I was at my niece’s house recently, and during a conversation about my October plans for posting reviews about scary movies, her husband asked if I had seen The Thing. No, I had not, and we all promptly watched it together on their big screen TV.
The Thing is a John Carpenter film, a horror tour de force. It is rated R for strong graphic sci-fi/horror violence and gore, grisly images, language and some drug content. It was released in 1982. Kurt Russell is the most famous actor in the film.
A group of Americans and a group of Norwegians inhabit two separate research stations in Antarctica. As you can imagine, the terrain is an unforgiving landscape of snow, cold and ice.
The Norwegians have dug up something long buried in the earth during their archeological research. It appears to have driven them mad and destroyed them, as well as making some of their dogs crazy. The Americans are incredulous to find that all the Norwegians have died and their camp destroyed in a very gruesome manner.
Mayhem ensues as the thing that has escaped the Norwegian base is very much alive, and stalks the animals and humans in the Americans’ camp. Paranoia runs high as each member of the party questions if the other has been taken over by this alien thing. MacReady (Kurt Russell), a helicopter pilot, becomes the leader of the crew, taking charge when others seem unable to do so. Dr. Blair (Wilford Brimley) attempts to understand the thing from a scientific perspective, but the other men soon witness firsthand just what it is capable of doing. It doesn’t help that their isolation is so complete with communication to the outside world cut off. An alien life form buried in the frigid ice and snow of Antarctica for centuries is not something to be taken lightly. It makes any regular aliens from a UFO movie seem very, very tame.
The gore and horror is really something else. My sister, known for a very loud scream when startled, really let out a good high decibel shriek upon one particularly unsuspected and horrible scene. Actually, everyone in the room screamed, even the ones who had already seen the film.
You have to have a strong stomach for this kind of tale. If only you could fast forward through the horror and concentrate on the suspicions of the men and how they go about trying to eliminate the thing and save themselves, that would be preferable. The techniques they use to search out who the thing has taken over are really quite clever. That was good storytelling, showing the detective work they undertook to save themselves.
If you’re a die-hard horror film fan, this one’s for you. Otherwise watch one of the other films I’ve reviewed this month for lighter Halloween fare. That remake of John Carpenter’s The Fog would be a good place to start. Just some ghosts floating about, nothing like the sheer terror of The Thing.