From the opening shot of the John Carpenter’s masterpiece science-fiction horror film, The Thing, I knew I was in for something different. After all, the first real thing we see is a UFO crash into the Earth before a great transition to the title card. Then immediately after, we cut into a helicopter chasing around a dog in the Antarctic, desperately trying to gun it down. The best part? This is only the beginning, and the story that follows is even grander and raises even more questions.
The story follows a group of American scientists, their encounter with an unknown alien creature that can imitate any organism it consumes, and their subsequent struggle to survive and eliminate “the Thing.” The acting is phenomenal from the entire cast . It genuinely feels like everyone is certain that they’re a “good” guy and everyone else is suspicious or corrupted by the alien creature. . Lighting and perspective are played around with a lot to amp up the feelings of paranoia. Furthermore, Kurt Russel as MacReady was captivating. He took charge of the scenes he was in, much like his character did during his movie. His serious reaction to a lot of the more imaginative scenes in the movie, really sell the impact and gravity of what’s going on.
However, what makes the movie truly mesmerizing and in turn, genuinely disturbing is attention to detail. From set design, to lighting you can tell a lot of the choices were done intentionally to seed additional doubt over the status of certain characters and to constantly cause the viewer to feel uncertain. The visual effects on display made me actually lean back in fear. The monster was disgusting and didn’t even feel out of place compared to special effects in movies today. I was shocked to see that this movie was actually almost forty years old. It’s aged phenomenally! There’s one scene in particular that I’ll go into more detail in the spoilers section, but after reading on how much work went into it, I appreciated how much more it actually scared me. This does come with a warning to my more squeamish friends- some of the visual scares are a bit bloody and there’s some really out there imagery, so be warned.
Put together- the elements of the movie present, at least in my opinion, a pretty bleak interpretation of human affairs and left me with a sense of nihilism. I can see why critics at the time weren’t huge fans. But despite, the seemingly bleak nature of the movie- it’s beautiful in it’s portrayal of the costs of survival and the things we’re willing to do in its name.
Unfortunately, I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise or horrors so the spoiler free thoughts end here.
TLDR: The Thing is bleak and ambiguous, leaving a lot up the viewer for interpretation. From the effects to the cast, the story will constantly keep you on edge, nervous, and paranoid, just like the characters.
Final Rating: 10/10. It’s good. Real good. Take the deep dive. I know I know. A 10 in the first 3 days? I promise- it’s well worth it.
Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!