The Thing may not have been an instant classic in 1982 when it was released, but John Carpenter’s remake of the classic film The Thing from Outer Space has since become a classic in its own right the has spawned a Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray from Scream Factory, plus a host of other special releases. This Halloween Fifteen post will be slightly different from the usual format because of the Scream Factory review; we’ll stick to the format on page 1, and you can find a review of all the special features on this edition on page 2.
What makes it a classic?
Much like many of the other films that I’ve covered so far in this year’s Halloween Fifteen festivities, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly one thing that makes The Thing a classic. Is it the soundtrack by Ennio Morricone, who is notably attempting to mimic John Carpenter’s own classic scores despite being a prominent composer himself? Is it the excellent special effects work by Rob Bottin, Albert Whitlock, and their team of artists and designers? Is it the use of practical effects that sells the realism? Maybe it’s Carpenter’s dedication to creating a film so full of dread and suspense that it fails to give its viewer an uplifting ending despite audiences’ protests against such cynicism.
But all of these things are, like the Thing itself, just small living pieces of an interconnected organism, ones that can separate from the host and thrive but become downright dangerous when combined. More than anything else, the storyline is one of The Thing‘s most powerful offerings, a deeply human tale about not just surviving but ensuring the survival of something larger than just a group of human lives. Kurt Russell’s character MacReady, toward the end of the film, even acknowledges what the audience probably already knows by now – it’s unlikely that any of them will make it out of Outpost 31 alive, and perhaps they shouldn’t.
The Thing is about paranoia and lack of trust, especially with the people attempting to coexist with something so unknown that it can combine and reform itself into the shape of whatever it ingests. That paranoia fuels the film, creating the suspense the audience feels when everything falls apart. It’s not even clear if our main protagonist MacReady is a human or the Thing, and Carpenter forces us to question that during the film’s middle portion. We have to come to terms with the fact that no one can truly be trusted without testing, and that makes The Thing a scary film because it also brings up some real-life issues we all face: how much can we trust the people around us, even if they’re not aliens?
But The Thing is also about forcing oneself to trust in humanity, as MacReady and the rest of his surviving team fight to fend off the Thing’s attacks before it can settle into a frozen hibernation. They trust each other to blow the Thing to smithereens before it can leave the Antarctic tundra and spread to the rest of the world, and their heroism seemingly saves the Earth from a spreading plague that will only take somewhere upwards of 20,000 hours to infect everyone. The Thing may seem grim, but in a way it’s also kind of uplifting: its characters sacrifice themselves to freezing temperatures to allow humanity to continue, and there’s something impressive about the way Carpenter can juggle those two opposing feelings.
Is it good for Halloween?
The special effects work and gore still astound me, and that’s a good enough reason for me to recommend The Thing for Halloween viewing. Carpenter’s pacing is on-point, and even at just under two hours, the film moves at a fast clip with surprise after surprise that doesn’t require jump scares. Instead, Carpenter uses the brutal weather conditions – on this Blu-Ray provided in 4.1 DTS surround sound so that the viewer can literally hear the wind around them – and Morricone’s soundtrack plods away in tribute to Carpenter’s work on Halloween.
It’s hard not to feel claustrophobic and uneasy in this wasteland, and The Thing perfectly imitates that to the audience. It’s eerie, paranoid, and an absolute delight you shouldn’t miss this Halloween. (Reviewed on Halloween, by the way.)
Where can I find it this Halloween?
Click page 2 for the Scream Factory Blu-Ray and special features review.