphere of isolation, paranoia, and distrust.

In addition to being a great film, The Thing also had great poster art (see above) and one of the best taglines ever, which can be seen at the end of the trailer (which is also pretty awesome):

And after all these years, after seeing The Thing dozens of times, there’s still one scene that makes me jump. I know it’s coming, but damn if I don’t jump anyway. Any guess what it is? Drop a comment with your thoughts; I’ll reveal the answer in a few days. (For the sake of Thing virgins, don’t use the name of the person involved besides MacReady – call him “Ishmael” instead).

Want further proof that you need to see The Thing? As of this writing, it’s #173 on the Internet Movie Database’s list of the top 250 films of all time.

(For more things Thing, check out the website Outpost #31. It’s astonishing how much information and material they have about this film.)

[UPDATE: Mr. Canacorn was the only one who tried to guess which scene in The Thing still makes me jump. While he wasn’t correct, his mention for his still-jump scene is actually mine too: the blood test! Four words: “We’ll do you last.” Take it away, Ishmael!]

Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5).

Will your kids want to watch it?
Show one scene of the creature’s transformation to any male tweener, and they’ll be dying for more. However, I’d hold off letting them watch the entire movie for a couple of reasons:

1) While Rob Bottin’s FX are amazing, they are very bloody, gooey, and gory. And there’s also a dash of gunplay and adult language. In other words, its R rating is justified.
2) As a 14-year-old gorehound who saw The Thing on HBO, I was too young to appreciate all the other remarkable elements of the film besides the gnarly special effects.

I know teens are growing up much faster than in my day – and thanks to the Internet, they see more depraved things than ever before. But for your kids to truly appreciate The Thing, I would wait until they are at least a couple years older than I was at my first viewing.

Will your FilmMother like it?
This may be a broad stroke, but I don’t think too many FilmMothers will care for The Thing – which is a shame, because it has top-tier dialogue, direction, acting, and FX. (This is probably one to watch by yourself, with your buddies, with your teenage son(s), etc.) However, if she likes being scared or burying her face in your shoulder when nasty stuff happens on-screen, you may be in luck.

The Thing
* Director: John Carpenter
* Screenwriter: Bill Lancaster
* Stars: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, T.K. Carter, David Clennon, Keith David, Richard Dysart, Richard Masur, Charles Hallahan
* MPAA Rating: R

Buy this movie for less at >>


James (SeattleDad) said...

I loved this movie when it came out. I haven't watched it since, but still remember how much I enjoyed it way back when. Now I want to watch it again. Thanks for the review.

Jeff Allard said...

One of the all-time best! I was probably about the same age as you when I saw this on HBO and I agree that some of the dramatic qualities of the film are lost on younger viewers.

It's amazing how well the movie still holds up and how its reputation has changed for the better in the years since it's release. I often wonder how Carpenter's subsequent career would've gone (Universal pulled him off their adaptation of Stephen King's Firestarter shortly after The Thing's release) had this been a hit.

Keith said...

I love this film. I haven't seen it in awhile, but I watched it a lot when I was younger. Great review of it.

Gemma said...

Awesome review! I will add it to my growing list of films to re-visit. Loved the trailer!

Surfer Jay said...

I was probably four when I first saw it, the year of its release. Yeah, I watched horror movies from the womb, older brothers and all. Yes, I had nightmares all growing up.

Last time I saw it was ayear ago, as well as the making of it.

And no, the Filmmother here, would not like it. But she watches these movies for my sake.

Do you have diabeetus? Order now.

Unknown said...

Classic John Carpenter. Still appreciate this movie which has stood the test of time and technology.

Anonymous said...

Out of all the great JC/KR films, this one just might be my favorite...and then I think of Big Trouble In Little China and start to change my mind...and then I think of Escape from NY...oh, you get the picture.

Anyway, I have a son of my own on the way, and it will be well worth the wait until he's old enough to introduce him to The Thing.

I'm pretty sure I know what scene gets you every time (does it involve a defibrillator?)'s the blood test sequence for me...the tension gets me so jacked up that I practically hit the ceiling when the payoff happens.

FilmFather said...

Thanks for all the comments, everybody -- I had a hunch this post would be a hit.

@Jeff: Funny you mentioned Carpenter getting pulled from Firestarter: His replacement was Mark L. Lester, and I'll be reviewing one of Lester's earlier films in a few weeks.

The Vault Master said...

Nice write-up for "The Thing." It is most definitely one of my all-time favorite films. The part that always makes me jump is when MacReady is doing the blood test with the heated wire. In fact, that scene gave everyone a jump a few years back when we watched the movie at my Halloween party. Great stuff!

Anonymous said...

I have goosebumps as I type this because I can hear the wire scrapping the bottom of the petri-dish. One of the all time greats. Definitely in my top 10.

Request: When you get back to kid movies, do one on the Iron Giant.

FilmFather said...

@NukeDad: Thanks and congrats - you've given me my first blog post to reach double digits in comments!

I've currently got a few kid flicks in the queue, but I will get to The Iron Giant one of these days. Great film, with a shameful backstory on how it was mishandled and under-promoted by Warner Bros.

Joeprah said...

One of the best horror movies ever. The only downfall was the monster at the end...a bit of a let down. All claymation and what not. Everything else was amazing and stands the test of time. I watched this when I was five--scared the crap out of me. I also liked the original--it just flowed nicely from one scene to the next. Word.

Coop said...

Another one of my favorites. Have you ever by chance seen the bizarre TV version of this movie that has a LOT of random narration in it (especially at the beginning when it's introducing the characters)?

Blogger said...

Did you know that you can create short urls with AdFly and get dollars from every click on your short links.


Related Posts with Thumbnails