Reviewed Jul 16, 2012
Adam Cook’s review:
John Carpenter’s The Thing is one of finest horror films of all time (only second to The Shining in my book) and it is criminal to think that it bombed on release back in 1982. It encapsulates everything I love about the genre: the palpable sense of unease, unbearable tension and terrifying body horror.
One thing that separates this from many other genre films (particularly modern ones) is how brilliantly realised each and every character is. Whilst the charismatic MacReady (brilliantly played by the ever reliable Kurt Russell) is the undeniable star and focus, each and every unfortunate soul stuck in the God forsaken research facility is instantly identifiable. Whilst the characterisation is far from complex you still invest in their fight for survival, you know their names, their personalities and who you want to survive. Rich characters are crucial in helping create atmosphere because if you don’t care for the protagonists, even the ones you hate, it is incredibly hard to feel invested in the story.
And what an atmosphere Carpenter has created. The foreboding landscape illustrating the utter helplessness of the survivors situation whilst the cramped facility makes for a claustrophobic and paranoia-filled location. Several horror films have tried to create this wild cabin fever tension but none come close to The Thing. Nobody can be trusted yet there is no way of escape and this paranoia and mistrust slowly festers and corrupts, destroying the group quicker than the monster ever could. Carpenter masterfully ratchets up the tension, creating sequence after sequence of unbearable suspense (the exquisite blood test scene being a prime example) and then delivering a horrifying release by revealing the monster.
The film is the crowning achievement in practical special effects. Rob Bottin’s creature designs are the stuff of nightmares brought to terrifying reality. The fact, thirty years on, these effects still look fantastic is testament to the true artistry of those involved. Compare the monster to the plastic-like CGI in the recent prequel and they are night and day. The sinewy, Lovecraftian abominations are solid, tactile and a million times more frightening than any CGI recreation could ever be.
The Thing is an undeniable masterpiece.