-Review by Nic Brown-
I never realized that I was a huge John Carpenter fan until a few years ago. That’s when I was re-organizing my video/DVD collection and noticed something… I owned almost every movie John Carpenter had ever made, and they were among some of my favorite films. Looking at Carpenter’s body of work he has a number of classic films. In fact, his movie “Halloween” (1978) was the start of the “Slasher film” era of horror that was so predominant in the 1980’s horror scene. Among his best films though was his re-imagining of the 1951 classic “The Thing From Another World”.
Both the 1951 and 1982 versions of the film are based on a short story by John W. Campbell Jr. called “Who Goes There”. The films share the basic premise of the original story, researchers working in isolation in the artic circle confront an alien life form found frozen in the ice near the wreckage of a downed space craft. Unlike the original film, Carpenter’s work goes beyond the traditional sci-fi/horror staple of a monster picking off a group one by one. Carpenter takes the monster and makes it into one of us. The idea being that the creature can take over any living being (animal or human) and impersonate that being perfectly. Now the group must decide how to handle a monster that could be anyone of them.
The main character of the story is R. J. MacReady (Kurt Russell) the helicopter pilot for arctic research station #31. At first it seems like it is going to be a long and un-eventful winter for the team working at station 31, until a pair of Norwegians fly into the base trying desperately to kill a sled dog. The Norwegians are killed before they can explain what they were doing. As events unfold we learn that the two Norwegians were the last survivors of their group and that they had found something alien buried in the ice. The creature soon reveals itself. The sled dog from the Norwegian camp gruesomely transforms into a nightmarish creature that tries to absorb the other sled dogs in the kennel where it is housed. The creature is finally dispatched with a flame thrower (I didn’t know those were standard equipment in arctic research labs but ok…) however the group learns the Thing’s power to mimic any life form it can absorb, creating a perfect replica which allows it to hide and wait for the chance to absorb others. As the tag line for the film says: “man is the warmest place to hide”.
The air of
paranoia grows quickly as the team learns that anyone of them could
already be infected. The drama created by this tension makes the
film that much better and Carpenter uses this air of mistrust to its
fullest as the plot progresses. In addition to the psychological
terror, the film is also known for its extreme gore. In fact in many
countries outside of the
In 2002 the film even inspired a video game “sequel” which was one of the first “shooter games” to incorporate trust as a factor for game play. If you didn’t play right, the members of your team would stop trusting you and may even turn on you just as in the movie.
Rumor has it that there is either a remake or a sequel in the works. Let us hope that if this is the case that the film makers can do a better job with this John Carpenter classic than they did with the remake of “The Fog”. (Update- In 2011 "The Thing" a prequel to the 1982 film was released... review pending).
If you have not yet scene this horror classic, you owe it to yourself to check it out. Even people who do not normally like horror or science fiction often find they enjoy this film because of the strong reactions it can generate. If you are a fan of horror or sci-fi and haven’t seen “The Thing” then you don’t know what you are missing. I give this film a nine out of ten. Check it out!