A great film, truly chilling and gruesome, a true work of horror with an element of sci-fi thriller thrown in! I remember this film from my youth, and watching it again recently I can confirmed that my knowledge of it (the dialogue, the great scenes, etc.) never really went away – it just lied dormant in my mind waiting to be reanimated.
From the minute the film starts events are in motion, all the way through it, right until the moment the credits roll. An alien parasite/monster has infected a living host and taken its body – wearing it like a shell or a mask and then taken it for a walk. It manages to get into a US run scientific station in the frozen wasteland of Antarctica. The American scientists are about to get cut off from society due to adverse weather condition – little do they know what is trapped in there with them. A shape shifting evil alien that can take on the form of its victims and shape-shift at will to take down it’s prey. It quickly turns from hunted to hunter as it tries to become the dominant entity in the research station in order to survive. The film primarily uses Kurt Russell as its vehicle and he puts in a stellar performance, but the entirety of the cast is brilliant. Stuck in a remote location with an unknown killer they all come across as authentic – it’s difficult being the brave one when the person next to you who looks like a friend could be a monster in disguise. The whole thing could have been avoided if only some of the American’s understood what he Norwegians were shouting at the start of the story!!
The strength of this film has been proven time and time again. During the year it was released it bombed by conventional Hollywood standards, people were more interested in “E.T.” and nicer films of the day. Fast forward ten years – this film has a massive cult following, and it was constantly growing too. Fast forward another ten years and yet more fans and followers love and adore this film. If film is art and all good artists are looking for their one masterpiece, then this cult film has to be John Carpenter’s masterpieces, or at least one of his best works. The chilling synth soundtrack works, it’s spooky and more so – with the film immersing the viewer in the action, its believable to think that this is the only musical score we have access to when locked away in the Antarctica.
“The Thing” is inspired by the 1938 John W Campbell novella “Who Goes There?”, which had already been loosely adapted for screen in “The Thing from Another Planet” (1951) before John Carpenter made his 1982 version. It was made with a budget of $15 million and grossed about $19.6 at the worldwide box-office. The tension of the visuals are brought to life beautifully by Ennio Morricone working in the musical department. Cinematography is credited to Dean Cundey, with Todd Ramsey working with Carpenter to edit the final film. There have been multiple versions and cuts to this film, which may be the reason why you have seen a different version to friends and family, but the average runtime of the Hollywood version is around 109 minutes. Initially the special effects department working under Rob Bottin were predicted to need a budget of $750k which they got this when the producers realized how many people Bottin had working with him. In order to stay on budget though, and not detract from the great effects and make-up, scenes were cut, another reason why the runtimes of this film varied from release to release. All sorts of film sacrifices were made to make sure that Carpenter’s vision was realized, as close to what it was originally planned as when he worked with some of the various people who came in (and in some instances also went out), including Richard Matheson, Nigel Kneale, Deric Washington and Bill Lancaster – who was eventually credited with the screenplay.
When I started writing this reviews I swore that I’d never give a ten out of ten because that would indicate perfection, and to my knowledge and beliefs there are always things that could be improved – with everything. This film however, pushes that belief to the limit. In its horror genre this scores damn high, when compared to films in other genre’s too – this still scores highly! I’m going to write 9 out of 10 – but then I’m going to have to run away and take some deep breaths as this pushed my rating rationale to the limit. It may even have broken me for today – Film fans, you cannot go wrong watching this classic masterpiece – it still stands tall nearly 40 years later!