Thing, The (1982)

Thing, The (1982)

“So how do we know who’s human?”

At an isolated research center in Antarctica, a helicopter pilot (Kurt Russell) and his colleagues become alarmed when they realize a husky dog is actually a shape-shifting alien ready to take over their bodies at any time.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Aliens
  • Horror Films
  • John Carpenter Films
  • Mistaken and Hidden Identities
  • Possession
  • Science Fiction

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary is among a host of critics who are/were unhappy with “John Carpenter’s remake of Howard Hawks’s classic” sci-fi horror flick, based on “John W. Campbell, Jr.’s source story, ‘Who Goes There?’.” He refers to it as “a tremendous disappointment,” arguing that it traded “in the good taste that made Hawks’s film so special for some of the most repellent imagery in horror-movie history.”

Meanwhile, he posits that the film’s “terrifying premise” — the men on the base “lose trust in one another, fearing that the monster lurks beneath the familiar human facade of one of their co-workers” — is “exploited by Carpenter and special-effects genius Rob Bottin, who really comes up with some amazing concoctions.” He asserts that Carpenter’s “major mistake” is “when he has the film’s suspense and horror focus on the visuals, particularly the extremely gory, often repulsive ways in which the men are killed off.”

Peary argues that “the real horror should be that these men are losing their identities when they are inhabited by the creature” — but “unfortunately, Carpenter neglected to give his characters distinct or engaging personalities to begin with,” and “since they are already dehumanized from their long stay in the wilderness, we can’t be too upset seeing nonentities being taken over.”

I disagree with Peary’s take on this film. While Hawks’s unique flick is a must-see classic of the 1950s, Carpenter’s film succeeds on its own terms, presenting a wintery hellscape of justifiable paranoia in which these men (I disagree they’re dehumanized) can no longer rely on one another for support and survival. Carpenter’s direction is spot-on, and the special effects really are a wonder to behold. While this isn’t a personal favorite, it’s a well-crafted thriller, and has enough of a dedicated following that all film fanatics should watch it at least once.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Kurt Russell as MacReady
  • Dean Cundey’s cinematography
  • Impressive make-up and special effects
  • Ennio Morricone’s score

Must See?
Yes, for its cult status and as an appropriately horrifying thriller.


  • Cult Movie
  • Important Director

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)


One thought on “Thing, The (1982)

  1. Must-see & in total agreement with the assessment given.

    This is Carpenter’s best film (with his most assured direction); here, he’s working with the best script he ever had (by Bill Lancaster) and he clearly trusts his material.

    Whenever I revisit this film, it grabs me all over again and won’t let go. Although that in itself isn’t all that rare an accomplishment for a well-made horror film, this remake manages it in its own unique way.

    It also doesn’t seem to age.

    Strong performances feed the film’s gripping nature. And there’s solid support in Ennio Morricone’s score.

    Personally, this is among my favorite horror films (and I’m not particularly a huge Carpenter fan); one that I watch about once a year or so. It deserves its reputation as a classic.

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