John Carpenter’s 1982 film The Thing, the second adaptation of J. W. Campbell’s 1938 novella “Who Goes There?”, is rightly regarded as one of the greatest science-fiction, and horror, films of all time.
Set in an Antarctic research base with a shape-shifting alien in their midst, it’s a masterpiece of suspense, paranoia, and terrifying practical effects (by Rob Bottin).
Despite not having the greatest reception upon its release (not helped by coming out within weeks of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, featuring a far friendlier alien) The Thing has gone on to become revered and respected in all spheres of filmmaking.
In this Movie List from The Film Magazine, we’re honouring The Thing’s 40th anniversary by taking a look at the best moments from John Carpenter’s undisputed classic. These are the 10 Best Moments from The Thing.
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10. “Well then we’re wrong!”
This is a small moment in the middle of the film (one that is overlooked by many) which sums up the paranoia and fracturing of the team.
With the group believing that MacReady (Kurt Russell) might be an alien imitation, they lock him outside. If he gets in, they’re to shoot him dead on sight. No chances are allowed to be taken, but conscience strikes as their pilot tries to get in out of the freezing cold.
“Childs! What if we’re wrong about him?”
“Well then we’re wrong!”
Morality is gone, trust has broken down, and it’s a case of protecting one’s self against any possibility. If you happen to murder an innocent man, well, that’s the price you pay for survival.
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9. Spaceship Discovery
When, at the film’s beginning, we see a spaceship hurtle towards the earth, followed by the iconic titles blazing across our screens (the titles themselves done by putting a fish-tank light behind cut-outs of the titles with black plastic bags over the words, then burning off the bags), we think we’ll get aliens right from the get-go. Instead, it takes a good chunk of time to rediscover the ship (so much so that we’ve almost forgotten about it) half-excavated from the ice, with a block extracted from nearby.
What an amazing moment it is.
The high angle truly captures the scale of it, the matte painting beautifully rendered, and we get a sense of the terror beginning to unfold. It really does strike a kind of ancient, primeval fear into your heart (despite the advanced technology), and whilst the matching scene from the other “Who Goes There?” adaptation The Thing from Another World (1951) might offer something slightly more wondrous (the scientists standing all around it), this moment is nonetheless one of John Carpenter’s best.