John Carpenter’s The Thing is one of my all time favorites. A simple and intriguing story of isolation, paranoia, and monsters set in a completely foreign landscape, this film works on so many levels that it shouldn’t even be possible.
Made during the most creative and prolific time in Carpenter’s lengthy (and currently fizzling) career, The Thing is credited as a remake of Howard Hawks film, The Thing From Another World. In truth, it is an adaptation of the John Campbell novella, Who Goes There?
The film opens with a crazed Norwegian team flying a helicopter through the snowy landscape, firing madly at a running dog.
The men stationed inside this Arctic station stop the Norwegian rampage, kennel the dog, then set out to explore the Norwegian camp, finding some troubling clues left behind, including a dead body, the burned remains of a two-faced humanoid, and a large block of ice with a hollowed cavity.
They follow the trail described in the records of the Norwegians to a massive crater containing a UFO and and a hole left by the block of ice they suspect the creature came from.
Back at the station, the rescued dog mutates and attacks, in one of the most impressive creature effects scenes ever, and our team is forced to incinerate it.
Wilford Brimley (without his moustache!) calculates that the alien can assimilate Earth within three years if it reaches civilization, and tells the men that the creature’s “dead” remains are still active on a cellular level, according to the Norwegian scientist’s journal. Everyone is attacked by the creature’s remains, but as he metamorphoses he is caught outside and burned before he can escape and they incinerate the rest of the remains. Wilford, who was conspicuously absent until he is seen running from the wrecked helicopter, has killed the sled dogs and is destroying the radio when the team corners him and locks him in the tool shed.
From here on out, the film becomes a guessing game of who turns next, and what kind of awesome monster they will transform into…
Kurt Russell takes charge and forces everyone to test samples of their blood, in a futile effort to find out which one of the men is going to change next.
One by one, our heroes fight for survival, trying desperately to contain this beast that could very well signal the apocalypse for the rest of the world.