It’s Burl here with a review of a movie I saw five times in the theater alone, and countless times on home video since! Ha ha, it’s John Carpenter’s The Thing, one of the all-time great examples of how a remake can better its predecessor, even if the predecessor is already pretty good!
There are a few other examples of this – Cronenberg’s The Fly, even Chuck Russell’s remake of The Blob – but The Thing is the king of them all! You already know the story of course: alien life-form invades Antarctic research camp, paranoia and gruesome special effects ensue! The great idea behind this production was to go back to the original John W. Campbell story in which the alien was a mutative beast who could hide within its victims, rather than a tall humanoid with rosethorn knuckles and vegetable flesh! Ha ha, if they’d tried that, they might have ended up with something like that legendary turkeybird The Dark!
This movie’s got it all, except ladies! You have a wonderful, chilly score from Ennio Morricone – I guess the suits wouldn’t let Carpenter do his own, ha ha, but I think I’m glad for that in this case! – and uniformly solid performances from all the gentlemen involved! Kurt Russell is marvelous as MacReady, A. Wilford Brimley (who is also the Wilford Brimley) makes an excellent Dr. Copper, and David “Matinee” Clennon is perfect as the stonerman Palmer! Of course Keith David gives his usual mackerel of a performance, and Charles Hallahan is good too! They’re all good, dagnabbit! And many of them wear beards!
The dog who brings the infection into camp is really fine too – one of the best dog actors I’ve ever seen, right up there with the one from The Boogens! I hope he got some extra kibble the day they shot his “wandering through the base” scene, ha ha! Other virtues to be found in this picture include the icy cinematography from the portly cinematographer, Dean Cundey, and the tightening sense of dread as we realize first how unlikely is a happy ending for these men, and what the stakes are if – or when, ha ha! – the alien reaches a populated area!
There isn’t a whole else left to say about the picture, except that it’s one of Burl’s all-time favourites and has been since June of 1982! Sure, it’s hardly a perfect movie, but it’s pretty close! It’s the best movie Carpenter has ever made, and he’s made some doozies! Halloween is great, and so is Dark Star, and so are The Fog and Big Trouble in Little China and They Live and Prince of Darkness (though Christine, the movie he made right after this one, is only sort of solid), but none of them touch this cool cucumber of a picture! He out-Hawksed Hawks with this one, ha ha! I give The Thing a solid four crabheads, my highest rating! If you haven’t seen it, ha ha, give it a chance!