The audacious Alaskan Malamute’s (Norwegian dogs) being chased through the snow-white Antarctic alps (shot on-location in Alaska and British Columbia) foreshadow the bravado necessary to survive as a character in this film. In the frost of 1982, a dozen investigators at a secluded Antarctic research post unearth an alien buried in the snow for over 100,000 years. The thawed, figure-shifting alien inflicts mayhem; creating horror with executions – one by one. It morphs and imitates the facade of its victims; organisms that replicate other lifeforms. This signals a crew of Researchers to investigate the mystery of this Sci-Fi/Horror by John Carpenter (They Live, Escape from New York). The films tempo has staying power, led by head researcher MacReady (Kurt Russell) who’s vigorously determined for the bottom line. The Thing has a doggedness; characters exhibit tenacity amid subzero temperatures suffering from dehydration and sleep deprivation – proving their indefatigability. John Carpenter’s fortitude is exhibited through his compositional framing, pacing and rhythm. The warrior he was and is, for directing a remarkable film. There is a classic subtlety to this picture; the mystery unravels with maturity and patience.
The enigmatic musical score by Ennio Morricone (Rampage, Cinema Paradiso) complements the film with a distinct coating of grave alarm; a necessary layer of inquisitiveness as scientific researchers unearth grotesque discoveries within the frozen continent of Antarctica. The ethereal composition of sight & sound transcends from silver-screen to soul, inhibiting your essence as the film invites audiences to anticipate a forthcoming revulsion. The accumulation of snow in Antarctica has caused dense ice; thick glacial deposits forcing the researchers to hunker down in chimney corners. Many scenes feel as if they’re drawing viewers inward; retreating into a skin jump with the scientists in subzero degrees as they engage in Chess, Ping-Pong, Poker and J&B Scotch-Whisky. Ennio Morricone’s score clasps hands with the snow-covered landscape and frigid air, leading to a climactic ‘whodunit’; reminiscent of The Hateful Eight (2015) -Tarantino’s snow blizzard 70mm film – musically composed by the maestro, Ennio Morricone.
Though The Thing was denounced by renowned critics upon its release in ’82, upon contemporary revisits and re-evaluation, it’s considered John Carpenter’s masterpiece. The film possesses a subdued, solemn temper. Prior to making this film, John Carpenter directed ‘The Shape’ of Michael Myers – a human – in Halloween (1978). The villainous horror of The Thing was elevated to grand levels; behemoths, colorfully radiating a glaze. Intimidation renews and lingers as audiences discern the beasts shapeshifting capabilities. The colossal freaks are not solitary; an everchanging metamorphosis. This special-effects design evolved from the xenomorph in Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), and houses an alternate shapeshifting offspring, simultaneously mutating into another demonic brute with rapidity of turnaround time. The extraterrestrial excretions are a ghastly depiction of multicolored emissions. Intestinal implosions of impregnated monsters are vividly portrayed with a glowing color gamut as they give birth to otherworldly creatures prepared to inflict rapid mayhem.
Ultimately, The Thing is a character study of researchers struggling with a growing psychotic disorder – paranoia. The intensely anxious obsessions derive from humanity’s last chance at survival. Since a small particle of ‘the thing’ can take over an organism, MacReady’s suspicion toward his researchers leads to blood transfusion; deciphering between who’s who – contaminated or purified. Though never discussed verbatim, The Thing is about the apocalypse. This notion is solidified in the ending: untrustworthy survivors; abandoned from a deceased world; swig Scotch Whisky and forfeit themselves to fortune or catastrophe. “Why don’t we just wait here for a little while…see what happens…” The apocalypse. John Carpenter is a gorehound; a master at Sci-Fi/Horror.
The Thing grossed $19,632,053 on a $15 Million budget (not including inflation adjustments). Though denounced by critics in 1982, the societal noise surrounding the film needed to dissipate in order to draw an accurate criticism of the film.
John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) is a masterpiece. It’s available for streaming On Demand in high-def.