Thursday, October 9, 2014

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Thing (1982)

Based on John W. Campbell's novella Who Goes There?, The Thing is a science fiction horror film directed by John Carpenter and written by Bill Lancaster. Set in the frozen wastes of Antarctica, an American scientific expedition is suddenly interrupted by group of Norwegians chasing and shooting at a dog. After the Norwegians' helicopter explodes, the Americans take the dog into their camp.

However, this dog is more than meets the eye. Its actually an alien life-form that possesses the ability to absorb and replicate other creatures. Now the group must defeat the creature, but how do they know if their friends are still their friends and not something else?

The Thing is, without a doubt, one of the best horror films ever made. Although it might look like just another gore-fest at first glance, The Thing is filled to the brim with atmosphere, tension, and dread. Taking these three ingredients and mixing them together with great special effects and solid acting is a recipe for horrific success.

John Carpenter uses the isolated feeling of the setting to great effect. The characters are separated from the comforts of society, surrounded by a empty frozen wasteland. Because they can't receive help, the group has to rely on itself. However, this is hard to do when you can't trust the person beside you. The desperation and paranoia inherent to the situation creates the perfect atmosphere to foster true tension and dread.

The Thing is also known for its excellent use of practical effects. Almost every effect throughout the film is well done, bringing this alien monstrosity to life. Each form the Thing takes is grotesquely unique, allowing us to see remnants of the absorbed creature within the chaotic mess of flesh and blood, making it all the more horrifying. These are easily some of the best monster effects that I've ever seen.

The acting is also very solid. Kurt Russell is fantastic as the gruff R.J. MacReady. Even though we only get the occasional line about his past, Russell's performance really sells the character and makes his morose attitude believable. Keith David, Wilford Brimley, and Donald Moffat are great as well.

However, The Thing does have its faults. The biggest one is probably the fact that most of the characters (besides a small handful) are kind of forgettable and interchangeable. The actors give decent performances and the characters are likable, but they just don't leave a lasting impression. People remember MacReady and Childs, but not Palmer or Windows.

Luckily, The Thing's good qualities easily outweigh the bad ones. If you're looking for a horror film that's got great atmosphere, knows how to build tension properly, and tops it off with wonderful special effects, check out The Thing