Recently, I realized that, while I’ve analyzed The Thing (1982), I’ve never actually used it as a weekend movie. That needs to be corrected, especially as we’re into the dead of winter here. A classic from John Carpenter, the film didn’t do so well upon its release in 1982, thanks in part to the release of E.T. the same year. Everyone wanted a cute, cuddly little alien, and John Carpenter gave us Kurt Russell battling gore and Wilford Brimley in the middle of the Antarctic. It’s a cult classic for a reason. Here are five reasons to watch it this weekend.
#1 – It’s a remake
I know, I bitch a lot about remakes, but this is a remake done right. This film is an update of The Thing from Another World (1951), which featured Leslie Neilsen pre-Police Squad! That film itself is worth checking out, because it features a woman in the group and is itself a classic of the 1950s era. This update sees our group stranded in the middle of nowhere during the Cold War at a cold, barren outpost. The themes of paranoia and distrust of the foreign really shine through, and expand upon the original film without totally crapping on it. This is the way you remake a film.
#2 – The source material is famous
The core story of The Thing comes from the novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell Jr. Fun history: Campbell’s story was discovered to be a shortened version of an unpublished novel called Frozen Hell, and in early 2018, a successful Kickstarter was held to finance the publication. Considering that the novella was voted as one of the most influential science fiction stories around, it’s a biggie. Something that beloved is worth checking out if you haven’t already.
#3 – The sense of foreboding
Carpenter is a master of suspense, and this film pulls a fantastic trick: it shoves people into a confined space and makes the action seem simultaneously large and claustrophobic. The men of the team are stationed at a research post that doesn’t allow for socialization or escape: it’s simply too cold and faraway. Yet the tricks of lighting add to the close quarters, making the action far more urgent and tense than it would be under wide-open circumstances. Between trying to keep track of who could have been turned into a thing and the dark lighting and out-of-nowhere scares, it’s still effective 37 years later.
#4 – The soundtrack
Raise your hand if you love Ennio Morricone. Morricone is a classically-trained composer who has provided scores for both television and the silver screen. If his name sounds familiar, you may have heard it associated with the works of Dario Argento or Quentin Tarantino. The man knows how to cover both twang and sweeping atmosphere. Now I want to go back and re-listen to the Kill Bill soundtracks. Getting back to the task at hand, the soundtrack is simple, clean and damn effective. Nice work, Mr. Morricone.
#5 – Trapped indoors in the cold
There’s a reason why I didn’t recommend this one in August. The Thing is one of those fantastic films to watch on a cold, dark night when you’re stuck home alone. Maybe there’s a pizza involved; maybe there’s a fire and a blanket on the couch. It’s a good one to watch by yourself when it’s too frigid out to do much else. Get nice and cozy, only to look out and see that your current location bears quite the resemblance to what you’re watching. Which only adds to the atmosphere. Sleep tight, kids.
The Thing deserves a place in your collection if you don’t already own it.