10 Best Moments from The Thing

2. Defibrillator Scene

Panic in the base. MacReady is accused of being an imitation, threatening to blow up the camp if anything happens to him. Norris has been injured in the attack, his heart has stopped. They get him out of the way, onto the table, and get the defibrillator out. They try once. Nothing. Try again, the arms and pads go to Norris’s chest, but the chest is now a yawning set of gnashing teeth, clamping down on poor Copper’s hands, ripped away in bloody stumps. And then something erupts from Norris’ chest…

We’ve been so caught up in the MacReady issue, trying to work out if he’s the imitation or not, that we take our eye off the ball. And so, without any preparation, working on our lack of awareness of an upcoming scare, Carpenter springs his trap. From this explosion of gooey, gory horror, the head splits off, grows spider-like legs (additionally playing on our fear of spiders to make itself even more scary), and tries to scuttle off to safety. It can clone itself. It can strategise. Divide and conquer. This scene isn’t just brilliant for the effects and the shock and the horror, but for once again using its time to advance a psychological understanding of the threat we are facing. It is cunning, playing a game. Carnage working in multiple directions; pure Thing genius.

1. Blood Test

Many out there would have put the defibrillator scene at number 1, but what this scene has over that one is pure suspense. Pure tension.

Tied up to make sure any imitations can’t escape, one by one samples of the base members’ blood are collected in Petri dishes. Then a hot wire is applied to the blood. If anyone is an imitation, the blood will react on its own as a living organism, trying to survive. And so we go, one by one, minute after excruciating minute, testing and probing. Nothing… nothing… nothing… we believe we might have the wrong end of the stick… but oh boy were we to be proven wrong.

The blood test scene has everything that The Thing gives us. It has the dingy lighting of a base in the dead of the Antarctic night, with accusations being thrown left and right. It has the paranoia of not knowing who, if anyone, is human or alien imitation. It has the suspense of watching the test go on and on and on. It catches us off-guard with the lack of jump-scare build up, perfectly timed for maximum impact. And then we have an intense minute or two of horrific body-horror madness, terror, and fear.

Everything is contained within this single scene, a few minutes of pure dread the likes of which is so rarely captured on screen. That’s what makes the blood test the best moment from John Carpenter’s The Thing.

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What do you think of The Thing? Which moments do you consider to be this film’s most impactful? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to follow @thefilmagazine on Facebook and Twitter for more insightful movie lists.

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