It has been 36 years since “The Thing” was released in theatres in June of 1982. Director John Carpenter’s science-fiction/horror movie, which revolves arounds the bloody events that unfold when a shape-shifting alien finds itself at a research base in Antarctica, was heavily criticized at release for being an absolute gore-fest, where characters only existed to be grotesquely dismembered in a splash of blood and guts.
However, in the years following its release, it was eventually accepted for what it was, which was never an uninspired mess of body horror, but as a genuine classic full of thrills and absolutely wonderful practical effects, but at its initial release, it was heavily criticized for having characters that only existed to be chopped up, burned, and torn apart in gross ways.
Part of what makes The Thing so compelling is how these characters interact. Almost all of the thrills here come from the tension that the characters and audience feel when they’re left to contemplate which one of the actors on screen is supposed to be the alien. As you watch, you see the psychological impact that this horror and distrust gives to each character, as they begin to snap and turn to more violent and reckless tactics of driving this Thing out of the shadows. The other aspect at play here that is worth mentioning are the practical effects. Within the movie, this alien is never revealed in its true form, as it is always changing shape. And without any sort of CGI or special effects, it is truly impressive what the people who worked on this movie were able to accomplish. Heads sprouting legs and crawling on the floor, a dead man’s stomach opening up into a mouth and biting off a dude’s hand. This stuff is absolutely horrendous and it is not difficult to understand why people didn’t like it at release.
If you were to only watch one scene from The Thing, google the defibrillator scene, where the teams doctor performs tries to save a man’s life, only to discover that he was The Thing all along. It took hours and hours of painstaking work to set up the scene, not to mention all the time it took to create all the models, the fake bodies, the amalgamation of forms that the alien becomes in that scene, it all looks really good, and the work that was put in for sure payed off. The point is, The Thing is a classic that is out of this world, it is full of chills, thrills, and disgustingly riveting practical effects. This is one 80’s film!