The UKHS Ecstasy & Agony Showcase #11:
The Ecstasy of THE THING (1982)
The horror film I love the most is John Carpenter’s The Thing. It’s far in front of the others, just like Lewis Hamilton in his F1 Mercedes. It’s Carpenter’s dark masterpiece; a real classic. So why do I love it so much? And what does it mean to me as a movie lover?
The Thing is unique in so many ways, from Kurt Russell’s outstanding performance as MacReady, a wisecracking helicopter pilot who is part of a twelve man research team stationed at a remote Antarctic research station; to the sheer, palpable sense of paranoia that grips the camp as they try to work out just who hasn’t been inhabited by the intergalactic shapeshifter. Entering the station in the form of a dog, we, the audience, know from the start it’s not of this world – Carpenter shows us as much during the opening credits – but MacReady and the rest of the team don’t have a clue!
The thing that gets me most excited about, er, The Thing is the way that we are totally unaware of who is still human and who is now alien. Once we get to see the alien for the first time it’s a half-formed monstrosity that scares the crap out of us, but at the same time are eyes are glued to the screen wanting to see much more and know how far the Thing will go to survive. The special effects may have dated a little from the first time I saw this but it’s still outstanding to watch; the creature-effects artists Rob Bottin and Stan Winston have created are really cool and gut-wrenchingly horrifying. And they’re still better than most current CGI effects.
The film is a remake of Howard Hawks’ 1951 science fiction classic The Thing from Another World which remains faithful to the short story upon which both are based, John Campbell’s Who Goes There?.
I love the characters and each actor is superb in their roles. It’s a great cast, with the likes of Wilford Brimley, Keith David, Donald Moffat,David Clennon, Richard Masur and T.K. Carter. The atmosphere and setting is fantastic. My two favourite scenes from the movie are when Cooper attempts to revive Norris with a defibrillator. Norris is now The Thing and his chest opens up and becomes a pair of jaws ripping Cooper’s arms off. MacReady blasts the Thing with his flamethrower but the head of Norris detaches itself from his body and turns into a strange looking spider, which is oddly hilarious especially when the spider tries to escape and David Clennon as Palmer (with a bewildered look on his face) delivers the best line in the film, “You gotta be fuckin’ kidding.” The dialogue throughout the film is bloody awesome.
The other scene that gives me a real buzz is the blood testing scene with MacReady taking blood samples from all the surviving researchers in separate Petrie dishes and burning each one with a hot wire just to see who is still human and who is not! Another cracking line in the film comes from Gary (Donald Moffat) in this scene, he is tied up and tested last due to MacReady thinking he is the Thing but Gary turns out to still be human, shouting out while still tied up on his own, “I know you gentlemen have been through a lot, but when you find the time, I’d rather not spend the rest of this winter tied to this fucking couch!”
The Thing means so much to me as a movie lover because I am a huge Elvis Presley and Clint Eastwood fan. I know, wait a minute, you are all probably thinking what the hell does The Thing have to do with those two? Well, the film connects these two legends in so many ways, basically thanks to Elvis and Clint it’s the reason I first discovered this awesome film. Kurt Russell was the kid whom Elvis pays to kick him in the shins in It Happened at the World’s Fair. Kurt would later go on to play Elvis in Elvis. This 1979 tv movie which was directed by John Carpenter. In The Thing, Kurt Russell’s character is a loner, displaying the mannerisms of Eastwood.
I once read that on the set of Escape From New York, the presence of Lee Van Cleef inspired Kurt Russell to talk in a raspy voice just like Clint Eastwood in the Man With No Name trilogy. The soundtrack for the Man With No Name trilogy was done by Ennio Morricone who also did the haunting score for The Thing. So thanks to Elvis and Clint I became a fan of Kurt Russell and John Carpenter.
When I first watched The Thing with my Dad I remember it freaking me out a little, with it’s jaw-dropping frightening special effects. I was even looking at our pet dog, Sheba, a little different wondering if she was one of those things! Viewing the film today, it’s clear to see this is a well acted, horror, sci-fi action flick that has stood the test of time and become one of the best horror movies ever created that gets a big thumbs up from me!
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