The Thing opens with (well after the obligatory spaceship to Earth scene so the audience know this film is definitely going to be about aliens) a chase scene in which a Norwegian helicopter is trying to kill a husky. I don’t know if the gunman is just a bad shot or unlucky but the amount of shots he takes and misses is impressive. He also manages to miss blowing up the dog with a grenade, instead managing to blow up his helicopter and shoot a person in the leg – not very good. In contrast to the Norwegian’s terrible aim, he gets brought down by a bullet to the eye in a very tricky shot by the American scientific camp leader where the chase ends. The aforementioned American scientific camp is home to a twelve man team, most of whom are entirely forgettable.
Puzzled by the Norwegians bizarre actions, the helicopter pilot MacReady, played by Kurt Russell (Stargate, Grindhouse) leads an expedition to the Scandinavian base camp where they come across a gruesome scene – everyone is dead and there is a strange half-burnt corpse which they take back to the American base, which struck me as a very bad idea. When they arrive at base camp things go rapidly downhill when the stray dog devours the rest of their pack animals and it becomes clear that is isn’t a dog at all, rather some form of extra-terrestrial that subsumes and copies living creatures – including people. It is too late by now to know who is or isn’t human, anyone is a suspect. All they know is that they can’t let the alien escape from the frozen wasteland to civilisation or it will be the end of the world.
The Thing delivers the predictable to an incredibly high standard, which is only to be expected from horror master John Carpenter (Halloween, Ghosts of Mars). Indeed, the only thing missing is sex and nudity, there are zero female characters, which I guess wouldn’t fit well in a 1980’s expedition to Antarctica so I am willing to overlook it, equally it is set in the South Pole so it doesn’t leave much chance for bare skin. The Thing does however feature a screeching violin soundtrack, “found footage” and makes great use of the desolate location.
The paranoia of the team, who can they trust isn’t the alien apart from themselves and how they handle the pressure is well written and acted. The number of people on the base means that there are plenty of spare bodies for horrific death scenes whilst leaving enough survivors to drive the drama on. However, what The Thing does best in my opinion is the gore (I know it is good when my wife refuses to sit and watch it!). From the first alien-dog eating the rest of the dogs with its face peeling back like a deranged bloody flower through to the masses to tentacles fighting MacReady at the end via the head-spider combination it is amazing to think that it is all done without the help of computers and it came from someone’s brain. The Thing walks the line between sickening and comedic, staying just to the side of realism (as realistic as this implausible scenario is).
I thoroughly enjoyed The Thing to both horror fans and sci-fi fans.