I like when The Thing gets all dressed up in his parka for a night out.
Genre: Horror Mystery Horror Thriller
Starring: Kurt Russell (Escape from New York • Grindhouse), Wilford Brimley (Cocoon • Ewoks: The Battle for Endor)
Directed By: John Carpenter (They Live • Big Trouble in Little China)
Overview: After a crazed Norwegian attacks the American Antarctic Research Station, the science team learns that something sinister may lurk in the aeons-old ice.
Etymology: New Latin, from Greek, madness, from paranous demented
1 : a psychosis characterized by systematized delusions of persecution or grandeur usually without hallucinations
2 : a tendency on the part of an individual or group toward excessive or irrational suspiciousness and distrustfulness of others
And Hell yes, if nothing else, The Thing provides its audience with a present and ever-growing sense of hopeless isolation, fear and, above all things, paranoia.
We begin with a happy little Husky, running in the snow as synth music plays, heading to the American research station in Antarctica, chased by a big mean helicopter with grenades. The friendly dog hops up on an American scientist only to be shot at by a crazed Norwegian. The Americans defend their base from the Antarctic invaders and wisely investigate the Norwegian camp for clues to the madness. There they find evidence, not only of mutated humans, but potentially an invasive alien race.
A simple teaser, but The Thing is an intense and incredible film for several reasons. First of all, for all you gore fans, the monsters are freaky gross, intensely original and if I may quote myself, "'It's not CG, it's real effin' LATEX. For God's sake why can't the industry figure out that it's better!? Thirty years later and CG can't compete with this!" Roger Ebert was quoted saying that it was, "among the most elaborate, nauseating, and horrifying sights yet achieved by Hollywood’s new generation of visual magicians." The horror effects, in short, are truly horrendous. Now for those of you who are more the queasy sort, or who don't put much stock in the visual stuff to give you your thrills, I'll quote my Armenian guest who saw this for the first time, "the latex aliens were cool, but they didn't have to be because it wasn't a movie that had to rely on special FX as a crutch. The aliens could've been anything, they were just background to how the humans interacted with each other."
The second reason The Thing is the thing is the completely immersive mood that is set from the first act until the final shot. The script is written in a very logical fashion, and the question of the nature of the creature they're dealing with, as well as the nature of the humans it might be inhabiting, churns in one's stomach in such a way as to make the suspense genuinely off-putting. What sets The Thing apart is is how it so perfectly captured the intense paranoia that comes from being able to trust absolutely no one.
Now for those of you who think that John Carpenter just isn't your cup of tea, well I can concur that Dark Star, Vampires, Ghosts Of Mars and maybe even Escape from New York might not put a casual viewer on a solid footing for this one. Carpenter's not my favourite director either, but I can put my stamp of approval on The Thing as being his best work to date with the "Masters of Horror" short film Cigarette Burns coming a close second.
"And the set design 'Scene of the Week' goes to..."
Performance: 8 Cinematography: 9 Script: 8 Plot: 9 Mood: 10
Overall Rating: 88% (You Know, THAT Thing!)
The Thing is an stereotypical cult classic. It was released 2 weeks after E.T. and the same week as Blade Runner. It's suspected that this is the main reason it didn't do very well at box offices, but since video came to rear its accessible head, it's gotten the fame it deserved and today sits on IMDb's top 250, placed right near the middle of the bell curve of the 'bests' at 163. Its recent Blu-Ray release doesn't hurt either.