A little over a year ago, I started this wonderful journey of writing about the things I love for this great site. My first piece was about one of my beloved favorites, The Thing. Not only does it combine my favorite director/actor combo in John Carpenter and Kurt Russell, but it provided audiences with a poignant look at society told through a tremendously scary premise. I think this film is almost more important today, then it was when it was released and for that reason I am taking us back to Outpost 31!
Release Date: June 25, 1982
Run Time: 109 minutes
Starring: Kurt Russell
Director: John Carpenter
“Somebody in this camp aint what they appear to be.” –MacReady
Synopsis: 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 amongst 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 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 that what we would do in a zombie apocalypse 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 the 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?
The importance of The Thing is found not just in the impact it had on film, but in the way it perfectly captured John Carpenters growing unease and unhappiness about the world around him. In my opinion it fits perfectly into today’s ever changing and hostile land scapeat we live in. Regardless of your political stance we can all agree that the tension in the air is palpable, and it is a time of stress. Looking back at The Thing (a film I re watch almost every other month) it seems it was tailored made to be released today. Carpenter act like fortune teller predicting the future with the themes that fill his movie. The most obvious connection to today is the overall theme of paranoia, not knowing who or what to believe or trust. In a time filled with contradicting reports and agendas being pushed around one really has to do the work and the research to even attempt to find the truth behind any story, if it can even be found at all. This whole process is taxing as the individual begins to feel hopeless or plain beaten down. That real life feeling is translated in the film with the constant fighting, bickering and eventual violence that erupts from the lack of or misinformation that was going around. Paranoia is a staple in today’s political and social climate as it was when the film was released in 82. In essence The Thing is a fictional take on the political world we live in and even more of the effects and divisiveness it has on the people involved.
Now let me step away from my soap box and get back to some fun, and that is the fan theories that surround this film. The climax of The Thing is one of the most disputed of any film. It lives in infamy in film lore.I am of course referencing the end with MacReady and Childs, and which one, if either was the Thing. One of the most famous fan theories running around was that MacReady has a shotgun just off camera that he reaches for as the film fades off. This can mean that MacReady is the Thing and with no survivors left he can freeze and wait to be found by another team,. On the flip side this could mean that MacReady has come to terms with his fate, dying in the elements, and wants to prevent the Thing (Childs) from survivng. Another interesting theory that was brought to my attention (shout out to my brother) was that the character who’s breathe is not visible in the end scene is The Thing. This is a great theory and if true would dictate that Childs is The Thing, as MacReady’s breathe is very visible the entire time. The final theory, that ties in with the shotgun theory, is that when MacReady and Childs are sitting in the snow laughing, Childs drinks from MacReady’s liquor bottle. The liquor bottle, which was seen as empty in a previous scene. That would mean that Childs was drinking gasoline, they were using the bottles as molotove cocktails. I personally enjoy this theory the best as it solidifies that Childs is The Thing and MacReady must now try to kill the Thing and save the world. Regardless of which if any of these theories is correct is irrelevant as every great ambigious ending has taught us and that is the film is what the viewer takes from it. These theories do however add to the fact that The Thing is a great movie, because it is still being speculated upon more than 30 years after it’s release!
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 The Thing a classic.