The Thing (1982)
As someone who is an avid admirer of John Carpenter as a director and a musician, and considering I hold his iconic 1978 'Halloween' as the movie that paved the way for me to go on this horror journey that has become a staple of who I am today, this next statement may come as quite a shock. I have only seen 'The Thing' once, and only fairly recently. Something about this film in his library of work never really appealed to me, and if I'm being perfectly honest with you, I'm not sure why that is. On paper everything about this movie suggests that it would cater to everything I love about cinema. With great casting, great practical effects, heavy Horror/Sci-fi influences and all orchestrated and scored by the masterful Carpenter. So, 43 years later, does this stand the test of time and deserves the love and dedication it receives from so many fans across the world?
It's worth noting that 'The Thing' is a remake of 1951's 'The Thing From Another World' directed by Cristian Nyby, which is an adaptation of the short story 'Who Goes There' by John W. Campbell Jr. And although Nyby is credited as director, many of the cast involved have gone on to say how it was actually producer Howard Hawks who took control of production, something Carpenter was more than aware of, claiming that Hawks is one of the biggest influences in his career - and that 'The Thing From Another World' genuinely scared him as a child and was a crucial part of his development as a film student. Knowing this makes it clear as to why he would go on to pay homage to it in 1978's 'Halloween', having it playing on one of the television sets in the background.
Not only is the filming location awe-inspiring but the set design that coincides with it are some of the best put to screen for this era. The rolling snowy landscapes that coincides with creation of the Antarctica Research facility, and more so the alien space craft in which MacReady later goes on to investigate is just truly mesmerising. Even just down to the finer details, such as the icicle formations inside the craft really emphasises the hash and desolate terrain in which this movie takes place. If ever there was an argument to be made as to why practical is always more impactful than green screen, this is it.
Frequent co-collaborator Dean Cundey once again flawlessly combines the beautiful landscape with his outstanding cinematography. Having worked with Carpenter prior to 'The Thing', on 'Halloween', 'The Fog', 'Escape from New York' and then once again after this on 'Big Trouble in Little China', it’s not hard to see how perfectly these two cinematic powerhouses blend their respected talents so well. It's always quite easy to spot a production that features Cundey's cinematography due to his insistence on moonlight blue lighting, something that is done here in the plenty and is a welcomed reminder for me of the golden era of cinema.
The practical effects are honestly mind blowing and is the benchmark of what is achievable without the use of CGI. 'The Thing' showcases some of the most iconic scenes across the horror genre to feature practical effects, such as, the shockingly grotesque dog kennel transformation scene, the incredibly tense blood testing scene and of course the timeless defibrillator scene. The effectiveness and lifelike ability practical effects artist Rob Bottin has when creating the puppetry and makeup effects for this production is without question some of the greatest work in this field that we have seen to date, not only groundbreaking upon its release, but still standing the test of time today.
One thing that stood out to me the most in terms of plot development, was the ever-increasing depiction of anxiety and paranoia, something that is perfectly displayed throughout this story. With each character slowly throughout the course of this film becoming increasingly unhinged and insane. Even as the story progresses and the characters we are introduced to begin to fall into the standard troupe roles that many horror films take, there is always a level of doubt in your mind throughout as to who could be the next to go at any moment. And although I have seen this premise done many times before, (more recently in 'The Faculty'), I don't think I have personally experienced a film that handles this idea with the same intensity and consistant unknowing as what Carpenter has achieved with this film... even once the credits roll.
Taking center stage is the now legendary character of R.J MacReady played by Kurt Russell. And for all that Russell has starred in over the years he will now and forever be know to me as that guy who played MacReady in 'The Thing'. Russell, along with the rest of the cast all provide outstanding portrayals of their characters, with the biggest standouts for me being Keith Davis as Childs, and Donald Moffat as Gary. It's clear that everyone involved in this production wanted to make this the best it could possibly be and that shows with every scene that goes by.
If I had to criticise this for anything, I would say I found there to be a heavy over use of the 'fade in and out' editing technique, but this is certainly nit-picking at its finest. Overall, 'The Thing' showcases the talents of everyone involved to the highest level, culminating in one of the greatest Sci-fi horrors brought to the big screen. If John Carpenter's 1978 'Halloween' didn't hold such a special place in my heart I think I would be hard pushed not to say that 'The Thing' is the biggest highlights of his expansive directorial catalogue. I shouldn't have gotten this far into my adult life without experiencing this masterpiece, and if like me you to are still yet to watch it, doing so is a decision you will not regret.