The Thing (1982)
Director: John Carpenter
Screenwriter: Bill Lancaster
Starring: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David, T.K. Carter, David Clennon
John Carpenter’s The Thing is a suspense-riddled, snow-covered sci-fi horror and Kurt Russell is the fiery cherry on top of a perfectly-iced paranoia cake.
While a portion of 1982 cinemagoers were captivated by the relentlessly lovable E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Carpenter and screenwriter Bill Lancaster created an alien on the opposite end of the spectrum – and you wouldn’t want it to accompany you on a flying bike ride.
A group of American research scientists in Antarctica hear gunshots and leave their base to investigate. The shots are coming from a helicopter and are aimed at a defenceless sled dog, which the team take in – this was a big mistake.
The dog is an alien life form with the ability to replicate anything it gets its hands on, and it has already had a few days to make its way around the camp. The isolated scientists must work together to establish who is still human before it’s too late.
The Thing plays on its father film Thing From Another World (1951), and the common Cold War paranoia undertones of 50’s science fiction flicks definitely seeped through.
The research team embark on a cold war of their own, as the bright open vastness of the arctic, which at first looks wondrous, intensifies the feeling of isolation. As friends turn enemies, and logic leans to madness, the film makes you question everything. Who can you really trust?
With an unbearable burgeoning sense of dread on par with Ridely Scott’s Alien (1979), The Thing would make the master of suspense himself shudder and cower. But unlike Scott, Carpenter doesn’t revel in the build-up, instead attacking his victims with a full frontal assault of gore, gunge and ghastly convincing special effects.
A true auteur, Carpenter’s style of direction is immediately recognisable but unique. He grapples with every genre in a different way and The Thing is a true testament to how terrifying science fiction can be when moulded by the right hands.
This film is a compelling, satisfying watch from start to finish and will make you question everything you thought you knew about anxiety. Rest assured, after this film has absorbed you whole it will be difficult accept any imitations.