Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Are you a member of the CULT?: The Thing (Universal, 1982)

The Thing
Universal Pictures
Directed by John Carpenter
Based on the novel "Who Goes There?" by John W.Campbell, Jr.
Screenplay by  Bill Lancaster
Music by Ennio Morricone
Starring Kurt Russell as MacReady, Willford Brimley as Blair, Richard Dysart as Doc Copper, Keith David as Childs, Richard Masur as Clark, Donald Moffat as Garry, T. K Carter as Nauls, Charles Hallahan as Norris, Thomas G. Waites as Windows & Joel Polis as Fuchs

It can take the form of any organism it comes into contact with. It cashed in the Antarctica ice, and lay undiscovered for 10,000 years. Now, it has been found by a group of Norwegian scientists. It thawed and became one of them, and escaped. Now, a group of American scientists have found the same organism, And their worst nightmare will become reality. It could become any one of them at anytime. Man is the warmest place to hide.

In 1981, John Carpenter, fresh from making Escape from New York, decided to remake a 50's classic that went by the name of The Thing From Another World. In this Black & White classic directed by Howard Hawks, the creature could replicate itself limitlessly, as it terrified a research base. Seeing potential in the story, he went back to the novel the film was based on, Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr. The monster in the book absorbed its victim and took its shape, mannerisms and would talk exactly like it's victim, blending into it's surroundings like a chameleon. Doing this kind of movie needed some stellar special effects. Enter Rob Botin, who would later lend his excellent talents to the 1987 hit Robocop. He managed to create the most grotesque looking creations ever seen on film. At one point, when MacCready has to set fire to a 'thing' on a table, the concoction of different liquids for the blood, and the material used to make the 'skin' of the puppet, when melted, created toxic fumes that filled the set. The special effects, though, took a back seat to the performances of it's all-male cast

Musicwise, Ennio Morricone was brought on board, and created one of the most minimalistic soundtracks ever. Just using a few notes at the right time, would give a feeling of dread at certain scenes. Carpenter, although uncredited, did some additional music, but it all adds to the suspense and fear the film has.

When the movie was released, it failed at the box office, mainly because it went head to head with another alien movie that Universal had also put out. But this one was a friendly alien who only wanted to go home. Not only that, but it also went up against another sci-fi movie. A little movie about androids who dream of electric sheep, and starred Harrison Ford. It did find it's audience on home video, though, along with Big Trouble in Little China four years later, and has gone on to be a cult movie, even having it's own fan site which covers everything about the movie.
Open wide, and say AAGGGGHHHH!!!

Another thing this film has, and is also used in Big Trouble..., is the ambiguous ending. When I first saw it, i thought 'Is that it?'. But, thinking about it, it's left open for interpretation by the viewer. *SPOILER (if you've not seen it!) Was any of them The Thing? Did they get rescued? Or do they just sit and die? In my view, I think it adds to the overall atmosphere of the movie as a whole. After enduring an hour and forty minutes of not knowing who is, or who isn't, the thing, you still don't know! There was two endings shot, though. One sees MacReady rescued, and has a blood test to show he was human, and another of the morning after, when another Thing, in the shape of another dog, looks at the aftermath of the last nights events, and runs off, but Carpenter didn't want to use them as its open for the viewer to interpret as they like.

I love this film. I think the effects holds up to the day, and is one of the better monster movies of the early 80's. Also check out the prequel, which shows you what happened at the Norwegian base, right before the events of The Thing. It leads into the original nicely, and is pretty good in it's own right.


  1. not sure The Thing got too much competition from Blade Runner which was also a flop theatrically. Probably more likely Star Trek 2 as well as ET.

  2. Apparently, it took less than BR, either that or I was lied too. The cads!! lol