Spoilers would’ve taken their chances with the cold.
I didn’t realize I had begun a John Carpenter series. Now I feel like I should really rewrite my reviews for Escape From New York (1981) and In The Mouth of Madness (1992). And yes, my estimation for Escape has grown a lot since then, hence I’ve updated my recommendation for it. On the other hand, picture John Carpenter at the helm, Ennio Morricone doing the music and Rob Bottin as the special makeup effects creator and designer. This is material for study.
The Thing (1982) was directed by John Carpenter with a screenplay by Bill Lancaster based upon the story from John W. Campbell. It stars the likes of Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley and Keith David as well as others. They’re a U.S. research team stationed in Antarctica. One day, a helicopter from a Norwegian team shows up, trying to kill one of the dogs. In their zeal to do that, they blow up their own chopper and after firing at the US team, the last of them gets shot. Traveling back to the Norwegian encampment, they find that research team has encountered something alien underneath the ice.
This film is a landmark of horror, not only for their extensive and amazing use of practical special effects but also for the tense atmosphere that results after they witness this creature shapeshifts into whatever (or whomever) to blend in. This results in one of those claustrophobic confined environments where nobody can trust each other. Add to that the truly horrific practical effects and you’re in business. Yes, they’ve aged slightly but are still functional. Jaded horror movie fans might not feel as scared as 80’s audiences (this was definitely nightmare fuel when I saw this film as a kid) but horror movie buffs will be delighted.
It does have a few things to nitpick. The transitions are sometimes awkward, as obviously there was something about to happen that the movie is hinting at, but doesn’t want to reveal. I know this is intentional, but on first viewing it does seem stunted. Some of the effects need a bit of a nostalgia lens treatment as you figure out the invisible wire or the almost cartoonish feel of a deformed face. The movie also suffers from a little coincidental luck where the killer strikes unnoticed by anybody else. All things to be expected, and enjoyable due to their classic status.
Strongly recommended for horror movie fans, both old and new. It’s a classic horror film, a landmark in special effects and a prime horror feature that has withstand the test of time. It also has a tense, almost duel-like, cliffhanger of an ending where you think you know but you don’t really know what’s to come after the final scene. Kurt Russell is great but he doesn’t necessarily make all the great decisions or has the best ideas. The cast also manage to convey real three-dimensional character performances that convince you they’ve been a team for time enough to know and annoy each other. Now they’re supposed to watch each other closely since they can’t trust each other to be human.
That will do for now.