Monday, May 9, 2011

The Thing....John Carpenter style....a lost classic or missed opportunity?

I just re-watched John Carpenter's The Thing, the filmmaker's 1982 remake of the science-fiction classic The Thing From Another World (1951). I hadn't seen the film since its original release, and wanted to re-assess it. Essentially, it's a horror story with a dash of science-fiction. Set at an Antarctic research station, the film stars Kurt Russell (a frequent Carpenter collaborator), Keith David and Wilford Brimley as members of a research team who are stalked by an alien creature who can assume the form of its' victims. The men are killed one by one, and no one knows who to trust, as the person standing next to you could be the creature rather than your friend & colleague. The remaining team members struggle to stop the creature before it can escape and find its way to civilization.

I remember that the movie was a failure at the box office back in 1982 (the summer of E.T.), and it's dark tone, gory special effects, and confusing plot turned off critics and audiences alike. Rob Bottin's groundbreaking creature effects were amazing, but their extreme nature turned off some viewers. Though it was creatively shot and well-made, the movie didn't catch on with fans like the year's other horror hit, Poltergiest. Carpenter was reportedly very disappointed by the film's poor critical reception and box office showing.

Seeing it for a second time, I did appreciate the effects & some of Carpenter's stylistic choices. But the dark, nihilistic tone of the movie is unrelenting, and it's sometimes hard to figure out what is going on, or who's who. The ending is also a bit too ambiguous, though an alternate climax was added for television broadcasts of the film. While the film has undergone something of a critical re-appraisal in recent years (and is now something of a cult favorite), I still think it's an admirable try that misses the mark. Check it out if you are a Carpenter fan, but if you're turned off by extreme gore, this isn't the film for you. The film is available on DVD,, and Blu-Ray:, although the Blu-Ray version does omit some of the Special Features found on the DVD.

Source for this post:
Internet Movie Database:

Movie Quote of the Day:
"I don't know what the hell's in there, but it's weird and pissed off, whatever it is." Richard Masur as Clark in John Carpenter's The Thing (1982)

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