the thing – come for the special effects, stay for the company

The Thing (aka John Carpenter’s The Thing) was released on June 25, 1982. Directed by none other than John Carpenter, written by Bill Lancaster, it stars Kurt Russell as the protagonist, Wilford Brimley, Keith David, T.K. Carter,
and Donald Moffat, with wonderful special effects from Rob Bottin and a musical score from Ennio Morricone. The Thing is a scifi/horror film that takes place in the Antarctic where the researchers uncover an ancient alien entity that infects them one by one, who’s next?? The film is based on the novella Who Goes There?

This month we’ll be doing movies by John Carpenter to celebrate the Halloween season. Before I get carried away with the details, and I will… probably, go check out what my friends Dr. Q at Craft Beer Tasters and Cody from Three B Zine have to say about this film.

Welcome back from the cold, our film opens up with the alien craft crashing to Earth, then a Norwegian helicopter chasing an Alaskan Malamute all the way to an American research station. Storm Trooper aim ensues and the Norwegian team is killed. The unsuspecting Americans take the Malamute in to their fold. MacReady (Russell) and the Doctor go in to their helicopter to check out the Norwegian camp, only to discover the burned remains of a once human corpse, it’s got two faces… so they bring it back to home base for further study.

Meanwhile the dog handler of the group puts the malamute with the station’s other sled dogs, bad idea, cause it changes into I dunno what and attacks the other dogs. MacReady pulls the alarm and gets everyone in to the dog pen, Childs (David) comes in with a flamethrower and torches this… thing;

An autopsy is performed and they learn that the creature imitates whatever lifeform it latches on to, to near perfection. Looking at the Norwegians’ records they think the creature is over 100,000 years old. Paranoia starts to infest our cast, cause if this thing gets out of here and in to a more populated area, life on Earth will be done, armed with this knowledge Brimley starts to take things in to his own had with his paranoia. Everyone suspects someone else has the creature in them. The camp start placing in safety measure to reduce risk of infection.

It’s too late, someone’s already been infected and imitated, Brimley was also able to wreck all transportation out of the camp, for fear of the creature getting out. So it’s recommended that a blood-serum test be done to determine who is infected, the crew continue to turn on each other when they find the supplies have been sabotaged. MacReady now finally has to take charge and isolate Brimley from the rest of the crew by taking him to another cabin. TK Carter goes with MacReady, but the snow picks up and they get separated on the way back, Carter produces a torn shirt with MacReady’s name on it, as the crew debates MacReady’s fate, he breaks in and threatens to blow them all up with a bundle of dynamite, this causes one of them have a heart attack.

When someone attempts to revive him with paddles, the heart attack victim transforms and kills the one helping him, and boy what a scene! MacReady incinerates the creature and orders everyone else tied up for a new test. It’s explained that every piece of the alien is an individual organism with its own survival instinct, so he gathers a blood sample an tests it with a heated piece of copper wire. When the guys “pass” they’re untied. One guy’s blood leaps out of the dish escaping the wire, now exposed the infected member starts to change right in front of everyone.

Things get more dire as the creature tunnels under the tool shed, following suite our surviving members learn that the creature has been scavenging equipment to build a space craft for escape. But people get knocked off secretly, MacReady discovers that the station’s power generator is destroyed, leading him to believe that the creature now intends to freeze itself again until another rescue team arrives. They decide to dynamite everything, in hopes that it would destroy the creature too. The creature is now huge and emerges as MacReady goes to set the charges, the creature destroys the detonator, but the charges are still set off with one stick of dynamite – the base explodes!

This leaves MacReady sitting in the cold as the camp burns, then Childs (David) appears, claiming to be lost in the storm while they were chasing the creature. They don’t trust each other, share a bottle of scotch and watch each other as the camp burns around them.

The good; first and foremost are the effects. This is the way practical effects are done! I still marvel at how well those effects hold up, just superb.

Then the story and mood, it’s a perfect compliment to each other. Paranoia spreads like a flood amongst all these men in the cold, having no women in the cast really worked. If you think about it, Reservoir Dogs is basically The Thing, a bunch of guys looking for “the rat.”

The pacing is near perfect, we’re introduced to the situation, then the crew, and the alien creature slowly reveals itself. It’s a mystery, and a creature, that’s unraveled right before our eyes. It’s as if the film switches genres seamlessly, starting out as a mystery as to why people are shooting this dog, then to a mystery as to who’s infected, then to a horror movie as people get killed one by one.

The bad; I honestly can’t think of any, it’s a great blend of sci-fi and horror.

Overall, The Thing is one of my favorite movies. Despite having a poor box office performance, it’s since gathered a cult following.

I couldn’t think of what soda to pair with this film, so I went to ICEE.

Specifically a White Cherry Icee. The “Icee” was invented in 1958 by Omar Knedlik, who owned a Dairy Queen at the time. He was putting bottles of soda in the freezer since he didn’t have a soda fountain. The frozen drinks became popular and he realized he needed a machine to make them. Knedlik approached the John E. Mitchel Company in Dallas, where they developed the needed machine. The Mitchel Company had been making aftermarket air conditioning units for cars. After 5 years Knedlik’s idea became the ICEE Machine. He first wanted to call it “scoldasice,” but he then asked an artist friend, Ruth E. Taylor, to create a logo and a name for this new thing, and she came up with “ICEE” as well as the idea of the icicles hanging from the block letters. This logo still persists today.
An Icee will keep you quenched and in the spirit of the cold Antarctic, it’ll also add a certain quality to the movie going experience.

I loved The Thing when I first saw it, and it never lets down on additional viewings. I can’t emphasize how great this movie is, the special effects are truly a sight that must be experienced. John Carpenter’s version of Who Goes There really knocks it out of the park.

Check out the ending of the movie again… can you tell who’s the alien and who’s human?
Do yourself a favor, if you haven’t seen this film, “go right now to a place where videotapes of film are sold or rented, and buy it or rent and watch it, it is delightful.”

Fade out-
Eugene

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