Can you imagine being trapped in the middle of Antarctica during a blizzard? [that’s like: colder than cold!] Even worse, can you imagine being trapped in Antarctica with your fellow workers in a facility; all while an alien creature has the ability to mimic your best friend, and you don’t know just what’s going on? That’s exactly what happens for Helicopter pilot J.R MacReady, who’s hellbent on finding out just what is going on around him..I mean, what can you do when you’re amongst an alien with the power to transform and take the appearance of anybody else is amongst them. Who is infected already, and who can be trusted? All those questions [and more] will be asked, in this edition of Weirdo’ween‘s movie: John Carpenter‘s The Thing.
The Thing takes place in the Antarctic in 1982, where it mainly focuses on a group of American scientists. We are given no introduction to their mission, but are thrust into their lives when a pair of [seemingly] crazy Norwegians appear out of nowhere at their base camp, chasing an escaped dog. The Norwegians are abruptly killed, and the dog finds its way into scientists’ base, which is when things really start to pick up. It soon becomes quite clear that this “dog” is actually a shape-shifting alien organism, which seems to take it upon itself to take the physical form of its victims! In other words, as it begins to eat the Americans, it also can imitate them so well, that the remaining humans cannot distinguish the difference between their friends and their new found enemies!
The pack of scientists, led by one J. R MacReady, [played brilliantly by Kurt Russell] begin to fight for their own survival, using only their remaining wits.. Of course, many questions start arising: If this Thing is among them, then how are they supposed to go about revealing it? Is there only one? Or how many Things are there? How can this Thing be killed? [Can it even be destroyed at all?]
Thankfully, the creature’s origins in the film are explained easily: Thirty thousand years ago a spacecraft crash landed on Earth, and was encased in the Antarctic ice. While The Thing tried to escape, it was quickly discovered [in the ice] by the Norwegians, who unknowingly accidentally released it from its natural icy prison. What makes this movie so good is it makes you ask questions as you continue watching such as: “How am I supposed to stay alive if any, if not all, of the crew is infected?” The Thing is extremely smart and calculating, forcing each decision the few remaining survivors one step closer to killing off the entire group. It plans for this, it hopes for this: and sadly – things really could have gone from bad to worse really fast. MacReady takes control of the situation with a no-nonsense attitude, but over the course of the film, even he can see the reality of the unfortunate situation; that eventually – this thing might actually come out on top.
But the absolute best thing about this movie [besides everything] is the visual effects. The creature design of The Thing is one of those great design masterpieces that manage to feel so real, it feels almost out of place. Like I said before, we actually get to see an alien life form in the shape of a dog physically attach to a human being and try to steal its form; the same thing also becomes a disembodied head sprout legs and crawl around the research station like a spider! I mean, yes; it’s gross, gut wrenching and certainly disturbing but The Thing itself is unlike any alien you have ever seen in a movie before.. and for that, it deserves all the credit.
Another thing that makes this movie such a great film is that The Thing actually provides little to no answers, leaving us to seek them for ourselves. Naturally, this infuriated many audiences when it was first released.. Viewers wanted closure, answers, and a sense of victory over the “monster.” Instead, Carpenter gave us a look at the state of humanity in 1982, leaving us with more questions than answers: Who won? Who was still human? Did it even matter anymore? How do we know we aren’t already living in a world composed of “things?” In my opinion, this makes the movie better, though at the same time, it also makes the movie feel depressing. Even in the last shot of the film, when Childs and MacReady are seen taking swigs of a bottle of whiskey during a wide shot of the camp in flames fire after “it’s all over”; both men just sit among the burning wreckage.. waiting for the flames to die down the winter weather to ultimately consume them.. it makes us wonder: could either [if not both] of these two men be The Thing? It’s a question that is still being talked about to this day, and the movie is over 30 years old!
If you consider yourself a horror fan, then you have to have seen The Thing by now, and if you haven’t; get on it. Seriously. It’s scary, it’s dark, and it can be fairly depressing; especially when you come to the conclusion that the ending might just not be as happy as you would hope. But it’s a masterpiece in it’s own right. Though, be aware: it’s not strictly horror, since it could also be considered a sci-fi film as well, but it’s just so good; it definitely one of those movies that deserves it’s praise! [even if it was a flop when it first released!]
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