Release date: June 25, 1982
Director: John Carpenter
Peter Maloney and
I love it so much when a film opens with an action scene, don't you? THE THING, John Carpenter's 1982 re-make of the 1951 Howard Hawks' classic (both are based on the John W. Campbell short story "Who Goes There?"), opens with a helicopter pursuing a pooch across the vast frozen wasteland of Antarctica. A man leans out of the helicopter and aims a sniper rifle at the dog. Now that's a perfect way to start a movie! Right away, you're drawn in. What the hell is going on?
Despite a lot of bullets and a even a few grenades, the dog makes it to a small American science base where the curious American residents have come outside to see observe what is going on. The helicopter lands but immediately explodes thanks to a poorly thrown grenade. The only survivor continues to shoot at the dog, injuring one the base residents in the process. Unable to speak with the insane gunman (who is screaming things in what turns out to be Norwegian), American base commander Garry (Donald Moffat) has to return fire, killing him.
The murderous rampage is attributed to cabin fever (not at all unusual at the very isolated bases near the South Pole) and the pooch is allowed to roam the base. Meanwhile Dr. Copper (Richard A. Dysart) and helicopter pilot MacCready (Kurt Russell) fly over to the Norwegian base to see if they can help.
Now if you have ever seen a horror movie then you know that something is going on with the dog. The film doesn't try to conceal this fact, if it had it would have been lame. Instead there are some great scenes where the dog gives a lot of the characters some intense, motionless and eerie stares that clearly imply intelligence (animatronics or just a well trained doggie? I don't know, but it looked good). MacCready and Copper return from the destroyed Norwegian base with evidence the Norwegian scientists had discovered something strange in the ice. Shortly after this things start to get interesting.
The special effects are amazing, graphic, gory, cool and apparently almost fatal for Rob Bottin (THE HOWLING, THE FOG, ROBOCOP, SE7EN). He did much of the special make-up work and lived on the set working seven days a week for over a year (now that is dedication). He was even hospitalized after filming due to exhaustion.
This Thing is part of the very well known formula of the "The Thing among us" plot. The alien in question can consume anything living and then take on it's form to perfect detail. When these isolated scientist's realize what's going on, they also find out that some of them may actually be an alien. Paranoia doesn't begin to describe the way they feel. This "alien among us" has been used in many other movies, but unlike most of the films that use it, here it is done to perfection.
It needs to be said, that if you saw The Thing on regular TV then you witnessed something very different from the theatrical version. The great and brilliant networks rearranged some scenes and added narration. Why would you add narration? Because the networks think that us people are dumbasses that must have everything explained to us. Did I mention that I Hate exposition?
There are some flaws. The way computers are portrayed made me cringe and showed a complete lack of understanding on Carpenter's part as to exactly how they work. Plus you just have to ask yourself, once you understood that THE THING was taking people over only when they were alone and no one was looking, why would you EVER leave anyone alone? Wouldn't you stay together constantly, thus never giving the Thing the opportunity to absorb anyone else?
But the film is still great and hopefully the prequel will be good aswell.
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