Review: The Thing
One of the greatest remakes ever made, John Carpenter’s 1982 science-fiction horror is a tale of terror that sees Kurt Russell battle a shape-shifting alien.
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: Bill Lancaster
Starring: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David, Donald Moffat, Richard Masur, David Clennon, Charles Hallahan, Joel Polis, T.K. Carter, Richard Dysart, Thomas G. Waites
Released: 1982 / Genre: Science-fiction/Horror / Country: USA / IMDB
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When it comes to horror films, we each have our own specific blend of ingredients that we look out for. It could be that you prefer the film to be set at night, perhaps with a bit of fog to set the scene. Maybe you like your horror films to include fantastical, mythological beasts – you’d pick Hammer Horror classics over the Hostel series any day.
On the rare occasion that I do decide to watch a horror film – I am by no means an aficionado of horror – I choose films with one key element: suspense. I enjoy films with a Gothic element, where everything is not what it seems. Granted I may sleep with the light on for a few nights, but I’d much rather watch that than the Scream series of films or the Saw franchise. I enjoy the lure of castles, crypts and coffins rather than blood and gore.
That said the film I have chosen to review doesn’t fit within the Gothic. It doesn’t fit within the gore category though, either. However, it does fall into my most crucial element – suspense. Not even its title gives it away… Ladies and gentleman, I present to you my review on John Carpenter’s The Thing and the elements that I believe make it a fantastic horror film.
Set in the Antarctic, a group of scientists unknowingly invite a shape-shifting alien, which assumes the appearance of the people that it kills, into their research station.
Even in normal, alien-free conditions their situation is less than ideal: sub-freezing temperatures are an ever-present threat to their survival. To be caught outside for an hour or two would mean death, but to remain indoors where a hidden enemy lurks is less than ideal, too.
With a lack of communications and a lack of transport – one of the characters kills their sled dogs and destroys their helicopter and radio – their chances of escape are miniscule. As previously noted, to leave the research station for any amount of time would mean certain death anyway.
20% Psychological torment
While it is never revealed just what they were studying, the team are men of science, not psychologists or alien-hunters from Area 51. They cannot explain what the creature is any more than you or I could, and their minds would be just as susceptible to anxiety and fears as ours.
Not knowing whether someone is why they say they are is mental torture – how can you work it out? How can you be sure that your colleague is who they say they are?
Furthermore, it is not knowing whether you yourself have been taken over, too.
From a character’s point of view, this element is intertwined with the previous element, psychological torment. In one crucial scene, where MacReady (Kurt Russell) assumes control and tests each of the remaining scientists’ blood to check if they are human or alien, I can only imagine how hard and fast MacReady’s heart must have been going. Imagine what the remaining scientists would have been feeling, too. This scene is very reminiscent of the ‘calm before the storm’ scenario. When the creature is revealed, which is currently trying to ‘blend in’, all hell will surely break loose.
As the audience, I had no idea how was human and who was alien. The alien only needs a few seconds with its victim to assume their identity. This means that literally anyone from the team could have been taken over…
When we finally see the creature, or rather the cellular structure that the creature has formed from its victims, it is really rather gruesome. In my opinion, though, it is not its form that is particularly frightening but what it is capable of – as I’ve always said with Mystique from the X-Men franchise, the ability to change one’s appearance into somebody else is never going to be used for good is it?
I can only describe the creature as ‘WTF’ as it is never revealed what it is. Yes, it is alien and we did see the remains of an ancient spacecraft buried beneath the ice some distance from their research station but we still don’t know how it came to be there, how it came to be discovered or whether there could potentially be more…
This review is part of 31 Days of Horror: