The Thing (1982) is one of the great horror films of the eighties that show that practical effects are way scarier than CG.
A Norwegian helicopter chases a dog through the Antarctic snow, a man fires at the dog as they fly. They end up at United States National Science Institute Station 4. A group of Americans meets the dog as the men in the helicopter land. One of the Norwegians accidentally blows up the helicopter and himself while the other fires his gun, injuring an American. As the Americans disperse and the Norwegian continues chasing the dog, Commander Garry shoots the second Norwegian. The Americans gather and discuss the strange events while the dog wanders the base.
In case you didn't notice in the last two reviews, I love this film. It didn't get very good reviews when it came out and I can guess why. Science fiction and horror have never been well respected critically and this film focuses more on horror than characterization. Where I think this film becomes great is its building of tension and use of special effects. There's also some very dark humor that gives us some levity as the situation gets grimmer. "I know you gentlemen have been through a lot, but when you find the time, I'd rather not spend the rest of this winter tied to this fucking couch!"
R.J. MacReady is not quite the mythic hero he is in Who Goes There? This MacReady is definitely tough and willing to do anything to stop the Thing. However, he isn't above suspicion or above going pretty insane over the course of the film. It is strange that he's just a helicopter pilot, but people seem to rely on him more than Commander Garry. It's stated that the trust him because he's the most level headed, but that is a bit weak.
Childs is the most obvious and memorable of the many characters. He is very aggressive and eager to accuse people of being the Thing. His hotheadedness gets him into some trouble, but definitely leads into the end.
There are several stand out crew members like Windows, Nauls, Garry, and Blair. Most of them play some role, but they aren't the focus of the story. Once again the madness is present and strikes at almost every character in the story.
The Thing is back to its shape adopting terror. John Carpenter shapes it into a nightmare of flesh, blood and tentacles. Even at the height of the terror, the Thing is still more terrifying when it is hidden and waiting behind the eyes of a man. This Thing also seems to have a sense of humor especially when it makes a mouth from a human stomach to bite people's hands off.
The dangers of Antarctica are back! Ultimately it is the elements that act as a limit, slowly cutting off access to places. Even getting to section of the camp is treacherous during the latter parts of the story. There is a bit of funky blue screening during the section with the alien crash though.
"We're not getting out of here alive, but neither is that Thing." That's about as hopeful as the end of the film gets. A dark end to a grim and creepy tale that beats out all the cliffhanger endings that have become so tired in the horror genre.
This is a masterwork of practical effects. They are disgusting and chilling, but render the mangled human and inhuman forms to great effect. There are some excessive scenes of gore and violence that can be found funny or terrifying. The ultimate breakdown of order without trust and the true fear of being alone is the greatest strength of this film. I recommend this film to fans of practical effects and horror, but be warned it can get quite disgusting.
Tomorrow I conclude this look at The Thing with the 2011 prequel of the same name.