This is one of those movies you shouldn’t watch after eating. Seriously. It’s that gruesome. Awesome, yes, but pretty freaking gross as well. John Carpenter’s The Thing is a great monster movie that, while not necessarily scary, is such a gory action-packed ride that you just can’t help but love it.
You can see throughout the whole film that it’s inspired almost every horror movie in some form or another, and if that’s not proof enough that it’s something special, then I don’t know what else is. No one can be trusted here, and you never know who’s the villain until they’re literally turned inside out. Literally.
The Thing stars Kurt Russell as R.J. MacReady, a man who is apart of an American scientific expedition to the frozen wastelands of Antarctica. His day-to-day routine is boring, and his favorite pass time is drinking in his little cabin. But when a strange dog is chased into his encampment by a Norwegian helicopter, things get messy really quick.
I won’t go into details of the plot, as its evolution throughout the movie is one of the film’s greatest strengths, but suffice to say things go from monotonous to deadly in the time it takes for a cute dog to blend in with a bunch of hairy men.
One of The Thing’s greatest pros comes from its atmosphere. John Carpenter knows exactly how to use the already creepy environment to his advantage, and once MacReady and his pals figure out that one of their own is an alien imposter (shocking, I know), the tension and suspense is amped up to an all-time high that never lets off until the credits roll at the end.
The Thing somehow manages to trick you into a sense of safety through humor or camaraderie between the characters, which makes the moments when the crap hits the fan all the more terrifying. At the core of this terror is The Thing’s masterful use of practical effects, which are some of the most gruesome, disgusting special effects I’ve ever seen.
There is a lot of blood in The Thing, and I do mean a lot. I’m not grossed out by many things (except spiders, I hate spiders), but The Thing managed to have me freaked out on more than once occasion. The alien creature that hides itself in the bodies of an organic host is gross, sick, and seriously messed up. Although its purpose and backstory isn’t entirely explained, this mystery works in the favor of the film and makes you feel all the more immersed in the story.
The Thing is, by far, the best monster movie I’ve ever seen. It’s gruesome, disturbing, action-packed, and comes packed with such a superb understanding of both tension and terror that I can guarantee the hairs on the back of your neck will very much be on end.
However, I did have a few problems with the movie. For one, I felt like the secondary characters were barely developed and acted primarily as stereotypes to get killed. With the exception of maybe one or two characters, I never really bonded with these men and while their inevitable demises were unsettling, I never felt personally invested in them.
It’s not enough to ruin the experience, but it did keep it from having any kind of impact on me outside of the shock value. While I do wish that the secondary characters were more than cliched stereotypes, they’re still entertaining and have some fun banter with MacReady.
With that said, The Thing has given us one of the coolest protagonists in horror movie history in the form of Kurt Russel’s MacReady. R.J. MacReady is awesome. Simple as that. He’s smart, doesn’t make stupid decisions, sports an awesome beard and knows how to handle a flamethrower with the best of them.
Kurt Russel eats up every scene he’s in, and he really does carry the film on his shoulders, giving the viewer someone to root for amidst all the horrible things going on throughout the movie. And since the movie isn’t too long or too short, you’re entirely invested in his story from beginning to end.
John Carpenter’s The Thing is a classic for a reason. I loved watching it, and it’s easily my favorite monster movie, even if it didn’t entirely blow me away. And despite an oddly abrupt ending that gives little closure, you won’t be able to relax the hairs on the back of your neck until long after the credits roll.