The Thing
Dir: John Carpenter
Star: Kurt Russell, Keith David, Wilford Brimley, Donald Moffat
Cert / Year: 18 - R / 1982
Format: DVD R2

Life is interrupted on a small American Antarctic research base by some Norwegians in a helicopter desperately trying to kill a dog. Before they can explain themselves they are accidentally killed, but the dog lives. The Americans decide to investigate and send helicopter pilot MacReady (Kurt Russell) and the base doctor to the Norwegian base. They return from the now destroyed Norwegian base with a hideously deformed figure and evidence that the Norwegians had uncovered a spaceship and possibly something else. It soon becomes apart that the something else is an alien that can assume any form, like a man...or a dog. With the dog roaming the base all day the staff face a terrifying problem, who is human and who is a thing.

This is not really a sci-fi movie review, despite aliens and spaceships is this a horror film. It is also not a remake of the Howard Hawke's 1952 film "The Thing from Another Planet" although it is base upon the same story. The short story both films are based upon is called "Who Goes There" by John W. Campbell Jr. and told of a shape changing alien attacking a polar research base. The first film replaced the shape changing alien for the more conventional Frankenstein (man in rubber suit) based plant like alien. By returning to the original concept we are presented with an new concept. This alien doesn't want to kill you, or procreate with you, this alien wants to be you (Ok, so it kills you in the process).

The film is all about effects, it is a shock movie rather than a suspense horror. It is safe to say that at the time cinema had not seen a monster like this one, it was a real nightmare in all its bloody vicarial form. Achieved before CGI we have here a mechanical effect tour de force, these effects are of the highest possible quality. Created by model effects wizard Rob Bottin (all except one sequence produced by Stan Winston to Rob's designs) the monsters are horrifically gross, and are brilliant. It is a real credit that the effects still look excellent twenty years latter.

Along with the special effects we have the fantastic John Lloyd designed sets. Built in British Columbia during the summer and filmed in the winter when the snow had fallen, a genuine polar base had been created. The interiors filmed in L.A. on specially refrigerated sound stages are equally impressive, providing a labyrinth of claustrophobic rooms and narrow corridors. These added to brilliant use of lighting culminated in atmospheric scenes like the attack on the dogs, or the planting of explosives in the basement.

John Carpenter as usual works well with the effects and lighting to crank up the tension. The not knowing who is the thing and who is human is emphasised well, he uses every trick in the book to shift suspicion between the cast. There are many good scenes but the best has to be the blood test scene. This sees the base personnel testing each other to see who is thing one at a time in what in a scene where the tension reaches almost unbearable levels before a brilliant pay off.

The cast are a fine set of character actors. The only big name used is Kurt Russell, and this was intentional as it didn't give anything away by making it obvious who is the cannon fodder. Don't misunderstand me just because the actors are not we known doesn't mean that they were no good. Far from it the whole supporting give a creditable performance (by the way I guarantee you will have seen nearly all of these actors in other films, though you just may have not known who they were). No one actor is better than the others this is an example of a small number of actors cast perfectly for their roles.

OK cast, direction, and effects all top grade, what else. Well the script provides some interesting characters and some fine dialogue, but occasionally scenes are left unresolved and characters action are not logical and not explained. This is the films only fault and although not a major one it does seem occasionally the need to keep people guessing to who's who overrode some of the stories common sense. However back on the plus side we have a break from the normal John Carpenter score with an impressive fully orchestrated from Ennio Morricone, very atmospheric.

The Thing is a brilliant movie, it still is one of the best shock horror films ever made. Although at the time of its release it was overshadowed by ET and wasn't that successful, it became a massive video hit, and today in comparison it can be seen to be a far better film. In an era of Alien clones and barely glimpsed monsters, this was refreshingly original, with its monster right there on screen for all to see (whether you want to see it or not). If you like your horror horrible then look no further, the Thing is a classic.


Man is the warmest place to hide.


MacReady: Why don't we just wait here for a while... see what happens.

Childs: If I was an imitation, a perfect imitation, how would you know it was me?

Rating: 5 out of 5

Picture 2.35:1 A little grainy but it is pretty clean.
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 A stunning new Dolby 5.1 mix with some fantastic spatial effects. Trust me crank up the volume turn down the lights and this movie is now twice as scary.
Features An excellent 80 minute making of retrospective documentary. This is one of the most interesting documentaries I have watched and is worth it alone.
A very good (and this time relevant) Kurt Russell and John Carpenter commentary
Deleted scenes
Some cast photos
Production notes
Post production notes
Production design notes
A few story boards
Some conceptual art
Verdict Despite the dodgy scored menus this is a brilliant collectors edition. The new soundtrack is stunning and the extras are of top quality.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home