Story: 1982. Antarctica. Americans stationed at a research camp come under attack by an organism that can imitate any living thing perfectly.
The Film Itself: John Carpenter’s best film? I think so. “The Thing” is everything a sci-fi-horror film should be. Carpenter puts about a dozen or so men in a claustrophobic situation with something deadly that they don’t understand. You’re never sure just who is what and what is who. It’s makes me gag to think of how often this premise has been bungled before & after Carpenter tackled it, but here is “The Thing”: The Perfect Sci-Fi Horror Film.
Instead of setting us up with Your Hero-Who-Will-Obviously-Make-It and His Pack of Alien Fodder, Carpenter brings us a group of genuinely likeable guys. Almost each could be the likely survivor. You want each of them to make it, but you’re never, never, sure who is still human & who is “The Thing”. Why does this work? For one, a lot of credit must go to this cast in this film. Carpenter had an ensemble of truly excellent actors to work with. Their performances are believable & the actors obviously approached their roles seriously. While there are moderate amounts of humor in the film, none of the actors in “The Thing” resort to “campy” sci-fi or horror performances and this really helps maintain the tension throughout the film.
Amazingly this film really hasn’t aged a bit (ok, except for some obviously obsolete technology). Especially when it comes to the stunning special effects. I don’t want this review to turn into the typical “horror fanboy-hates-CG F/X review”, but seriously, with this movie, I got no choice: The special effects surpass anything you will ever see done with a computer. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that if this movie were remade today, the effects would be done with CG and they still wouldn’t look as real as Rob Bottin’s creatures. BOO-YA! Take one look at the scene where “The Thing” starts to imitate some dogs and tell me you disagree?
Some critics early on knocked “The Thing” for being similar to “Alien”. Well, the basic idea of an murderous alien is certainly there, but that’s about the only similarity. “Alien”, while also an excellent film in this genre is, more or less, a slasher film in outer space, “Jaws” on a space ship. “The Thing” is a lot more complicated than that. “The Thing” has more in common with a murder mystery than it does a slasher film. It’s about paranoia, claustrophobia, mis-trust & imitation dog meat.
Special Features: I can’t believe they fit it all on one disc! A very informative & entertaining commentary track with John Carpenter and Kurt Russell. Be sure to look for a commentary track on any film Carpenter did with Russell because they’re really worth listening to, this is no exception. A 83-minute documentary on the making of the film feature interviews with the cast, John Carpenter and Rob Bottin. Lots of publicity stills, trailers, deleted scenes and storyboards. Universal gives this often overlooked film from the 80’s the VIP treatment (are you listening Paramount?). – mike c.