The Thing (John Carpenter, 1982, USA)

  While John Carpenter’s The Thing is now regarded as masterpiece, at the time of its release in 1982, the film was a critical and commercial flop. Roger Ebert, in a relatively more favorable review of the film, called it “just a geek show, a gross-out movie in which teenagers can dare one another to watch the screen.” Released shortly after the premiere of E.T. in the summer of 1982, the film offered a much more grim take on alien visitation. Many have theorized about the film’s negative initial reception, but certainly Carpenter’s relentlessly bleak tone didn’t help. The first film in Carpenter’s informal “apocalypse trilogy” along with Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth of Madness, The Thing is relentlessly bleak from start to finish.

    From the opening notes of Ennio Morricone’s minimalist score, Carpenter builds a sense of dread. The paranoia builds organically. Bill Lancaster’s script is based on Who Goes There?, a 1938 science fiction novella by John W. Campbell, Jr. Carpenter obviously drew inspiration from the first adaptation of this story, The Thing from Another World (1951). But Carpenter amps up the body horror and apocalyptic tone, bringing The Thing into Lovecraftian territory. 

The Lovecraftian territory is further enhanced by Rob Bottin’s incredible practical visual effects. Almost 40 years on, Bottin’s visual effects hold up, and they arguably represent the pinnacle of practical effects in the horror genre. Even more remarkable is the fact that Bottin was only 22 years old when he made the creature effects for The Thing. Certain scenes, 

including the blood test scene, are probably just as shocking now as they must have been upon the film’s initial release.

The Thing is largely untainted by a legacy of sequels (save for the 2011 prequel), leaving a great deal of mystery in the film. This makes The Thing very rewatchable - it is a true classic.



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