“The Thing” (82) / Z-View

The Thing (1982)

Director:  John Carpenter

Screenplay by:  Bill Lancaster based on a short story by John W. Campbell Jr.

Starring:  Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David, Richard Masur,  T.K. Carter, David Clennon, Richard Dysart, Charles Hallahan,  Peter Maloney, Donald Moffat, Joel Polis, Thomas G. Waites and Adrienne Barbeau (uncredited computer voice)

Tagline:  Man is The Warmest Place to Hide.

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

Members of a US Antarctica research station go on full alert when a Norwegian helicopter begins buzzing their outpost.  One of the Norwegians is shooting at a husky that’s running towards the American station.  The helicopter lands and more shots ring out missing the dog and nearly hitting members of the US team. Garry (Moffat) shoots back, killing the Norwegian.  A fire caused by wild shots leads to the explosion of the helicopter and death of the pilot.

MacReady (Russell) and Dr. Copper (Dysart) fly to the Norwegian base.  Everyone there is dead! MacReady and Copper discover a disfigured burned vaguely human-looking corpse.  MacReady and Copper return to the US base with the corpse and more questions than answers.

The Norwegian dog had been given free reign at the US base.  When MacReady returns the dog is placed in a kennel with the US huskies.  Once the lights are out, the Norwegian dog begins to transform as it kills the US dogs and assimilates them.  The dogs’ screams alert the base and everyone shows up.  They’re shocked, but use a flamethrower to incinerate the thing.

They ultimately learn that the Norwegians discovered an alien ship.  One of the creatures from the ship thawed and began killing them.  It made it’s escape in the form of the Norwegian dog.

Dr. Blair runs computer simulations and realizes odds are that at least one of the US team has been assimilated.  The computer also shows that if one of the things makes it to civilization, humans will be wiped out.

Dr. Cooper suggests a blood test to determine if anyone has been compromised.  Before that can happen, the blood supply is destroyed, as are every means of communication and the transportation.  At least one of the US team is no longer human.  But who?

As they struggle for a solution, the lack of sleep and paranoia makes each person as much of a danger as the thing.  Will anyone survive?  And what of the human race?

Bill Lancaster’s script is closer to John Campbell’s short story than the 1951 film.  Everything comes together.  John Carpenter is the right director for this project — he respects the source material.  He’s supported by a wonderful cast led by Kurt Russell, and each cast member gets their moment to shine.  Stan Winston’s effects were groundbreaking for the time and still impress.  Ennio Morricone provides music that adds to the tension.

When I saw The Thing on it’s original release, the theater was nearly empty.  Over the years, The Thing developed a following and the props it deserves.  My initial rating for The Thing was 4 of 5 stars, but over the years, I’ve bumped it up to a more proper 5 of 5 stars.