Old Favourites: The Thing (1982)
I wouldn’t say I’m a massive fan of horror. I can, however, appreciate a good movie, and John Carpenters' The Thing (1982) is just enough of a spooky spectacle for me to enjoy the genre. In my eyes, modern horror films pale in comparison to their classical predecessors, with their reliance on cheap jump scares or endless reboots of dead franchises. Of course there are always exceptions, but for me classic horror reigns supreme. As a genre it stands the test of time; an iconic cornerstone in cinematic history and pop culture. Twentieth Century classic horror brings with it an era-defining grit, iconic mainstays like Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Evil Dead are still popular to this day. Current horror is cluttered with CGI spectacle whilst practical effects are left by the wayside, underappreciated. The Thing is one such horror that employs these practical effects within its storytelling, harnessing Lovecraftian elements which are known to be difficult to adapt.
The Thing depicts the tale of an American team at their remote Antarctic base, they suddenly become alarmed when a Norwegian from a neighbouring camp arrives at their base, shooting a dog. They gun down the man but soon come to realise he was not the real danger, as they are overwhelmed by an entity long forgotten to ice.
The Thing is a terrifying, Lovecraftian, investigation of the unknown. The film is set on a remote Antarctic base, with the shrill wind an unnerving constant throughout, reminding us of how alone these people are. It’s a freezing desolate white which drenches this movie in a spine-chilling atmosphere, creating the sense of paranoia and dread within the campmates. The opening shots encapsulate these themes perfectly, showing the camp as a speck amongst the all-encompassing blizzards of the Antarctic.
The Thing is an alien shapeshifter and serves as the primary antagonist, imitating the campmates forming the narrative to become as much of a visual body horror as a psychological one. The Thing is an exploration of gore and blood that uses the human body as a canvas. It’s within these scenes that the violent artistry of the practical effects are used to shocking results. Carpenter opts not to show The Thing in its entirety, instead showing shadowed fragments of blood-soaked organs, skulls, and severed limbs giving the viewer just enough to feel uneasy without revealing its true form. The Thing is so terrifyingly inconsistent in each scene its depicted, feeding into this fear of the unknown which is so prevalent in the film.
The experience becomes an enthralling challenge as you are roped into this guessing game of who is real. You become a part of this madness as MacReady (Kurt Russel) and his team survive and slowly uncover the mystery of The Thing. It’s a gory film and, to those who can get a little squeamish, you might not be able to stomach the nearly two hour run time. For those who enjoy a classic horror, and aren't afraid of a little blood and guts, I can’t recommend this film enough, just don’t be eating your dinner at the time.