The Thing (1982) 4.89/5 (4)


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Rating: The Good – 89.3
Genre: Science Fiction, Horror
Duration: 109  mins
Director: John Carpenter
Stars: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David

Arguably the greatest creature feature of them all, John Carpenter’s isolation horror is an atmospheric ensemble piece about a group of scientists based in Antarctica whose research station becomes infiltrated by a shape shifting alien bent on killing all of them and assuming their form. Carpenter’s talent for creating a sense of detachment has always been unrivaled and he brings all those skills to bear here as he creates a taut and paranoid ambiance to complement the on-screen action.

There’s an ingeniously anarchic pulse to Carpenter’s conception of the creature and its biological and psychological make-up. The lack of consistency in how quickly it undergoes change, the wild and manic shapes and forms it adopts to achieve its immediate and longer term goals, the impenetrability of its motivations while taking on those varied forms. This essential unpredictability works together with Rob Bottin’s spellbinding special effects to create the kind of unique sense of foreboding all the truly great horrors are responsible for.

Speaking of Bottin’s now legendary effects, they were certainly revolutionary at the time but they haven’t really dated even after 30 years. Ennio Morricone’s score plays a big part in setting the film’s pace and it’s a glowing compliment to Carpenter that the great maestro adapted his style to that of other Carpenter scores. The acting is first rate throughout and while there are too many top actors on show to name, Kurt Russell deserves special mention as the grisly MacReady. Over the years, The Thing has become part of cinema legend and rightly so as there are few horrors so comprehensively well made.

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11 thoughts on “The Thing (1982)”

  1. My favorite JC movie and it wasn’t always. Halloween was my top JC entry for so long but upon repeated viewings it just became evident that this film was indeed Carpenter’s Citizen Kane for all the reasons you just mentioned. Especially the anarchic pulse you talked about and of course the great work by Cundey, Bottin and Morricone. Great review, D! Short and sweet and right to the darn point.

    1. Thanks Vic. Actually, I sometimes think the shorter reviews work better for the genuine classics because there’s not much left to say. Initially I wrote every film up as a short review and on the days when I’m not posting a new review I tend to expand on the shorter ones. I haven’t got around to The Thing yet but I might leave it alone for the reasons you mentioned. I do have a larger essay planned re: The Thing and its ending which I think is the most subtly clever ending in sci-fi horror history. That’s in the works. Incidentally, the other JC movie which comes closest to that ending is the much maligned (but naturally I like it) Village of the Damned. Village of the Damn Great Endings more like it:)

      1. Looking forward to that expanded essay on “The Thing!” VOTD is indeed much maligned. I find many things to like in even the most flawed and uneven JC movies but that ending in VOTD is indeed a good one. It expanded on the ending of Rilla’s film by having David and his Mother driving off in the night. That shot of David looking out of the window is epic. Oh and I liked JC’s score as well in that film.

  2. This is a classic horror film – real characters encountering something they don’t understand – the horror elements come from a tight plot and great direction…9/10!

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