A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…aliens used to be a scary choice of horror movie villains be it Ripley’s Aliens from the series of movies of the same name or some of the amazing low-budget 80’s movies such as The Deadly Spawn or Night of the Creeps.
Sadly the over-use of aliens for comedy (Men In Black), emotional attachment (E.T) or action-packed drama (Independence Day) has dented the horror credentials of the once fearsome travellers from outer space.
In 1982, 2 years before I was even born, John Carpenter created the definitive alien horror movie that has never been matched let alone beaten.
Based on John W. Campbell Jr.’s novella Who Goes There? & loosely adapted from the 1951 sc-fi black & white movie The Thing From Another World, The Thing was a critical & commercial flop during its release but has become a cult classic & is now considered a masterpiece.
The Thing is set entirely in the Antarctic at 2 different scientific stations, 1 American & 1 Norwegian. The movie opens showing a helicopter pursing a dog across the frozen wastelands. For some reason the occupants are trying to shoot the dog. Eventually the dog finds its way to the American station & the helicopter lands nearby. One of the helicopter occupants accidently drops a grenade killing himself & the destroying the helicopter. The other shouts at the Americans in Norwegian before trying to kill the dog again with a rifle, he is then shot dead.
The Americans investigate the Norwegian station that the group came from & discover a scene of chaos & destruction. It appears the Norwegians found a crashed flying saucer in the ice & its occupant a short distance away. They dug it out & it appears to have thawed killing everyone at the station.
Back at the American station the new dog is put in the kennels with other dogs where it then metamorphosis’s into the Thing & sets about killing the dogs. The Americans intervene before it can escape & set fire to it. Investigations reveal that The Thing can perfectly imitate its host & should it escape into civilised world it would destroy everything.
Mistrust & paranoia run rampant amongst the group as no-one knows who could be The Thing….
Starring a young Kurt Russell, The Thing is no considered to be masterpiece of horror & it is one of my all-time favourite. The effects are amazing & no CGI was used, the make-up effects are amazing & extremely graphic, The Thing bursting out of a body in a fountain of blood guts & pus.
It still blows me away that effects used in the 1982 look better then CGI effects used today in modern horror (World War Z as an example of terrible effects).
Amongst all the graphic violence that erupts are some of the tensest moments in horror still to this day. The paranoia that runs rampant throughout the station creates scenes that border on uncomfortable…none more then the ‘blood-test’ scene. None of the these moments would have been much good if the acting hadn’t been up to scratch & thankfully the assembled cast do a great job.
Like a lot of Carpenters movies about this time special mention has to go to the music created. It’s foreboding & fits the constant threat perfectly. The Thing isn’t a movie that leaves you smiling & content with a happy ending; in fact it deliberately leaves you wondering what next. I love movies that take this risk & it is increasingly rare in modern horror to see a movie leave it up to the viewer.
When I read critical review of the movie back when it was released I have to smile, all the things they complain about are all reason why I love this movie, it is special & stands the test of the time. I watched it only 2 weeks ago & it was as great as always (33 years after release).
I’m such a fan-boy that you won’t hear me say a bad word about The Thing. For me it is the perfect horror movie combining tense moments with excellent build-up & graphic/visceral violence. A masterpiece…