Monday, February 15, 2016

The Thing Review (Classic Write-Up)

Boy, 1982 sure was a helluva year for sci-fi movies, huh? And such a variety of sci-fi storytelling too! From the family-friendly emotionally involving tale of E.T. to Ridley Scott bringing Blade Runner to life to Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Kahn to Tron, there was seemingly no end to notable sci-fi titles that year. One other uber important sci-fi feature to arrive that year (released the same weekend as Blade Runner, in fact) was the John Carpenter motion picture The Thing.

Far more of a horror film than the aforementioned sci-fi features, The Thing is one of those movies that utilizes simplicity as a secret weapon to make its story all the more engaging. For example, where does The Thing take place? In an arctic outpost. Whose there? A group of everyday individuals who are in no way ready for the terrifying creature that's been unleashed on them. And the ability of the titular Thing to turn itself into any of the people on the base allows for uncertainty and dread to develop amidst the group, turning the film into an Agatha Christie story by way of the 1979 Ridley Scott undertaking Alien (which also had a small isolated group of people deal with an otherworldly foe).

These are all very straightforward concepts that are critical for the film working as well as it does. No extraneous subplots or tangents to be found here in the screenplay by Bill Lancaster. This approach even extends to the characters, and while a couple of the individuals in the batch of guys stationed at this outpost don't get much of a personality to speak of, the script does a strong job of establishing character motivations and personalities in a naturalistic manner. One dudes affinities for the Siberian Husky's helping out at the outpost does wonders for making him a memorable presence within the plot.

Meanwhile, the lead character of the production, R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell), is shown to be both a steady presence the audience can lean on as things get rough while also depicting his dwindling patience at the grisly events occurring around him. And boy howdy does stuff gets grisly, gruesome even, in this movie, thanks to some masterful practical effects that bring the various forms of "The Thing" to horrifying life. Also helping out the ominous atmosphere is a fantastic score by Ennio Morricone, particularly a piece of haunting music appropriately titled The Thing Theme that reoccurs throughout the film.

Intense competition at the box office, as well as more mixed reviews, might have torpedoed The Thing at the 1982 box office, but it's reputation has increased exponentially in the years since its initial release. Watching it for the first time, I'm not shocked to see it's garnered such a stature, with the special effects alone being worthy of endless praise. I will say it's bizarre to see Kurt Russell not only so young, but also so deprived of facial hair. I've already gotten so used to those distinctive whiskers from The Hateful Eight, I never want them to leave his face!

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