Title: John Carpenter’s The Thing
Dir.: John Carpenter
Producer(s): David Foster, Lawrence Turman
Writer(s): Bill Lancaster (screenplay), Who Goes There (novel, by John W. Campbell Jr.)
Starring: Kurt Russell, A. Wilford Brimley, T. K. Carter, David Clennon, Keith David, Richard Dysart, Charles Hallahan, Peter Maloney, Richard Masur, Donald Moffat, Joel Polis, and Thomas G. Waites
The Thing is now a cult classic
The Thing was finally given its due.
Too bad it took so long to do so.
The Thing or John Carpenter’s The Thing, is a full on scifi gore fest set in seclusion in Antarctica. It’s about the scare factor, the monster and action and less about huge plot points. I mean, the summary is quite simple. Scientists are basically at the whim of an alien parasite that when attached to a host, all hell breaks loose. And the scarier part is that it can be anyone.
Who can you trust? Hell, could you trust yourself? I’m also having flashbacks to ST3 and this talk about a host. Poor Billy.
Carpenter has had some hits and misses but I was surprised by the negative impact the reviews were, especially from Roger Ebert. 2 and 1/2 stars which isn’t bad compared to like Hellraiser which got 1/2 star but looking back on this situation makes me go… ouch. Did the negative reviews have a bigger impact on the film? Possibly.
I think Carpenter had a way of presenting some interesting and impressive films prior to that; Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween, The Fog (personal favorite), Escape from New York and as much as he is great at building tension and mixing action and horror quite well, I can see how some people wouldn’t like The Thing, which is full on sci-fi and horror.
However, there are some great scenes and moments throughout the film (and techniques) that I’ve seen used in They Live and Christine.
The tense scenes where everyone is tied up together and forced to go through a process to see who is themselves and who is… a host and the montage is such a highlight that it could have been a short film right there. And of course, the transformation scenes, the monster gore special effects, I can see why Carpenter wanted to go crazy and have fun showing the monster versus in Halloween when you barely saw him (Myers).
There’s nothing wrong with stepping out and doing something different for a film and Carpenter, despite this, did feel depressed and in a bit of a funk by how the movie was initially received. I can only imagine that the one time, the one movie where he just did something different and it was panned. And then many decades later, you finally give the movie and Carpenter respect for it. I put Carpenter up there with genre/horror directors that are/were ahead of their time (Craven, Cronenberg, Nolan, Romero, Lambert, Argento just to name a few).
The Thing can be a mixed bag. It can divide on an audience. Some people don’t like it as much as Carpenter’s other films, and some think it’s one of his best, if not THE best over… Halloween.
Personal favorites are The Fog and They Live but The Thing is fun.
Watch it. And then watch The Thing from Another World (1951).