The Thing

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Top class, thinking-man’s monster movie

Image of The Thing

John Carpenter / US / 1982 / 109mins

Available on Blu-ray Mon 20 2017

Pump action shotguns, beards, videogames, flamethrowers, whisky, shooting dogs, exploding helicopters, bad haircuts and bad attitude, stained longjohns, fur-collared parkas… The Thing is a film best described as macho camp. It’s Antarctica, 40 below outside and the huskies are getting restless. In a scientific outstation the men are getting restless too. The creepy corridors and ominous heartbeat-like soundtrack aren’t helping the tension levels any. This is Alien meets Fort Apache and utterly riveting. Manipulative but riveting.

In a nearby Norwegian station something horrible has happened. The place has frozen over and a dead dude seems to have slit his own throat. The remains of some creature have been found in the ice, chopped and buried in a hurry. A gunge-heavy autopsy – with much dripping gore and ooze – is required. But the remains are not dead yet and the guys are being “assimilated”. It’s difficult to work out who has been overtaken by the alien force and who remains human but Kurt Russell is determined to find out. Inevitably the men slowly turn against each other and are picked off one by one.

Taking its cue from the 1951 original (and owing a serious debt to Alien made three years before), there are psychological aspects to the film – paranoia is rife and there are serious trust issues – but that’s not really what it’s about. There’s a nightmarish array of set-pieces and shocks and the slimy, slithering (gallons of KY jelly were used) animatronic shape-shifting monster will make you look away in disgust, but also giggle nervously . Carpenter is on top form. The production was made before the days of CGI yet the special effects stand up incredibly well. The production design is perfect.