The Thing Retro Talk; Grade: B+
Welcome to another edition of Retro Talk! We’ll be discussing the acclaimed 1982 John Carpenter’s horror classic The Thing! I was looking forward to experiencing The Thing for the first time in theaters, following the reopening of Cinemark theaters. Unfortunately that couldn’t happen due to the fear of Covid-19. Listen: If Grocery Stores, in which consist of hundreds of people shop daily, touching everything with their bare hands can stay open, why can’t theaters in which all people will be doing is sitting down while social distanced?! I’m just saying, let the people have a source of happiness for a couple hours, that is just as safe as grocery stores... I think we could all use a breather and regain our sanity. I figure since I was going to see The Thing in theaters, might as well discuss it anyways, so let’s get to it shall we?
The Thing had a budget of 15 million, as it received 19.6 million at the box office, totaling at a 4.6 million profit... Not bad considering a profit is a profit, but not necessarily what the studio had hoped for. The film is considered an underrated classic, loved by critics and audiences as well. The Thing is one of Letterboxd’s highest rated films, sitting at an average of 4.3 stars out of 5. So certainly The Thing has aged fairly well over the course of time.
The Thing tells a story about a research group out in Antarctica. One day a Norwegian man was chasing after a dog on his helicopter, as he was trying to shoot the dog. He ends up on the research groups camp site, as he also tried to shoot at the scientists as well. As we try to understand what’s the deal with the man from earlier, as one would find him a psychopath for trying to kill a dog, we then learn later on why did so. It turns out the dog was not a dog, it was actually a horrific thing that is beyond deadly, that was not from this planet as it can assume the shape of other beings. In this Sci-Fi/Horror film, witness a research group go insane, as the tensions rise on not only dealing with the beast, but also dealing with each other, as no one can be trusted.
The thing about The Thing is despite it being made in the 1980’s, the horror imagery has aged fairly well. A fair amount of the creature design is still frightening to look at, as it makes the audiences very disturbed. Sure they’ll be a couple moments, where the creature design hasn’t aged well, as it looks goofy. I mean when the creature turns into two heads... I really can’t take that seriously at all I’m sorry. Especially where at the beginning when it’s introduced, it had all tentacles that looked like worms or silly string, just felt silly. But a fair amount of it still looks impressive, as it can creep just about anyone who watches it. From a visual standpoint the film looks very nice, as there are many lovely shots. The most frightening shot is certainly when MacReady (Kurt Russell) flies over to another research facility, as he encounters a scientist, whom slit his wrist and throat, where the blood is dangling off his wrist... It’s such a well executed disturbing shot, that can create nightmares on anyone. The sets looked pretty cool, I enjoy the simplicity of it as it doesn’t try to be that flashy. Even when the crew discovers the spacecraft, it’s not trying to be this grand amusement, it’s just a simple set piece that brings curiosity towards the characters and even the audience. Followed by a lovely dark Score, that compliments the films tone as well.
The performances in this film were pretty good all around, I enjoy the fact pretty much every character had something to contribute to the story. MacReady the ring lead and bad ass of the group, played by Kurt Russell was honestly pretty good, brought a fair amount of aggression and swagger this character needed, definitely is the standout star of this film for sure. When it comes to being a leader: MacReady is the man for the task at hand, he doesn’t take no shit from anybody. Even when the group is in a hostile situation, where no one can trust anybody... MacReady just knows how to handle the situation, as his leadership and intelligence helps them overcome the problems at hand. I enjoyed other performances and characters from Wilford Brimley, T.K. Carter, and Keith David. I also enjoyed Thomas Waites for his performance and also inspiring many men, to have great hair as him... That’s a sharp curly fro, I keep debating on having one myself.
Other than my issues with some of the creature design being goofy or ridiculous for my taste, I do however have issues with the crew themselves. Some of the choice making done by this crew honestly lost countability in sense of logic, as some of the horrific things could’ve been avoided, if were smarter. In comparison The Thing resembles creature like horror films, mainly Alien and I would like to add a more serious version of Evil Dead as well, since it’s taken place on an isolated site dealing with an entity. I’ve only seen a couple John Carpenter films in the past, including the original Halloween and an underrated gem known as Christine. From what I’ve seen John Carpenter is three for three, I honestly really enjoyed The Thing much so.
The atmosphere within The Thing is honestly creepy, with effective creature imagery and most certainly creepy imagery as well. For me where a horror film is effective is if it can disturb you, rather than scare you. Scaring someone is only effective in the moment, as it can be forgotten through the course of time, just like for an example a Jump Scare. Disturbing someone however not only gets under one skin, as they feel uncomfortable while watching... But an effective disturbing sequence carries through the course of time. The thought of a film in which offers a disturbing moment, will always make one remember the exact same scene in which disturbs them. It can be found in a few moments in this film, as I certainly will remember those sequences later on. What I really appreciated out of The Thing, is it’s not only a creature horror film, it can also be physiological thriller as well. The level of paranoia in which this research group is encountering is at an all time high, in which no one can trust anyone, as nobody knows who is who they say they are. Anyone can be the beast, so the level of intensity makes the film actually intense, the way this crew is fighting with each other as well as them going insane. So if one doesn’t care for the creature stuff, at least they can appreciate the fact it can be shown as an effective thriller as well. I found the story to be pretty good as well from start to finish. I like how steady this script is, none of it really feels slow or rushed at any moment, it’s all well thought out. The conclusion of this film... I loved it. Though one may question where these characters end up, it’s a rather cool last moment, as in a way it’s rather witty as well. I can see why many people love The Thing, it’s got a fair amount of redeemable qualities to it, that I believe all people can appreciate something out of it.
Overall, The Thing is a pretty good horror film. I recommend checking this one out if you haven’t done so, worth the watch indeed. Be on the lookout for the other couple films I was going to see in theaters, to be discussed on the next couple Retro Talks. I conclude this with a simple message... OPEN THE DAMN THEATERS! -Mitch Smietana