Have you ever wished to see a horror movie so intense, it left you shaking in your boots? Have you ever looked for an alien movie that didn’t have a stereotypical gray man with black almond eyes abducting us humans? Are you looking for something truly fear inducing to show your friends this Halloween? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then John Carpenter’s 1982 film “The Thing” is the movie for you! However, be warned, this ‘Thing’ is not for the faint of heart, young moviegoer!
The movie takes place in a U.S. Research Station located in Antarctica. In the opening scene, a helicopter is seen firing at a Husky who is running toward the American Camp. The fleeing dog is able to make it into the camp with the shooter running close behind. When the main cast rushes out to investigate the situation, it is revealed the would be animal killer is actually a Norwegian scientist from a camp of his own not too far away. After a tense encounter with the enigmatic Norwegian, the main protagonist, R.J. Macready ( Played by Kurt Russell), aims to investigate the site the man is from. When he arrives, the Station is destroyed and reveals that the Norwegian team discovered an Alien organism frozen in the ice that can mimic other life forms, causing the main cast to turn on one another in an attempt to figure out who is ‘The Thing’.
Science behind the Scares
Unlike modern Horror titles such as “It,” “Annabelle: Creation,” or “Get Out,” “The Thing” relies on the paranoia of uncertainty. As the film goes on, the audience is unaware which character is the true monster, until the last minute when it strikes. This creates a wonderful sense of natural dread that can’t be captured through manufactured tricks such as “Jumpscares”. The setting is also key when creating a Horror film. If the conflict takes place in an urban area, it won’t be as interesting since the characters have plenty of options on the table. They’re close to civilization. Since this film occurs in Antarctica, the most isolated place on the planet, both the audience and the characters have their backs to the wall. Neither has many options or knows what to expect. This permeates tension in the film.
Another important aspect to any suspenseful movie is MUSIC. The score draws the audience in, allowing their minds to race as the protagonists of the film struggle against an unknown enemy. Without a strong score, movies in the Horror genre tend to lose their grip on those watching it, leaving them uninterested. Take a look at Jaws. Even though we hardly see the shark itself, the main theme of the movie is instantly recognizable to us and invokes a sense of terror that keeps us wanting more.
The final point that makes this film iconic is the effects. This movie can be very gory, grotesque, and revolting in some scenes. This is due to the fact that the creature attempts to copy other life forms which results in some frighteningly repulsive forms. These forms used no CGI, and were done practically using models, make-up, puppeteering, rubber, animatronics, and stop motion animation. The hard work put into these sculptures greatly added to the film since everything was REAL and keeps whoever is watching it engaged.
Releasing to audiences in the 1980’s, “The Thing” is curiously a remake of the 1951 film “The Thing From Another World”. However, rather than simply cashing in on a recognizable title, Carpenter and screenplay writer, Bill Lancaster, took the more difficult approach of creating an all new script with entirely different characters, and events that pulled from the original short story “Who Goes There?” made in the 1930’s. Carpenter also directed the Sci/fi Horror as well as creating the score. Apparently, this movie was a box office failure, earning only about $19 billion in the U.S.This is due to the fact that it’s competition was Steven Spielberg’s ET, which earned $359 billion at the box office. Despite this setback, “The Thing” still remains one of the most popular and well made Horror titles to this day.
John Carpenter’s “The Thing” proves to be an experience needed to be had by anyone who enjoys spooky, suspenseful movies. It revolutionized the industry with top of the line visual effects, and remains psychologically challenging, forcing the audience to think, cringe, and scream in terror along with it. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a scare this Halloween!
cover image is the movie poster for the movie “The Thing”