A film like John Carpenter’s “The Thing” could never be made today, not with how it ends. But in taking this brave move, Carpenter reveals the true power of a story. There are things we are still wondering and worrying about. To this day, our itch is left unscratched.
It is also refreshing to see a horror film (if you can call it that – it strays into the realms of thriller and family drama throughout) that isn’t populated by complete idiots. Kurt Russel (Macready) and co are American scientists working in Antarctica who encounter a shape shifting alien that has destroyed the base of their Norwegian colleagues. Being scientists, Carpenter, and screenwriters Bill Lancaster and John W. Campbell treat these characters with respect.
Instead of washing it away as superstition, an autopsy is undertaken
When the discovery is made, instead of washing it away as superstition, an autopsy is undertaken. When imminent danger rears its head, they quickly recognise fire as their greatest weapon. This is a group of men who know how to deal with a crisis, that are self aware enough to give all weapons and command to one man once they start fighting amongst themselves, unsure of who could be infected.
This film does a fantastic, unpretentious job of presenting the conflict born out of cold war paranoia
The true horror here comes not from gore, despite the truly wondrous physical effects provided by Rob Bottin and his crew, but from the confusion and loneliness of not knowing who to trust, not even knowing if you are you. Made in an America that was reeling from 20 years of suspicion, this film does a fantastic, unpretentious job of presenting the conflict born out of cold war paranoia.
A slice of paranoia that will leave you reeling
‘The Thing’ is not the greatest film ever made, but it could be unique in terms of seeing a high concept executed to near perfection, with absolutely no frills to speak of. The aforementioned make up and effects combine with a haunting, at times operatic, score from the maestro Ennio Morricone to serve up a slice of paranoia that will leave you reeling in the final credits, from a filmmaker who himself was perhaps a little fed up with being told that those who seemed to be his best friends were actually out to get him.
Article by Nick Inglis
Noel Maurice is one of the founders of indieberlin. Originally from the UK via a childhood in Johannesburg, he has been resident in Berlin since 1991. Describing himself as a ‘recovering musician’, he is the author of The Berlin Diaires, a trilogy detailing the East Berlin art and squat scene of the early 90s, available on Amazon and through this site.