The Thing (USA, 1982) - Color, Director(s): John Carpenter
MPAA Rating: R
Approx. 109 min.
Z-rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Cheese Factor: 1 stars out of 5
As I mentioned in my review of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, this is another film that plays off the idea of an alien creature that can imitate people and hide in plain sight. Rather than creating a double, however, this time we're dealing with a shapeshifting creature that assimilates other living beings and takes their form. John Carpenter's Sci-Fi monster masterpiece is actually a remake of The Thing From Another World and is a closer adaptation to the novella it was based on. Whenever I think about the pinnacle of practical monster effects, this is usually the first movie that comes to mind. Despite being 33 years old, the effects still hold up today and puts the 2011 remake/prequel to shame.
The story is simple. A group of people are trapped at an Antarctic research site with the aforementioned shapeshifting creature that can imitate any living being so perfectly, it can even fool a biologist. What really makes this movie work is the isolated setting and the paranoid atmosphere it creates. The research facility is removed from civilization and it's snowing outside, so they're limited to staying indoors mostly. With about a dozen people in the crew and a monster on the loose that can impersonate any one of them, it's impossible to trust anybody. The organism doesn't seem to have a control center in its body since random parts of it can split off and escape whenever it's in danger. Also, it can fully regenerate as long as some part of it survives. Unlike Body Snatchers though, this thing won't just silently replace you in your sleep. The assimilation process is gruesome, like watching two of those little plastic army men melt together in a microwave. Or like that guy at the end of RoboCop who gets melted by chemicals, only there's two of them and they're wrestling instead of getting splattered by a car. The things this alien does to flesh is enough to give Pinhead nightmares.
The Thing surprisingly didn't perform too well at the box offices, some speculate because of E.T.'s release a couple weeks earlier and Blade Runner opening the same day. The movie has since gained a cult following and has been given multiple comic book adaptations as well as a video game sequel. The game (released for PC, PlayStation 2, and Xbox) is a survival horror third-person shooter that maintains the paranoid atmosphere of the movie. As I mentioned before, there was a remake/prequel to this film in 2011 that Amalgamated Dynamics Inc. created unbelievably amazing animatronics and prosthetic makeup for but the studio decided to paint over with ugly CGI.
This pissed StudioADI off so much, they decided to crowdfund their own movie (Harbinger Down) that's a spiritual sequel to The Thing. Now, I've been accused of being some kind of practical effects purist before but I don't believe that's true. I do prefer practical effects but when CGI is used properly, you can't even tell it's there. I really don't mind good CGI but I'll take even the cheesiest practical effects over bad CGI any day. I wouldn't complain about the remake as much if the CGI didn't look so bad. I would also be a little more understanding if the practical effects underneath the CGI wasn't up to par but StudioADI did a fantastic job and it's a shame all their hard work went to waste.
|Remember kids, fire kills most aliens...|
Gore: Plenty. As I mentioned before, the assimilation process is a grotesque orgy of flesh and body parts. Like a Picasso painting come to life during a bad drug trip. Anyone who is overly squeamish might be turned off but if you're reading this blog, chances are you'll be fine.
Awesome: to the MAX! For me, the special effects are definitely the star of this film but I don't want to downplay the story either. Overall, I think this is a very well-balanced film that's surprisingly underrated. I always mention this to people who haven't seen it and I honestly cannot recommend it enough. John Carpenter considers this to be the first film in his Apocalypse Trilogy, followed by Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth of Madness. While the movies aren't connected, they each feature a potentially apocalyptic scenario. Rent all three movies and make a marathon out of it! Or throw this in with the Invasion of the Body Snatchers movies and have yourself an alien impostor movie marathon.