The Thing (1982)
Directed by John Carpenter
Based on the novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell Jr.
Screenplay by Bill Lancaster
Starring: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David, Richard Masur, David Clennon, Donald Moffat
After a strange series of events, a group of men at a remote research base in Antarctica begin to realize that there is an enemy among them. Soon they realize that they’re being hunted by a shape-shifting creature that can take on the appearance of its victims.
This movie is based on the 1938 John W. Campbell novel, Who Goes There?. The story was adapted by Bill Lancaster (The Bad News Bears), and John Carpenter (Christine) directed the film. The cast of this one includes Kurt Russell (The Hateful Eight), Wilford Brimley (The Firm), Keith David (Coraline), Richard Masur (Heaven’s Gate), David Clennon (Gone Girl), and Donald Moffat (Clear and Present Danger).
This story is a fun twist on the science fiction / horror blend. The writing immediately brings the audience into an unfamiliar setting that isolates the world of the film. From there the characters are introduced through a series of short scenes that bring out the variety of personalities at play. These opening scenes soon give way to a series of rapidly escalating events that ramp up the intensity and the violence.
This one isn’t about jump scares as much as it’s about shock value. (There are still a few good scares though.) The dialogue is fine, but there are a few scenes that bring on some unintended laughs. There are also some really predictable aspects to the story. Still, after more than 30 years, this one holds up pretty well. It’s a fun and sometimes intense story with a really interesting premise.
When you have material like this there is always the risk that the acting will feel campy. This could have easily become a chance for someone to overdo it. (Think Bill Paxton in Aliens.) Fortunately, no one in the cast pushed things that far. The performances are all centered on the issues of trust and fear written into the script. Each of the actors mentioned above have good moments throughout the film. Perhaps the most surprising and entertaining performance in the film comes from Wilford Brimley. There really aren’t any bad performances in this one. The cast seemed to understand the material and make the most of it.
This one really holds up thanks to the visual effects and prop work. Throughout the movie there are some wild and entertaining sequences that bring the terror of the Thing to life. The use of color and lighting also help to keep the suspense intact. The camera work is solid, and the set design brings the setting a sense of authenticity. This one also benefits from music composed by the legendary Ennio Morricone (Django Unchained).
This is a consistently fun and sometimes shocking movie experience. Fans of Carpenter should make sure to see this one. I would also suggest this to people who aren’t fans. While I haven’t really enjoyed his films, this is the exception. There are good performances and an interesting story. It’s also nice to see something from more than three decades ago hold up so well. I give this one 3.2 out of 5 stars.