31 Days of Hell: The Thing (1982) - Reviewed

With last year's release of the new Halloween film, which serves as a direct sequel to the 1978 slasher masterpiece of the same name, John Carpenter's name has been prevalent in the news again.  Of course, Carpenter did not direct the new Halloween film, although he did compose the score as well as serve as one of the Executive Producers.  While the original Halloween tops many horror lovers John Carpenter lists, there is one film that I love just a little bit more.  That film of course, is 1982's The Thing.  A remake of the 1951 film, The Thing From Another World, Carpenter's film stars Kurt Russell as a pilot stationed at a US research station in Antarctica along with 11 other men.  Terror ensues after a dog that the team takes in is revealed to be a mutating monster from another world.  

After 36 years, one of the most enduring qualities of The Thing is the atmosphere it creates, and how that atmosphere is used to create a sense of dread and paranoia.  With each passing minute, the research station, caught in the middle of a snowstorm seemingly grows smaller and smaller as terror weaves its way down every hall, and around every corner.  The alien that has infiltrated the camp can imitate virtually any living form, thereby creating a wave of distrust among the band of survivors.  Men who have been friends and colleagues for years are suddenly unable to trust each other.  The mounting fear that grows from this distrust causes them to act more desperately in their attempts to destroy the creature and make it out alive.  As you're watching this film, you can't help but ask yourself how you would react in this scenario.  What would win in the battle between logic and desperation?  

One of the more interesting aspects of The Thing is the prevalence of creature effects throughout the film.  Previous monster movies such as Jaws utilized the whole "let the audience imagine the monster instead of seeing it" technique (although with Jaws, that was an unintended happy accident as a result of mechanical issues).  The implication of horror is more terrifying than the horror itself, because apparently what the audience envisions is scarier than what any special effects team can conjure up.  By now, this technique has become one of the hallmark staples of horror filmmaking.  The Thing, however, leans totally in the opposite direction.  

Of course, there are a few moments here and there that use that technique of not knowing what's behind the door, so to speak; however, the film gives much more weight to showcasing it's incredible and horrifying creature effects.  This is one of those occasions where the film knows that they can create and showcase a monster more terrifying that anyone in the audience can imagine.  The title, The Thing is more fitting in this film than the 1951 version purely for the fact that it presents a monster that is so strange, visceral, and terrifying that there is no more appropriate description for it than "The Thing".  After all these years, I'm still hard pressed to find any movie monster more horrid than the globular shape shifting mass of teeth, blood, and slime that terrorizes Kurt Russell and company.  It's amazing that these effects still hold up today.  They're not cheesy or dated, or laughable.  The monster still looks just as hideously real as it did in 1982.

For me, The Thing is a perfect film.  Everything from the cast, to the production design, the music, the effects, the story, and so on is simply outstanding.  The basic set up of the film serves as a great microcosm for how society deals with fear.  It's not too much of a stretch to see the resemblance to the times we're living in today as our country grows more and more divided and individuals in both our private and public lives are revealed to be in contrast to who we thought they were.  Horror films have always been a reflection of our collective fears at the moment.  Some of the truly great ones however, can have an enduring commentary that is everlasting.

-Derek Miranda