Directed By: John Carpenter
Starring: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David
Tag line: "Man is The Warmest Place to Hide"
Trivia: Donald Pleasence was the original choice for the character of Blair, but was unable to perform the role due to a scheduling conflict
More a re-telling of John W. Campbell’s short story, Who Goes There, than a remake of the 1951 Howard Hawks-produced film, John Carpenter's The Thing whisks us away to Antarctica, where twelve strung-out Americans are manning a Research Station, preparing for the hard winter ahead. The preparations are temporarily interrupted by the arrival of a stray dog, which, as they'll soon discover, is really an alien creature in the “shape” of a dog. Helicopter pilot MacReady (Kurt Russell) destroys the alien with a flamethrower, but this doesn't bring an end to their troubles. The creature, able to take on the appearance of any living being it comes into contact with, may have ‘infected’ other members of the crew, meaning some of the twelve might not be what they appear. With such a threat hanging over them, hostilities rise and suspicions mount, but to survive the ordeal, these men must band together and locate the traitor (or traitors) among them. Failure to do so will result in both their own demise, and the possible destruction of all mankind.
John Carpenter’s The Thing is one hell of a monster movie. For one, the monster itself, in all its manifestations, has become an icon of the horror genre. The first time we see the creature in its true form, its changing from a dog into a bloody mess of limbs and tentacles right before our eyes. This gives us a taste of just how creepy this intruder can be, yet it’s only the beginning. Once it starts mimicking members of the crew, the creature becomes even more terrifying, raising the tension to a nearly unbearable level.
But then tension seems to be a way of life for these twelve men, existing in the camp well before the danger ever got there. Carpenter gives shape to his characters early on, leaving us with the distinct impression we’re watching a dozen guys ready to jump at each others throats. Our introduction to Kurt Russell’s MacReady has him playing a video chess game against the computer, a game he eventually loses. Far from taking his defeat gracefully, MacReady pours his drink into the computer's CPU. Discipline among the men had all but broken down by the time the monster arrives; Nauls (T.K. Carter) plays his music way too loud, and Palmer (David Clennon) smokes pot right out in the open. The combination of harsh weather and isolation has already taken its toll on these men. Throwing an alien into the mix only intensifies the situation. Add the fact that any one of them might also be that alien, and you have a time bomb set to blow any second.