Thursday, 29 December 2016

The Thing (4 Stars)

After seven independent films, all of which were critically acclaimed, this was John Carpenter's first film made for a major studio. Of course, film studios are more interested in money than ratings, so they were mostly impressed by the box office successes of "Halloween", "The Fog" and "Escape from New York".

"The Thing" failed to live up to its expectations. When it was released in 1982 it was an all-round flop. It made a loss at the box office, and critics slammed it. I can't understand what people were thinking. To coin a phrase, was it ahead of its time? Critics now consider it to be one of the best horror films ever made.

The film is about a scientific outpost in the Antarctic. 12 men are living together, far removed from the rest of the world. They take in a dog that they see being hunted by a seemingly insane Norwegian scientist from another science station. What they don't realise is that it isn't a dog. It's an alien creature that has the ability to take on the appearance of anything it kills.

If it were only a Thing it would be dangerous enough, but it's a highly intelligent creature. It's capable of quietly blending in, biding its time. It also has the ability to duplicate itself, sexless procreation, so soon there are several of the Things in the station. Paranoia breaks out, because nobody knows who is human and who is an alien. The scientists also feel a sense of responsibility. It's not just about saving their own lives. If they allow the creature to reach civilisation the whole of the Earth's population could be wiped out.

I forget when I first saw "The Thing". Probably 10 to 15 years ago. The first John Carpenter film that I saw was "Dark Star". Looking at it today it seems dated, especially the special effects, but that doesn't detract from its quality. It's an old school horror film that relies on suspense, rather than blood and gore. Is it really one of the best horror films ever made? I don't know. I wouldn't list it in my Top 10, but it's still an excellent film.

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