Review: (4 / 5) The Thing is a 1982 sci-fi horror film directed by John Carpenter, produced by David Foster, and stars Kurt Russell. Overall, The Thing brought in strong ratings—with Rotten Tomatoes rating it 81%, and IMDb 8.2/10. The success didn’t come without strong criticism, with some critics describing it as disappointing, foolish, depressing, and over produced. The movie operated on a $15M budget, and only brought in $20M throughout the states. The lack of sales is said to be attributed to strong competition, from Blade Runner and E.T. the Extra Terrestrial that were released at the same time.
Carpenter gets things started with the American research crew stationed at an outpost in the Antartic coming under siege by a Norwegian Crew. Like all my reviews, I’m going to try to not give any spoilers, and instead provide a high overview of the plot. No time is wasted, as we get our first glimpse at the thing within the first fifteen minutes. To make things interesting—which I believe to be brilliant—the monster turns out to be something that assimilates itself to the host, taking away all evidence of its existence until its life is threatened.
Let me start by saying that from the outset, I knew who would be the one to save the day. Let’s face it, Kurt Russell is a badass, and his persona is nothing less in this flick. The Thing carries all the familiar tropes of a last man standing horror film: isolation, distrust, and ticking time-bomb. As cliché as much of this might be, it works. When I view a horror classic, I try to keep in mind how long ago it was made, and compare it to some of its contemporary films, give or take a few years.
Unlike some of Carpenter’s slasher films at the time, this adaptation to John W. Campbell, Jr’s novella, Who Goes There, is a step into his creative mind. We never get a sense of who’s the thing until that moment when it jumps out at you. I mentioned that the Carpenter sets the stage for a survivalist with use of isolation, but I have to admit, I was fooled for a while. While we do see death of the crew, it’s not as prevalent in the beginning, nor the middle for that matter. It was about two-thirds the way through that I realized that only a few of the twelve-man crew were dead. Not to worry though, because shortly after that they dropped like flies.
So what doesn’t work in the film? Not a lot if I’m being honest. We do get glimpses of the first person affect Carpenter is known for—personally I could do without it. I did think some of the gore was corny, specifically when the monster bursts out of bodies to eat someone—but the creative design of the beast was cool. We do get a red-herring when Russell’s jacket is found shred to pieces. I never suspected him to be the killer, so that was a #FAIL. Considering the film is set in the Antarctic, the whodunit could have been a polar bear, only to uncover the real killer later. Then again they did use a sled dog, so who knows.
Overall I enjoyed The Thing and scored it similar to its rating today, my wife on the other hand gives it a 2.0. It’s enough to peak my interest and watch the 2011 prequel directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.