Where has John Carpenter and his 1982 version of The Thing been all my life? Not in my DVD player obviously, where it should have been. As we continue with our reviews of all three versions of The Thing, I finally get to the one that is praised by fans everywhere, boasting an almost five star rating on Netflix. Carpenter’s version of The Thing improves on every problem I had with The Thing From Another World, and combines it with fantastic special effects. Before you go see next week’s prequel, be sure to watch this version.
The Thing (1982) follows a similar format as The Thing From Another World. In this version you meet a group of scientists working in Antarctica. They see a Norwegian helicopter circling and trying to shoot a dog. When the helicopter crashes and the crew is killed, the men are confused about what’s going on. They soon figure it out when a mysterious entity starts inhabiting and imitating the group, causing everyone to question who is real.
I was riveted to this film from beginning to end. The biggest improvement over Thing From Another World is the sense of paranoia prevalent in this film. The original did have that element, as most films from the 1950s did, but here it’s wrapped up in the complete isolation they feel. As the movie opens they feel the Norwegians are obviously suffering from some type of cabin fever, and they’re at risk of getting it. When the thing actually starts killing and taking over the group they’re at each other’s throats and start threatening everyone. A group of friends soon turns into a crew that doesn’t trust themselves or anyone else. At times even the audience doesn’t know who is inhabited by the Thing, adding a layer of mystery that I didn’t feel in the 1951 film.
The special effects, courtesy of Rick Bottin, are also worth watching this movie for. Between this and Poltergeist, which came out in the same year, it seems 1982 was a grand year for gore. The Thing taking over people, arms chopped off, heads ripped apart, everything was over-the-top and amazing. This is definitely a gore hound’s type of film!
The cast also makes this movie worthy of the price of a rental. I never really understood why Kurt Russell was praised as an actor, and now I do! His role as MacReady is hilarious and powerful. This is a man who can organize, kick ass, get things done, yet isn’t above petty things like destroying his computer because he thinks the Chess Wizard is a “cheating bitch.” I loved his take charge attitude and the final scene with Keith David’s Childs is a haunting final image that makes you question just where these characters are going from here.
Carpenter really hit one out of the park with this film. It made me scared, excited, and is just a great movie to watch, especially with Halloween coming up. It’ll be hard for the new prequel to beat this!
Next Week: Three Weeks of The Thing Concludes with a review of the prequel The Thing (2011)!
Author: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
Kristen Lopez is the editor-in-chief of CC2K and a freelance pop culture essayist. Her work has appeared on Roger Ebert, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Daily Beast. When she’s not burning down Film Twitter she runs two podcasts, the female-centric film show Citizen Dame, and the classic film-themed Ticklish Business.