The Thing

How awesome is it that a movie can be simply titled The Thing, only because that’s the best description of the monster that stars in it? This is one of my favorite movies of all times. I realize it may not have fared well with critics, but it was just plain fun to watch. Besides the Kurt Russell factor (I mean, what else do you need besides Kurt Russell skulking around feathered hair wings and a blow torch?), the special effects were impressive. Now, thirty years later, I still find them just as awe inspiring.

The doctor squishing around the innards of the creature they found in his gloved hands was quite gory, even by today’s standards. And the scene where the head detached showed inner body mechanics bursting and oozing terrible colored bodily fluids. The dog thing coming from the body of the creature, as just bones covered in blood and muscle was pretty detailed.

The movie was just full of scenes that just cannot be forgotten. How many times do you see a head detach itself from a body and slither across the floor, only to sprout legs and funny antennae? And to see blood jump up from a Petri dish and scatter across the floor is classic. Most laugh inducing was the scene when Palmer begins to change into the creature and huge Keith David and seasoned Donald Moffat are screaming like babies because they’re tied to chairs with him. I didn’t blame them for being afraid, but the scene played out as if from a comedy. Then the melee dies down and Donald Moffat calmly states, “I know you gentleman 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!” Classic!

We return to a setting many horror stories visit: icy isolation. The men were based in Antarctica, where there is nothing but snow and ice. Their nearest neighbors are a helicopter ride away. The opening of the movie is gripping, with men in a helicopter shooting at a dog and managing to miss it every time. If that isn’t intriguing enough, one of the men leaps from the aircraft to chase the dog into the researcher’s camp. Still, he manages to miss the dog. When pressed for explanation, the language barrier between him and the researchers provides an excellent moment of tension that results in the shooter being taken down by Donald Moffat.

This backdrop is quite believable, and works well to bring the enemy into the camp, disguised as a simple dog. The researchers already have dogs that look just like the one that escaped the bullets, so it isn’t suspect. The scene that allowed the audience to know what the crew didn’t figure out until minutes later was the fact that just because the creature looked like a dog didn’t mean it really was. When put into the enclosure with other dogs, it stood out. It didn’t seem to really know how to behave like a dog. It sat up in the middle of the fencing, stiffly, watching the other canines, seeming to study them to see what it was supposed to act like. But then the creature escaped and all hell broke loose.

I admit to being an inquisitive person, but I’ve never been so to the point that I would bring a frozen life form into my home to study it. But maybe that’s why I’m a writer and not a scientist. The scientists found a bleak scene at the Norwegian camp, and even blood. Most eerily, they found a frozen being that looked like a man but not. And they brought it into their camp to study it. I don’t think that camp was secure enough to allow for that, but the action brought the enemy even closer to the humans.

Once they figured out the creature could copy any life form convincingly, the tension built to dangerous levels. Everyone was suspect, and the brightest of the lot went insane after he did calculations to see how long it would take for the species to take over the entire earth. The suicide mission the men then went on to make sure that the creature did not get re-frozen to wake up later and get out of the camp and into the rest of the world was admirable, and probably all they really could do. Because of their isolation and the weather, they couldn’t just kill it and expect to walk away.

Works Cited

The Thing. Dir. John Carpenter. Perf. Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, T.K.Carter, David

Clennon, Keith David, Richard Dysart, Charles Hallahan, Peter Maloney, Richard

Masur, Donald Moffat, Joel Polis, Thomas G. Waites, Norbert Weisser, Larry J. Franco,

and Nate Irwin. Universal Pictures, 1982. Film.

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About rjjoseph

I am a Texas based writer who must produce words to exorcise the voices that will never quiet until I give them their due.
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4 Responses to The Thing

  1. J.L. Benet says:

    I think a big part of the gore was the Foley effects. Close your eyes and listen to the scene when Brimley’s character is pulling the guts out. The sound alone makes you want to retch.

    The inquisitive nature of the men is something that wouldn’t be inherent in this version, as you said you wouldn’t have the inclination to take home the block of ice. I think that the original movie having it be a group of scientist who go to find and study the thing make it more realistic in that regard. I actually don’t know why they chose not to have more scientists in this version, as that’s pretty much the entire population of Antarctica. The make-up of the characters seemed more like a small Navy vessel than a research station.

    • rjjoseph says:

      You are absolutely right. These scenes seemed to jump from the screen, and I just knew if I waited long enough I would be able to feel the body juices splashing on me, smell the heated insides of the bodies and taste the fear that was so palpable on the screen.

  2. Strawman says:

    You pointed out some of the best scenes in any movie: the characters tied to the bench and the head sprouting spider legs. Awesome. I really enjoyed the movie and thought Carpenter gave us some really memorable cinematic moments. The dog scene was a tad strange, but only a tad. If a helicopter came around hunting a dog, I might suspect the dog being dangerous, possibly infected or something. I don’t think I’d have it sitting under my dinner table a little while later.

    • rjjoseph says:

      The dog scene was crazy. It could have had something as simple as an outbreak of fleas, and it should have been quarantined. Not to mention that it might be seriously infected. As it was.

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