30 September 2010

Fin's Review: The Thing

It is amazing to think that John Carpenter could make The Thing and Halloween and then go on to release Ghosts Of Mars. However, that's the thing with Carpenter: when he's bad, he is really bad, but when he's good no one can touch him. The Thing is the ultimate example of his genius. With the strength of Carpenter's back catalogue it is difficult to pick his best film, but for me he reaches his peak with The Thing. My stepbrother showed me this film over a decade ago and alongside The Exorcist it is my favourite horror film. I fell in love with it all those years ago and in this instance there has been no 7-year itch; in all that time I have seen nothing to better it in my affections. The Thing contains outright terror, spine tingling tension, paranoia and humor combined with a unique setting, monster and truly ground-breaking special effects. It is an astonishing film.

It is perhaps ironic, as a guy who spends a lot of his time moaning about remakes, that my joint favourite horror film is itself a remake. The Thing From Another World was released in 1951 and is a truly appalling film. In the original film, the alien is a monster vegetable (no joke) somewhere between a carrot and a leek. Check it out - it's awful. However, a young John Carpenter loved the film when he saw it as child and thank goodness he did.

The Thing is a paranoid masterpiece and combination of the setting and the monster create a film where the tension never lets up. Much of the strength of the film comes from the eponymous 'thing'. Carpenter keeps the monster in the shadows throughout the film. The monster is an amorphous parasite which can absorb and and then mimic any form with which it comes into contact. We never see the actual original form of the monster, and instead we see a hideous mixture of various forms the creature has taken. The special effects of Rob Bottin are really disgusting but at the same time enthralling, and for my money the best special effects ever seen on screen.

No film can survive on special effects alone though, and although Michael Bay never got the memo that is as true now as it was when Carpenter made The Thing. Any film needs a great set up, a great story and a great cast to be truly memorable and The Thing has all of these aspects. The story, the actors and the setting all combine to create an atmosphere of paranoia, claustrophobia and terror. Setting the film in an Antarctic research station during the winter is an inspired decision. The constant darkness, howling wind and freezing cold not to mention the complete isolation of the station and the impossibility of any escape are, to use a cheap pun, chilling. The isolation of the location really emphasis the psychological pressure the eleven paranoid men are under.

The all male-cast give a great ensemble performance. The Thing contains some really strong character actors like Donald Moffat, Richard Masur and of course Snake Plissken himself, Kurt Russell. All of the men react in different ways to the deteriorating circumstances when they realise that the monster can take the form of any creature and that any one of the men could be the alien. The knowledge that any of them could be a merciless killer is emphasised by the clothes the men wear against the cold, masking their identity and potentially hiding a monster. It is at this point in the film that The Thing becomes the ultimate whodunnit and we feel as tense as the cast as they work against time to discover who can be trusted and who can't. The blood test scene has never been bettered - it is celluloid perfection.

This film is as close to perfection as it's possible to get. It is truly a masterpiece.


  1. Bet you can't wait for the prequel....

  2. I'm doing my best to pretend the prequel is not happening.

  3. I don't know why they are bothering with a prequel - they should just remake it again. The effects can be ramped up with the freshest CGI and I'm sure Michelle Rodriguez and Vin Diesel would put a new twist on the story.

    Enjoyed your review, might be your best yet.

  4. Cheers Al the special effects in the new film don't even bear thinking about they are going to be so shit


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