Alright friends and neighbours, let’s dig into John Carpenter’s The Thing, shall we?
I adore this movie. The first time I ever watched it was with my father. I don’t remember how old I was (knowing my dad, younger than I should have been,) but I know that it blew my mind. Not just the special effects – which, to my mind, are far superior to most of the CG crap we see today – but the story. I may have mentioned I have a thing for tales of humanity crumbling in the face of paranoia and fear? This is just another log on the fire that fuels my dark, twisted psyche. The flick is just as much about this group of men turning on each other, not knowing who to trust and how to survive, as it is about an alien creature that kills, duplicates, and mimics other living creatures (Can you see why I usually watch this and Invasion around the same time?) It’s tense, it’s well-plotted, it’s simply well-done.
At a remote research station in the Antarctic, a group of scientists take in a poor dog that was being hunted by some crazy, suicidal Norwegians.
Led by Kurt Russell at his most bearded and dashing, they investigate the Norwegian camp and find nothing except the burnt ruins of the camp, the body of a man who committed suicide, oh and this thing:
While that probably should have given them pause, it totally doesn’t. They bring it home for testing. You know, as you do. That’s when shit starts to go bad – turns out the dog isn’t a dog, it’s an alien… Thing, a Thing that is now attacking the other dogs and assimilating them. Our intrepid researchers are now catching on that this Thing ain’t from around here and can apparently look like anything or anyone. The film now turns into a game of “Who Can We Trust?” as the men in the camp begin to turn on each other and suspect one another of secretly being the Thing. Tests are performed and people die and it’s all pretty awesome. And, Spoiler Alert! Once again we find ourselves watching a film with a less than happy ending. And once again, I LOVE IT.
The overwhelming sense of paranoia is palpable throughout the film. Not only has our cast of characters started to doubt each other and themselves, but so have we the viewer. You never really see when and how those that are infected become infected. So you’re never really sure who you can trust. The panic the men feel becomes infectious and the intensity of their situation spills out into the audience.
I also need to take a moment to explain my deep and abiding love for Rob Bottin at this moment.
Mr. Bottin was all of 22 when he was put in charge of the special makeup effects design and creation for The Thing. His entire life revolved around this flick for a year and he even managed to get himself hospitalized for exhaustion by the end of it. But all the time and effort was worth it because good GOD are the effects in this film stunning.
I mean, LOOK AT THOSE. ARE YOU KIDDING ME. That man, at 22(!) was responsible for every creepy, gross, eye-popping moment (sans the dog creature which was done by Stan Winston after Bottin got himself hospitalized) and for that, I love him.
Thoughts as I watched:
Done with an animation cell, a fish tank filled with smoke, and a plastic garbage bag lit on fire. WHAT UP SIMPLICITY.
* If anyone in that camp spoke Norwegian, all of this could have been avoided.
If that’s not a motivator to learn new languages I don’t know what is.
* Oh, hey there Milo from those early Saved by the Bells with Miss Bliss! Nice rollerskates!
* I. LOVE. MACREADY’S. HAT.
It really is a thing of beauty. I need one for my hat collection. Closer look!
If anyone bought me that hat, I’d marry them.
* The Norwegian suicide victim is so beautifully gruesome and awful.
HIS BLOOD FROZE DRIPPING OUT HIS VEINS. THAT IS FUCKED UP, GUYS. WELL PLAYED BOTTIN, WELL PLAYED.
* That dog is the best dog actor of all the dog actors. He is better than Wishbone, better than Eddie from Frasier, all of them. HE SCARES ME. The intelligence that seems to be radiating out of him, the way he watches people, the calculated way he moves, just his face!
I love dogs wholly and unconditionally but this one I’d make sleep outside. Away from others. Eesh.
* I just need to show this again so we can appreciate how fucked up and disgusting it is.
This is not something I want in the same general vicinity as me, let alone the same room. THAT IS NOT RIGHT, FELLAS. WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING AT IS NOT RIGHT. Alllllll your inner alarms should be blaring!
* THE DOG PEN SCENE. I HATE THIS MOTHER FUCKING SCENE MORE THAN ANYTHING. IT BREAKS MY HEART AND UPSETS THE SHIT OUT OF ME EVERY TIME I WATCH. THOSE POOR, POOR PUPPIES =(
That thing is pretty damn cool lookin’, though.
* Clark (played by Vada Sultenfuss’ uncle Phil) loves dogs. He loves them as much as I love them. His breakdown when they have to kill them is incredibly relatable for me.
I feel ya, Clark.
* Wilfred Brimley’s Blair is apparently some sort of super scientist genius man, because he pieces together in NO TIME that this is an organism that can imitate other life forms perfectly and that anyone who’d been alone with the dog was suspect. It seriously takes him like, an hour or two. He figures it out well before the sunrises at least. Why has he been banished to the south pole if he’s this smart? I want to know his back story.
* Blair tells them all this Thing can imitate other life forms and absorb them. Ok, fine – camp accepts that. MacReady tells them he think it’s an alien from outer space and suddenly it’s all totally unbelievable “voodoo bullshit”. Personally, I’d buy it was an alien before I’d buy it was native to our planet and just undiscovered in the frozen tundra of Antarctica.
Blair has got himself some pretty high tech gear down there at the south pole….
* Once the first member of the team is taken over, things really get interesting. I always try and figure out at what point each character gets infected and who is human and who is not and I can never figure it out. I think Blair is a Thing at this point? But maybe not. The only one I know for sure is this guy:
And he ain’t long for this world.
* I love Blair’s freak out in the comm room. He is raving mad at this point and while he makes a lot of good points about stopping the Thing from spreading, how the Thing doesn’t want to be a dog it wants to be a man, some of them are probably already infected, etc. I’m still not entirely sure if he’s infected and faking it, or really just paranoid to the point of madness. And that makes me paranoid.
NO ONE CAN BE TRUSTED, GUYS.
* Seriously, when do these people get infected?! I can never quite figure it out! Was Palmer the one the dog went to see in the beginning?? Or was it Norris?? Who sabotaged the blood? And how did they do it?! YOU GUYS THIS MOVIE MESSES WITH MY HEAD SO MUCH AND I LOVE IT SO MUCH BUT I WANT TO KNOW EXACTLY WHEN AND HOW THIS ALL CAME DOWN.
* I love that MacReady is ready to blow everyone up just to save his own hide. And, you know, to stop the Thing.
* OH GOOD GOD BLAIR ATTACKING GARRY IS THE WORST HOW DID HE DO THAT TO HIS FACE AAARRRRRGGGGHHHHHH
Favourite part/Scariest part:
They are one and the same – Norris’ heart attack. I love a lot of moments in this flick, but this? This has be my favourite.
It’s shocking, it’s gross, and it’s totally hilarious. It also always manages to make me jump. Yeah, the dog scene is fucked up and pretty terrifying, but it doesn’t scare me so much as upset me. Norris’ chest growing teeth and chomping on the poor doc’s arms?
Yeah, that scares me.
Did I mention how stellar I find these effects? This scene epitomizes that for me. The chest growing teeth, the creature rising up out of the chest, the head disconnecting, the head GROWING LEGS…
It is bananas. The whole thing, bananas. Also, that skittering little head with legs trying to evade MacReady makes me giggle.
Next favourite scene? The blood test.
(It’s long, but it’s worth every minute)
It’s a classic for a reason, folks.
Why I love it:
Once again, bleak, bleak ending dudes. Not quite as bleak as Invasion, at least in this case the human race isn’t necessarily doomed, but still. MacReady and Childs are the only survivors, left in the burnt out remains of their camp. They basically admit that they can’t trust each other, but neither of them are in any shape to DO anything about it. So they just lay there, either waiting for the other to attack them, or death to come. We never see which happens. I like to think they were both human and died saving our species from the Thing, though.
See? Who says I’m a pessimist!
Next we will be visiting one of my childhood favourites and an 80s cult classic I try to make everyone I know watch at least once – The Monster Squad!