It is time for the second entry in my year-long series in which I revisit some of the most classic films to be released 30 years ago in the year 1982 (the year of my birth).
Since February is typically the coldest month of the year (though apparently that’s not the case this year in Toronto), I thought that I would make this month’s film John Carpenter’s icy cold sci-fi/horror film The Thing. As always, I may go into SPOILER territory in my discussion, so proceed with caution.
As you may know, The Thing is a remake of the 1951 film The Thing from Outer Space. In addition, last fall saw the release of new film that was meant as a prequel, but could also be viewed as a remake (a “requel” if you will). One thing that the new film does, is that it recreates the opening sequence of John Carpenter’s film, during the closing credits, to act as a bridge between the two. It actually did quite a good job, expect that the Norwegian characters were somewhat dressed differently in this film (you can’t be perfect).
The Thing is notable for the fact that the cast is entirely male, with the only female presence being the voice of a computer chess program. I don’t know if John Carpenter did this on purpose or if it was just a sign of the times (for the record, the new film features two feature characters, including the lead).
One of the interesting things about the horror in this film, is that, even though there are plenty of gory scenes in the film, much of the film is based on the paranoia about who was taken over by “The Thing.” Kurt Russell’s R.J. MacReady is technically the main protagonist of the film, however even he could have been taken over at some point.
Other than the alien itself, the main villain role goes to Dr. Blair (Wilford Brimley), who eventually turns into the “Super Thing” seen in the film’s climax. He figures out how dangerous The Thing could be if it leaves the base, which results in Blair going crazy and getting locked in a shed. This is actually where things get interesting. We return to the shed on two occasions: One in which Blair has seemingly recovered and asks to return to the base and the other where he has gone missing. In both scenes, there is a noose just inconspicuously hanging in the shack and the characters don’t bother to say a word about it. It can easily be assumed that Blair was attempting to commit suicide when he was taken over by The Thing. It’s still odd that no one found it unusual that the noose was hanging there.
I have to speak about the creature effects, which are just awesome. Being made in the 1980s, the film uses mostly stop-motion and animatronics for The Thing. I believe that using these methods makes the creature seem so much more real, unlike the CGI that is used a little bit too much these days (including the new film).
By the end of the film, there are only two survivors left on the base – MacReady and Childs (Keith David). While neither have trusted each other for the entire film, they end up resigned to the fact that all hope has gone for them and they just sit there sharing a drink. While we are lead to assume that The Thing was destroyed when MacReady blew up Blair as the Super Thing, either MacReady or Childs could have been taken over at any point in the them. As such, we are left with an ambiguous ending that leaves us wondering what happens to the two.
Next month, I will be watching Blade Runner, which will be the first film in the series that I will be watching for the very first time.