John Carpenter has many classic films in his filmography. While he might have a myriad to pick from, The Thing is my favorite film of his. It’s a “remake” of the Howard Hawkes film The Thing From Another World (1951). I put remake in quotes because Carpenter’s vision of the film more closely follows the novella that both are based on. Who Goes There? by John Campbell is the real base for Carpenter’s film.
That novella is haunting, and eerie, just like the film. To simply go over all that is great from Carpenter’s version, would take too much time, and would have to be split over multiple articles. For now, we’re just going to celebrate the film, because it deserves all the praise that it gets.
The Thing was released June 25th, 1982 in theaters. It was a box-office bomb at the time. It crushed John Carpenter, because he felt like this was his favorite film of his. For the uninitiated, the film is quite simple. Researchers are stuck at a facility in Antarctica, and they’re visited by an alien species that fully replicates organic life. It’s a tense, gripping, and paranoia filled movie that leaves you with more questions than answers. It blends genres perfectly, and made the honorable mentions category of my Top 10 films that Bend Genres. You can read that, below.
The Thing Sets The Base For Enclosed Movies
What do I mean by that caption? If you take a look at movies like 12 Angry Men, The Hateful Eight, and even Rear Window all play similarly to The Thing. They’re claustrophobic, tight, films. They all happen in either one room, or a small area. Two of those films listed above are older than this film, and it draws heavily from those two. The Hateful Eight is so influenced by The Thing, it’s not even funny. Quentin will tell you that, himself.
The film is a love letter to the films of the 50’s and 60’s about monsters, but it also updates those ideas to fit with the modern cinema. It’s just as tense as it was in 1982. Watching it for the first time, or watching it with people who haven’t seen it before, is the ultimate treat. Especially debating who at the end of the film is “real” and who isn’t. Speaking about the ending, it was almost completely different, but the ambiguous, nihilistic look at it fits the overall tone of the film. It wouldn’t be the same if we had a heroic ending with the defeat of the monster and the world being saved.
The Thing And The Current World
If you really think about it, COVID-19 and the asymptomatic transmission of the virus, is a lot like The Thing. It’s a horrid comparison, but it fits. You don’t know who has the virus and who doesn’t unless they’re showing symptoms. The computer simulation that Blair does that causes his mental breakdown in the film is also quite haunting in comparison with the virus that we’re dealing with.
I’ll leave us with this about the film. It gives a pretty bleak look into the world as we know it. Humans are selfish, and they’re paranoid. If you add an alien monster that assimilates human beings, and creates a perfect copy of them, you get humans stretched to their breaking point. That is the simple essence of John Carpenter’s The Thing.
So if you haven’t seen the film, or just haven’t given it a watch in awhile, now is the perfect time. Be paranoid, my friends, wear a mask, and if you’re stuck with someone out in the cold, keep an eye on them.
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