Reed Alexander's Horror Review of John Carpenter's 'The Thing' (1982)
One of the All Time Greatest
What is it about this movie that makes it so perfect? I mean, let's be honest, John Carpenter wasn't exactly heading into the 80s with a background in horror gems. I mean, we are talking about the man who was responsible for Dark Star and The Fog. In fact, in his early years we would come to expect he'd be producing a lot more good-bad movies than timeless horror classics.
But then came The Thing. And you have to wonder, where the fuck did that come from? I mean, it's not anything like the 1951 black and white. John Carpenter saw that, took his own personal style, and made something of absolute genius.
You ask most horror fans and this one is going to be right up there for all-time favorites. For me, it's third from the top, right under Alien and Aliens. So, what is it that made this so damn good?
Acting. The acting was good for Hollywood. It wasn't quite Oscar material, but it wasn't your usual campy horror drivel. And there wasn't an actor who wasn't solid throughout the body of the movie. Without the believable acting, when the protagonists started turning on each other, it just wouldn't have worked. Everyone had their high anxiety on point, and that's got to be stressful as an actor.
Story/Plot. And SPOILERS!!! (And if you're a horror fan and haven't seen this movie, shame on you. Go watch it right now.) An alien parasite has the capacity to dissolve organic material and replicate it to NEAR PERFECT form. This means it could eat any of the characters become them, and use them to get close to the other characters and eat them too... that is just fucking bad-ass.
Set. The set was... what, four rooms and two fucking hallways? It was so damn cramped. It really carried over the feel of isolation through the screen. Outside is an arctic wasteland, inside is fucking cabin fever inducing grey walls and claustrophobic small rooms.
Atmosphere. The set was most of it, but this was coupled by the lighting and the visual effects. On set must have been cold, because you could see the actor’s breath. But it was the simple things. There were so many poorly defined dark corners. It was just fucking brilliant. But most importantly... The gripping, agonizing, sense of fucking paranoia. Jesus Christ, Carpenter tapped into something there. You just don't know who it is, who is going to be next. Every character crawling up the walls, wondering if they can kill it, all of it, before it eats and replicates them.
And that, my friends, is why this fucking movie is damn near perfect. I must have seen this movie hundreds of times and it will never get old for me. But it’s more than that to me. This movie, is the only movie, in my life, that ever really fucked me up. I mean really fucked me up. Never before and never since has a horror movie really gotten in my head. And it wasn’t one thing about it that got to me, it was everything. The idea that this thing could literally be anyone, the idea that it could infect you and take you over slowly with just a couple drops of blood, the fact that it isn’t pretty when it eats you. And then there’s this sense that if it ever got out that nothing could stop it as it would just spread exponentially.
Of course I’ve seen the prequel. It was also perfect. Maybe someday I’ll do a review on that but there’s little to say about it that I haven’t already said about this one.
A must watch.