The Thing (1982)

The Thing, 1982; directed by John Carpenter;  Starring Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David and a host of “That Guy!” ‘s.

It’s Saturday night at the movies and so for our very first entry in the Pop Teez Poptober 31 day Halloween Film Fest (er, Poptoberfest!) we’re just going to jump right into it with one of our favorites: The Thing.   John Carpenter’s 1982 remake of 1951’s The Thing From Another World was released in the same summer as ET.  It was greeted poorly.  The New York times wrote that  it’s actors were “used merely as props to be hacked, slashed, disembowelled and decapitated..” and claimed it skimped on personality and character development.  Roger Ebert, in his similarly disappointing review, called it “a great barf bag movie.”

Considering how beloved  – and how different in tone and spirit – Spielberg’s epic about a cute and cuddly extra terrestrial is, it might be easy to see how such a dark, gory, bleak flick such as The Thing could have been received with such hostility.

In recent years  (like so many other great movies misunderstood on their initial releases) it’s gone through a major  re-evaluation and is now regularly in the top 10 of best horror movie lists, often as number one.   And why not? Where once it may have been seen as extremely gory and bleak, we’ve since experienced The Evil Dead movies, the Saw movies, Hostel and other “torture porn” and, maybe worst of all, Mama Mia!

That initial revulsion may have helped conceal from viewers the actually very effective characterizations of a veteran cast and a clever script. A group of isolated Antarctic researchers and crew,  eventually led by Kurt Russell (in his second collaboration with John Carpenter), while preparing to head back to civilization after months in frozen isolation, find themselves in a puzzling scenario where Norwegian researchers are hunting a dog from a helicopter, Sarah Palin-style.

Paranoia and high tension soon follow for the all male crew,  who include Keith David, a whole bunch of “that guy!”s and a delightfully crazed (yet oddly sane?) Wilford Brimley.   Soon our unfortunate bunch are forced into a game of “who’s a monster? Who’s a human?” that we know can only end poorly.  That icy seclusion only adds to the tension and claustrophobia.  Stocked with plenty of jump scares and gory goodness, with some of the best demented special effects the 80s would offer, the fun here (oh what bleak fun!) is in the journey, even if we suspect we may know the destination.

The Thing is quite simply a great Poptoberfest of Horror Opening Night.

Dr. Vorhees