Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Review: John Carpenter's "The Thing" Still a Great Thing

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 35 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982)
Running time: 109 minutes (1 hour, 49 minutes)
DIRECTOR: John Carpenter
WRITER: Bill Lancaster (based upon the story “Who Goes There” by John W. Campbell, Jr. writing as Don A. Stuart)
PRODUCER: David Foster and Lawrence Turman
EDITOR: Todd Ramsay


Starring: Kurt Russell, A. Wilford Brimley, T.K. Carter, David Clennon, Keith David, Richard A. Dysart, Charles Hallahan, Peter Maloney, Richard Masur, Donald Moffat, Joel Polis, and Thomas G. Waites

Considered a remake of Howard Hawk’s Cold War-era classic, The Thing from Another World, John Carpenter’s The Thing is actually an adaptation of a one of the early classic science fiction short stories by acclaimed science fiction editor and writer, John W. Campbell, Jr., (also the basis of Hawk’s film). Carpenter does pay homage to the Hawk’s film in a few scenes.

The film takes place in 1982 at an American research camp in Antarctica. After a violent encounter with two Norwegians from a nearby base camp, the Americans, led by MacReady (Kurt Russell), learn that the Norwegians had discovered an alien space craft buried in the Antarctic ice and an alien passenger lying frozen near the craft. When the Norwegians thawed the creature, they discovered that the thing was still alive. The creature can absorb and take on the identities of living creatures. Now, the creature is loose in the American base, and MacReady leads the human survivors in discovering who among them is still human and who is not. They must also destroy “the thing” before it reaches the mainland and the rest of humanity.

The Thing is a study in paranoia, and director John Carpenter helmed one of the truly great sci-fi horror films by getting the most of his collaborators, such as Rob Bottin, a then 22-year old special effects man, who created special makeup effects that are considered a benchmark in film history. Ennio Morricone’s score is an understated masterpiece that quietly increases in intensity as the film progresses and raises the tense mood tenfold.

Carpenter, of course, didn’t rely solely on Bottin’s incredible effects work. He used his talented cast of character actors to create three-dimensional players who make this horrible but exceedingly fantastic situation seem possible. Kurt Russell once again proved why he is a leading man with charisma and machismo in the mode of classic Hollywood leading men like John Wayne and Kirk Douglas. And no matter how many times I see this film, The Thing always proves itself to be great.

9 of 10

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