I’m breaking one of my #31DaysofHorror rules with The Thing, because I saw it almost exactly five years ago. It was a key film in getting me into horror movies again after a fifteen year hiatus. The chance to watch it back to back with The Thing From Another World, one of John Carpenter’s favourite films as a child, was too great an opportunity to miss. It’s a different take on the premise of an alien being uncovered in polar ice. In this one, the shape-shifting alien picks off the crew when they are alone, creating exact replicas, so nobody knows who is human and who is not. Suspicion turns to paranoia, and the remaining humans have to make sure the alien doesn’t leave the base and take over the world.
This is one of those films from the eighties that blew my teenage mind. The creature special effects still look spectacular forty years on, and they were created almost entirely by the shockingly young Rob Bottin, who was only twenty years old. The gloopy carnage in 4K HDR made me giggle with shocked joy, but it’s so much more than the special effects. It’s paced beautifully, every scene is tuned to perfection, every character has a personality, and it has one of the most fascinating and entertaining monsters ever put on screen. It shares ideas with the similarly spectacular 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It’s also, pleasingly, a whodunnit like Werewolves Within.
The Thing is John Carpenter’s best work. There are lots of little call backs to The Thing From Another World, from the title reveal, to the video of the Norwegians standing in a circle, the alien diving on fire out of a window into a bank of snow, the block of ice at the Norwegian base, the wooden slats on the corridor floors, and even the fact MacReady and Captain Hendry are both pilots. Carpenter’s version is an absolute classic and one of my favourite films, full stop.