Movie Review: The Thing (1982)

Now this is something different, isn’t it? I should explain.

I haven’t been interested in watching movies for years. The last film I went to see in cinema was The Last Witch Hunter, at the insistence of my D&D group, and the last one I saw in private was A League of Their Own after I reviewed Taisho Baseball Girls in June of last year. I have committed myself to exploring anime and have long been afraid that also keeping up with every other entertainment medium would overload my brain or something along those lines.

However, a friend argued that I should reconsider and at least see the renowned classics of cinema to broaden my understanding of media in general. To that end—and because I have just rewatched They Were 11—I opted to start with 1982’s The Thing.

The Thing flesh

The premise for The Thing is comparable to They Were 11, though the settings are wildly different. this film takes us the icy reaches of Antarctica, where a quiet research station is one day startled into action when an angry, Norwegian man begins to shoot up the place. They kill the man in retaliation, but as they investigate the remains of the Norwegian station, worries begin to emerge as to what was uncovered there.

Through a series of mistakes, the crew of the station finds themselves trapped with a “Thing”. A mysterious lifeform that consumes anybody it comes across and then perfectly mimics them. People, animals, it doesn’t matter, “The Thing” can replicate them perfectly down to their speech and memories. And once it has taken over a person, it seeks to spread and infect others.

The Thing mutation

As this realization dawns upon the crew, they find themselves stuck in a horrific situation. Anybody could be a fake, looking to corner their friends and infect them when they least expect it. Trust and decency evaporate, as people go off to do their own thing and refuse to cooperate with each other. As viewers we follow the perspective of helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady, who attempts to take charge and resolve the situation as chaos begins to spread.

Before delving further into the plot, I’d like to take a moment to praise the directing work and visuals. The arctic setting is impressively realized and I quickly began to understand why director John Carpenter is regarded as a champion of the horror scene. This was a suspenseful movie to sit through, where even dialogue sequences could feel unsettling. Characters could just be in a room without apparent threat, and still the directing work manages to subtly keep you on edge.

The Thing arctic base

This suspense is delivered on frequently enough, usually in the form of intense action scenes that never failed to amaze. The Thing is truly an abomination to be reckoned with; visually horrific, loud, erratic, and almost impossible to understand. The special effects used for it are amazing too. Some may argue that it looks dated, but the greasy, wet texture is a perfect fit for the warped flesh monsters that we get to see throughout the movie. I’ll admit that some special effects look a bit too goofy in retrospect, but even those made for memorable scenes at least.

Besides these action scenes, the movie also benefits from the captivating mind-games that follow as the desperate crew attempts to root out The Thing before it eats them all. This is fun, though The Thing does run into the problem that so many movies like this do, in that there isn’t enough time to flesh out every member of the crew. While in an anime like They Were 11 there’s a lot to glean from the unique character designs, here I found myself struggling to keep track of some characters and not feeling much of an attachment to them. For a movie that depends on you caring about the crew’s survival, this is definitely a weak point.

All in all, I am glad I gave the movie a chance and took this opportunity to write about it. Movie reviews won’t be a returning thing for this website, but the parallels between The Thing and They Were 11 were too strong to pass up on this opportunity. I hope you enjoyed this expedition outside my comfort zone as much as I did.

2 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Thing (1982)

  1. I still enjoy this film myself. Practical effects like this really warm me to a film, I find. Same with the transformations in American Werewolf and The Fly remake. There’s just so much more heart to it for me than with CG reliant pieces.

  2. Yes! This is one of my favorite monster movies. It’s one a the few monster movies I’ve seen where I can’t find fault in actions the main character takes. He never does anything amazingly stupid (like running up to the attic while an axe murderer is chasing him) but instead takes the most reasonable option available to him at the time. Most of the characters seem intelligent and logical and what you would expect from a scientific lab. And I love how it ends in a cliffhanger.

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