The Thing (1982) Review: Any”Thing” Could Be Some”Thing”

And this is where the most interesting dynamic of the film works its magic. Because the movie plays it slow, the paranoia sets in thick, and within time, every member of the team is second guessing one another. From the gruff, gun-toting MacReady (played by Kurt Russel) to the stern-but-dependable Garry (played by Donald Moffat), no one is to be trusted, and every suggestion to increase safety only leads to questioning. To make matters worse, they’re trapped smack dab in the middle of a frozen wasteland with no contact to the outside world. They could either take their chances with the harsh climate (where there are probably a bunch of polar bears looming about) or stick around and try to find out who’s who – that is, unless The Thing hasn’t managed to take on the form of the entire crew already.

The Thing (1982) - Garry Freaking Out

The Thing (1982) - Childs (Keith David) Freaking Out

“I just cannot believe any of this voodoo bullshit! – Childs

Now, we’ll get to the actual depiction of the Thing itself in a moment, but give that whole scenario time to sink in. Not only could the nameless parasite be hiding around any corner, but it can take on the appearance of anyone or any THING! Even your dear old grandmother cannot be trusted.

“Hello dearie, I baked you some cookies.”

“Hey grandma, quit assimilating me!”

“Put him back in, he’s not done yet.”

The Thing (1982) - Blood Testing

“I know I’m human. And if you were all these things, then you’d just attack me right now, so some of you are still human. This thing doesn’t want to show itself, it wants to hide inside an imitation. It’ll fight if it has to, but it’s vulnerable out in the open. If it takes us over, then it has no more enemies, nobody left to kill it. And then it’s won.” – MacReady

Just the paranoia fuel alone could lead to a decent movie being produced, without ever having to see the Thing’s true form. What gained this film its long-lasting notoriety, however, was the ingenious use of practical effects that were used to achieve a convincing depiction of this seething bio-mass. At first, the monster is kept relatively ambiguous – you know it’s not really a dog, but you can’t imagine exactly what it would look like. Upon the first full-frame glimpse you’re given of the creature’s true form, you’ll be absolutely certain why any other name besides “The Thing” would not do it justice.

The Thing (1982) - Screen Capture

Better yet, it never looks the same twice. Each time it is witnessed in all its malformed, gooey splendor, it looks genuinely terrifying, even if a bit dated. Nowadays, some could lambast a movie like this for its use of practical effects, but in my opinion, considering that the film is 30 years old, a lot of creative work was put into achieve some damned realistic results. Besides, with over-reliance on CGI, everything today is starting to look like Jar Jar Binks. To think that such a credibly frightening abomination could be the end-result of a bunch of guys slapping together a bunch of rubber and drenching it in slime is practicably unbelievable. It is in that respect that the film still remains relevant to this day.

And if you’re like me, you find stop-motion particularly unsettling anyway.

What was once a man’s head is now – THE THING!

But one small gripe I had with regards to the plot is that I was never really sure how anyone got infected in the first place, as it always seems to take place off-screen. After giving it some thought, you could say that this worked to the film’s advantage. On one hand, it makes the paranoia fuel just that much more threatening, and on the other, it makes the reveals and transformations all the more surprising. There is an unmitigated sense of suspense going on during the infamous blood test at the end of the second act. Every member of the crew is tested for assimilation, and the results are sure to make you jump.

The Thing (1982) - R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell) With Dynamites

All in all, it is by no means a masterpiece, but that’s not to say that it isn’t worth a watch. As a horror film with some admittedly impressive special effects, it still holds up against today’s less tangible movie monsters. If you’re planning to check out the prequel, then by all means, give The Thing a look. If not, hey, it’s still one of the downright creepiest movie monsters around, so try not to miss it. Even under the rigorous test of time, The Thing is and always will be genuinely spooky.


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