Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Thing (1982)

The Thing (1982)
The Thing (1982)

Genre: Sci-Fi / Horror
Director: John Carpenter
Starring:  Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David, Charles Hallahan
Duration: 109 min.
Rating: 9.1

Scientists in the Antarctic are confronted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of the people that it kills.

The LAMB Movie of the Month for June is The ThingJohn Carpenter's terrifying 1982 sci-fi horror remake of the 1951 film The Thing From Another World and based on the short story titled Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr.  

As one of the very first horror films I can remember seeing (sneaking up late at night to watch on TV after everyone had gone to bed) and the source of many a nightmare as a young child, The Thing holds a special place in my memories.  Despite owning the DVD for several years now, for one reason or another I've never gotten around to watching it as an adult, so I was excited to see it selected as Movie of the Month, as it was about time I got reacquainted with this 'old friend' and see if the years have changed my perception of it.

Warning there are spoilers ahead.

The first thing you notice is the chillingly effective pulsing bass line of the minimalistic electronic score, and its a surprise to see Ennio Morricone's name credited because it sounds so much like Carpenter's own work. 

The opening scene with the Norwegian helicopter crew trying to hunt down a sled dog, has some amazing cinematography with panoramic views of the barren Antarctic landscape which set up a lonely and uneasy atmosphere for the rest of the film.

The most impressive achievement is the remarkable make-up and creature effects by Rob Bottin.  I was afraid that these wouldn't age well and look cheesy like so many other 80s films, but the many hideous, gory, and disfigured incarnations of The Thing that haunted my sleep all those years ago, remain more frightening and believable than most of today's lame digital creations.  The paddle scene in particular is one of the most amazingly scary effects sequences ever filmed and in my opinion far outshines the chestbursting scene in Alien.

Even though the acting is a bit cliched and stereotypical for a genre film, with stock characters who often fail to convey the appropriate emotions convincingly.  The screenplay is actually quite intelligent and there is a well developed social and psychological tension throughout.  Culminating in the brilliant and intensely paranoia fueled, blood test scene that is guaranteed to make you jump when the monster is finally revealed.

The ending.  I had forgotten how it ended and now consider it the strongest part of the film.  With Kurt Russell resigned to his fate sitting in the snow and waiting for the cold to take him.  When Keith David suddenly shows up, it is a tense moment and their final conversation is filled with suspicion but there is no longer anything either of them can do.  I'm glad Carpenter did not resort to a happy ending nor was there any last minute surprise confrontation typical of horror films.  Just a return of the opening score, the two characters sharing one last drink, and a final shot of the outpost in flames.

The Thing remains a horror sci-fi classic that stands the test of time and arguably John Carpenter's best film.  I can't believe I waited so long to see it again.  I highly doubt it, but it will be interesting to see if the upcoming prequel can live up to even a fraction of this masterpiece.

The Thing (1982)

The Thing (1982)

The Thing (1982)

The Thing (1982)

The Thing (1982)

The Thing (1982)

The Thing (1982)

The Thing (1982)

See what the other Lambs had to say about The Thing:


Guy Movie Blogger said...

One of my all-time favorites! Very few movies (Alien comes to mind) can match the pure tension that Carpenter creates in this movie. I try to space out the viewings but whenever I watch it again, it's just as chilling and exciting. Great, great movie.

Tim B. said...

I haven't seen The Thing in awhile either... Might have to find a copy of it to enjoy.  Didn't know that Morricone scored it. Then again, when I watched it, I was to young to know who Morricone was.

moviesandsongs365 said...

I love plenty of movies from the 80s, just never fell in love with The Thing. I think "Big trouble in little china" trumps this one. But I realize for many it's a masterpiece of horror plus has nostalgic value as you say in your review, like Alien does in my case. You can't love em all ( :

Jason said...

Nice review. I had the pleasure of seeing this in a cinema recently and had the same reactions as you. I agree with nearly everything except the comment about the acting, I thought it was pitch-perfect for the sort of movie it was. I totally agree about it being John Carpenter's best film.

d_4 said...

9.1? This is one of the few movies from beastsinhumanskin that I actually got. Banacek totally convinced me, but I wouldn't have expected a 9.1. I have it... but I still haven't seen it, so I skipped over the spoilers. I guess I'll have to make time for it now. Woop.

d_4 said...

I felt that possibility, but then the review itself made it seem better than I expected, and I expected enough to want to see it. The comments are also helping quite a bit.

Hoi-Ming Ng said...

Well your mission statement came true. I watched this gem of a classic again after reading this.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Awesome!  Thanks for stopping by.

Andrew Buckle said...

One of my favourite horror films. I have been too busy to work on a review of this film for the LAMB, but I love it! One of the greatest endings in cinema. Great post. 

Jack L said...

Fantastic review.
As you've read my post, you know I loved this film. Really a masterpiece of it's specific genre. I'd rank it far above Alien.

I also think this prequel is one of the most useless prequels ever. We all know that all the Norwegians die anyway...

Adalmin said...

I watched this film and I was so torn about it. It SEEMED boring, but it inexplicably forced me to keep watching, and the ending was so perfectly twisted and unsettling.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Yeah I was actually surprised to see his name in the opening credits.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Thanks Jason, I just thought maybe there should have been a little more freaking out considering what was happening around them.  Especially the reaction to spider walking head.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Well just because you know the ending, doesn't mean that the journey there can't be a good one.  I just glad they decided on a prequel instead of a straight up remake.

exploitmister said...

All time classic. With some of the most memorable movies scenes ever filmed. Love it!

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