Wednesday, October 27, 2010

2010 Geek Fright Fest: The Thing

The Thing (1982)
Rated R (for violence and language)

Directed by John Carpenter

Kurt Russell
Wilford Brimley
Richard Masur
Charles Hallahan

John Carpenter's The Thing is loosely based on The Thing From Another World, a 1951 film directed by Howard Hawks, which was inspired by a short story called "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell, Jr. Carpenter followed the short story's plot more closely than his predecessor, updating it for the 1980s. The movie's box office showing was poor, but it has developed a cult following over the years and is a staple in most sci-fi and horror flick collections.

A research station in Antarctica is disrupted when a group of Norwegians attempt to kill a dog, shooting at it from a helicopter. The helicopter crashes and the research station's crew adopts the dog, adding it to the existing kennel of dogs. Things continue as normal until the crew finds the adopted stray dog has turned into an amorphous monster in the process of absorbing the rest of the dogs. They incinerate the Dog-Thing and the subsequent autopsy reveals that the dog was actually an alien being able to replicate its host. Slowly members of the crew are turned into things, and the remaining human crew is unsure who among them has been changed. This causes them to turn on each other, each man fighting for his own survival in an isolated, wintry world.

This film and Invasion of the Body Snatchers have many similarities. Of course, they are both alien flicks, but most importantly, they are about alien lifeforms that duplicate their human hosts. Because of this, both films deal with similar themes. The Thing's main themes are isolation and paranoia. Being stationed in Antarctica, the crew manning the research station were stuck, both in that location and with each other. Because the alien entity can replicate any life form, it is impossible to tell who is a "thing" and who isn't. This creates a paranoia among the still-human members of the crew, which is amplified by the isolation from other people and the claustrophobia created by the confines of the station.

Rob Bottin, the SFX artist for the film, produced amazing creature effects (before CGI!) for this flick. (The best one: The Norris-Thing) I'm not usually a gore fan, but the quality of these effects drew me in. I was lucky enough to find a documentary on special effects, Starz's Fantastic Flesh, that explained how many of the effects were done, and it made me want to watch the movie all over again. What was great about the creatures in this movie was that each individual piece and body part could develop into its own monster. It keeps you jumping, because if the whole creature isn't destroyed, even a leftover finger could grow legs and attack.

The movie has a great ensemble cast. Russell is an amazing action star, as always, and I loved seeing character actors like Wilford Brimley (Diabetes!) and Richard Masur. The sets are excellent and the music is so suspense building. This is one of my favorite films of all time and is a must-watch for sci-fi fans.

Fright Rating: 4 gasps out of a possible 5

There is lots of gore and gross-out scenes, but it is an amazingly done film. It may not be for the squeamish, but if you love sci-fi, put it on your Netflix queue immediately!


  1. This is such a freaking great review I'm going to watch this again right now! This movie was among some of the first horror films that really had me hooked (alongside the Hellraiser films, The Excorcist...) and I couldn't agree more in regards to the special effects. No CGI and this films freaks me out more than most made today! It is truly a great movie!

    Now the new one is coming out, and I have to say that the previews look pretty good! The special effects seem pretty decent without being too over the top, and they seemed to have maybe evolved the storyline just a pinch. I'll just go into thinking it's going to be terrible though, and maybe I'll come out pleasently surprised!

  2. Aww, thanks! I was totally against the new movie until I saw the trailer. It does look very similar to the original movie effects-wise and I like Mary Elizabeth Winstead, so I think I will end up seeing it (but totally agree about keeping the expectations low).


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