TajLV’s review published on Letterboxd:
Film #30 of 33 in my Hoop-Tober 2017 challenge
Here's my "terrible oversight" for this challenge, the highest rated horror film I've never seen (#4). When it was released in 1982, I had no interest in paying to sit in the dark and be scared out of my seat. After it came out on video and then on DVD, I still didn't find it appealing in any way, and except for being written and directed by John Carpenter, I wouldn't have much interest in it even today. Horror just isn't the thing for me (ouch!).
Like 1951's "The Thing from Another World," the story here is based upon John W. Campbell Jr.'s original novella "Who Goes There?" (1938), in which a team of polar explorers and scientists discover an alien life form that survives by killing off supporting actors one by one. This film has Kurt Russell starring as American helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady, and it supposedly picks up where the 2011 prequel by Holland's Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. leaves off.
We watch a Norwegian helicopter buzz an American research station in the Antarctic. The pilot tries to kill a dog running across the glacier, and upon landing, he accidentally blows up his aircraft. The station commander, Garry (Donald Moffat), has to put the guy down when he turns his weapon on American personnel. Suspecting trouble at the Norwegian research station, Dr. Copper (Richard Dysart) talks pilot MacReady into flying him there.
At the Norwegian base camp, nobody is found alive, but blood trails and frozen bodies indicate something terrible happened. Then MacReady finds a huge block of hollowed out ice, from which a fossil might have been excavated. After gathering up the dead, the two Americans return to their own camp with some papers in Norwegian and the remains of something very strange and partly human ... perhaps an alien creature? Dr. Blair (Wilford Brimley) conducts autopsies.
That night, one of the camp dogs bursts open to reveal an alien creature that takes over the other animals. MacReady has to torch it with a flamethrower to keep it from escaping. Meanwhile, from videotapes, the Americans discover where the Norwegians were digging. MacReady flies Blair to the excavation site and they find the giant spacecraft that has been hidden in a glacier for 100,000 years.
Blair figures out that the alien has the power to replicate any organism with which it comes into contact. That kinda drives him crazy, as he can trust nobody anymore. He destroys their transportation to keep the creature from escaping to the world at large. But even so, panic spreads throughout the camp, and MacReady takes charge, testing everyone's blood to find out who is still human.
Composer Ennio Morricone provides the film's score, mostly a lot of bass guitar strumming, which includes a few great period tunes like Stevie Wonder's "Superstitious" and the Four Tops' "One Chain Don't Make No Prison." The special effects by Rob Bottin are not bad at all, and he got a Saturn Award nomination for them. The Razzies, however, hated Morricone's score and rated it among the year's worst.
The film barely broke even at the box office and only became a cult favorite much later. I'll say it's a good film, certainly better than its later prequel, but I still think the 1951 original tops it. Best to see this with the 2011 prequel as a double feature taken in reverse chronological order. Happy Halloween!