Please welcome Rob Texter to the Universal Monsters Universe team. UMU’s Rob is a big horror/sci-fi fan and he loves John Carpenter. Last week the UMU team got together for a special screening of both The Thing (1982) and The Thing prequel (2011). We hope you enjoy this new weekly series that Rob we’ll be putting together entitled, “Sunday’s With…” and be sure to leave your comments below.
In this segment I will be spending every Sunday afternoon (until football season starts back up) revisiting a Universal horror or science fiction film and giving my overall thoughts on what makes a film a classic, a dud, or whatever it is in between. For these first few articles I am going to be focusing on my favorite horror/science fiction director, John Carpenter.
These are my Sundays with John Carpenter.
Release Date: June 25, 1982
Run Time: 109 minutes
Starring: Kurt Russell
Director: John Carpenter
Rob’s Score: 9 out of 10
“Somebody in this camp aint what they appear to be.” –MacReady
The Thing is the story of an American research team in Antarctica who are under siege by a parasitic alien life form. The thing systematically kills, absorbs, and replicates the members as it tries to hide itself among the ranks of the team. This brings about a primal sense of self preservation and paranoia for the team who have seen the thing transform and kill in front of their eyes. The main protagonist of the film is MacReady played by Kurt Russell. There are several classic scenes in this film including the test scene in which the remaining members develop a blood test to see which one of them is human. This film also contains an amazingly dark and divisive ending even for a John Carpenter film. The Thing is based on “Who goes there?” a novella by John W. Campbell Jr., and is a pseudo remake of the 1951 film The Thing From Another World. This is also the first of John Carpenter’s “apocalyptic trilogy”.
The Thing is a science fiction classic plain and simple. (It’s also a proud member of Universal’s horror library.) It did not open to much success but has since become a cult classic. Why is that? At the root of this film we see characters and how they deal with an overwhelming sense of paranoia. This is a feeling that all of us in some way can relate too. What if the people I am working with or friends with really aren’t who I think they are? Especially in this time of social and political uneasiness the feeling of who can I really trust is a strong sensation for most of us. In the film the paranoia inevitably leads to self-preservation, not only for the team members but for the thing itself. This in some way is another emotion we can relate too. With the recent wave of “zombie mania” most, if not all of us, have had – what we would do in a zombie apocalypse is now part of the conversation. Even though most of us think of ourselves as good people, we would have to do a lot of bad things in order to survive that situation. The Thing touched upon those feelings way before The Walking Dead. The question of doing right or good thing is thrown more or less out the window when we realize that our own lives are in danger. We see that in the film when MacReady is forced to kill another team member, who in fact was human, in order to protect his own life. Carpenter touches on these emotions in such a perfect way that we are forced to put ourselves in these characters shoes and ask ourselves what would we do, and how would we react?
From a film making point of view The Thing fires on all cylinders. The subtle score by Ennio Morricone sets the tones of the film from the get go, and provides the viewer with an immediate sense of dread. The location of the film adds to the uneasiness of the film, and the snow and isolation gives an uncomfortable and desperate feel. We can see these men are on their own and pretty much helpless before the thing is even introduced. I am a huge fan not only of John Carpenter but also Kurt Russell so having those names on the marquee already sold me! However the acting in this film is very strong, especially from Wilfred Brimley and Keith David. Visually the movie is stunning and the monsters created by Rob Bottin are both horrifying and disgusting; the dog monster created by Stan Winston is nightmare inducing, as well as one of the hardest scenes to watch in the whole film.
Finally we come to the ending of The Thing. Carpenter films usually have a dark conclusion but this was probably his most nihilistic and hopeless finish. There are many theories on what actually happens, and lord knows I have mine, but I would also love to hear some of yours, so please fire them at me in the comments below!
The Thing is a film that has depth and emotion, with themes that are still prevalent in today’s society. Fans still talk about the nuances of it and debate the climax. In essence The Thing is still on our minds 34 years after it originally came out and that is why I would consider it an undeniable classic, right up there with Universal’s best.
Now just imagine the Metaluna Mutant going up against The Thing!