The Thing

The Thing ★★★★½

As much as I find a lot of John Carpenter's catalogue overhyped due to its classic status, I really do feel that The Thing is one of the best horror movies, of the 1980s at least.
The premise, of a group of men alone in the antarctic infiltrated by a body-snatching ET is stripped back and very well paced and executed, with a tautly written scenario unfolding layers of doom-laded atmosphere, escalating conflict and paranoia, punctuated by some of the most vivid, visceral explosions of violence ever put to film. Once seen, set pieces like the blood test, the chest-burst and the initial dog attack are never forgotten, and the effects, though hardly seamless, are a tonne of fun, creative and gory in a completely spectacular way.
The simple musical theme, effectively just two bass notes is really iconic in a way I feel doesn't get credited enough. The performances, though often cheesy are fun as well, and some of them are legitimately really good. Although none of the characters are that well fleshed out, you get a really good immediate impression of who they each are.
I love films like this were you get a really good sense of geography and resources, what they have to hand and how it could help them overcome their situation. People proposing arguments and others batting them aside as the tension rises, inviting lots of really engaging 'what would I do' fan-fiction questions. In terms of interpretation, it's a very spare film, you could read it as an AIDs allegory, with the all male cast and emphasis on blood, contamination and infection, but the film came out in '82 which is too early to reasonably argue that that was what was going through anyone's heads at the time. It's not a film like They Live which wears its allegorical themes on its sleeves, it's much more about wider, less specific, more visceral and primal themes, such as fear, paranoia, violence and bodily corruption. As much as I love films that have dense networks of themes and meanings to unpick, it's especially refreshing to see a film that cuts into something so basic and primal. It just scares the shit out of you and that's it.