Showtime Monster Monday: The Thing

John Carpenter, a true master of horror, creates the perfect blend of dread and claustrophobia in his classic, The Thing. Kurt Russell stars in this ensemble horror epic as a researcher on an Antarctic base, trying to battle an alien that has the ability to disguise itself as any living thing.

Although there is a lot more dog murder than I would have preferred, the special effects, palpable tension, and examination of humanity present at the core of this film earns it its right in the horror canon. Still I am not going to lie, out of all the iconic and disturbing imagery throughout this film, the dog murder thing is definitely the worst. That might just be me.

The special effects really are a wonder in this film. Brutal and disturbing, they are advanced and impressive for any time period, never mind as early as 1982. I am a huge proponent for practical effects, and the over the top insanity of the ones used in this film make it a true feat for the genre. Carpenter got a lot of flack for the incredible gory imagery in this movie, and it is one of the most gory films I’ve ever seen. Still, the actual work it must have taken to make these effects reality must have been intense. I read that the leader of the special effects department, Rob Bottin, had to be hospitalized for exhaustion due to the heavy workload.

Besides being a technical marvel, this film is equally strong in plot. Based on the short story “Who Goes There?” written in 1938, the central story of the film follows the lengths humans will go to as suspicion begins to cloud judgment. Unsure of who the Thing could be at any moment, the natural paranoia that comes from such a situation is the central focus of the film. The gore is an additive measure, but one I don’t believe was wasted. The claustrophobia of being in a frozen wasteland and being hunted down by people (and dogs apparently) that you were once familiar with is a terrifying premise that Carpenter completely rolls with, amping it up even more with the insane effects choices he used.

This movie is legitimately gross, scary, campy, and iconic in all the right places. The score builds a perfect environment of dread and tension, and the cast’s performances, especially that of Kurt Russell is justly memorable. I’m usually pretty blasé about monster movies, because usually I am underwhelmed with the reveal of the monsters. They never live up to the hype surrounding the rest of the story they usually fit into. This is not one of those cases. The Thing is imaginative, changing, and genuinely inventive and dominates the film, rather than existenting as an accessory to its own narrative. The ambiguous ending is superb, dark, and will make you think long after the credits roll. The Thing is truly a horror classic.


Amy’s Recommendation: 9/10
(It would have been ten but just too much dog death Carpenter you heartless man)



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