Horror Movies

THE THING. Science fiction horror masterpiece

John Carpenter disappointed Roger Ebert, one of the most esteemed American film critics…

Jarosław Kowal

11 January 2024

THE THING. Science fiction horror masterpiece

…, who didn’t like the “superficial characterization” and “improbable behavior of scientists.” Everything indicates that Ebert made a cardinal mistake and confused a B-class movie with a documentary. Fans of Carpenter don’t need convincing about how absurd it is to delve into the psychological motives of researchers attacked by a rubber alien, which, for 1982, looks impressive but decidedly uglier than H.R. Giger’s sleek, phallic Alien. You just have to let yourself be carried away.

The plot of The Thing is more widely known than anything else, but for a refresh – a twelve-person American expedition leads a dull life in Antarctica when one day a Norwegian team arrives, shooting blindly at a seemingly innocent dog. Every black metal fan knows that there’s no joking with enraged Norwegians, and besides, a righteous American must always stand up for an animal, so without unnecessary questions, the unexpected guest is neutralized. However, it quickly turns out that “man’s best friend” wants to be a bit too friendly… The only one who can stop the veterinary nightmare is Kurt Russell, looking like he just finished drinking coffee at Starbucks.

the thing kurt russel

A handful of actors and only a few locations are tools creating perfect conditions for paranoia to flourish. After a few minutes, everyone starts accusing each other, and fear of extraterrestrial forces combines with fear of former companions. Scenes of arguments and exchanging suspicions build tension that clearly affects the viewer’s nervous system. The revelation of The Thing – though often as terrifying as in Alien – brings temporary relief. Here, we have a situation quite different from most horror films. The norm is to calm the mood so that each display of violence seems even more intense. In The Thing, dismemberment, burning, and blowing up for a few minutes clear the atmosphere, allowing you to catch your breath. Carpenter did not reveal the epilogue of the story, and the open ending is the best possible solution – thanks to it, we have no choice but to swallow the accumulating fear for almost two hours instead of getting rid of it right after the end credits. Rewinding the tape and putting it back in the box is not the end; The Thing remains in thoughts for a long time. It’s a pity that Carpenter has not directed an equally solid film for over twenty years, but maybe it’s a good thing that he gave up after the disastrous Ghosts of Mars and is now known primarily as a musician.

the thing the head

Shortly after the premiere, The Thing, Vincent Canby was outraged in The New York Times: “It’s entertaining only when someone’s needs are satisfied by such sights as a head walking on spider legs; autopsies of dogs and humans, during which the insides explode, assuming other, not easily identifiable shapes; cutting off hands; burning; tentacles resembling worms coming out of a severed head; two or more burned bodies joined together to resemble ribs coated in barbecue sauce.” Well… For me, a better recommendation is not needed.