The Thing (1982): A Film Review

John Carpenter’s The Thing is my new favorite horror movie. It generally goes for the long scare rather than the cat jumping out at you. Rather than cultivating terror, this film generates dread. This is achieved by breaking many of the rules for horror and following many of the rules of a mystery. There’s no damsel in distress, or damsel of any kind, and while things start to go wrong almost immediately after the movie starts, the villain isn’t revealed or even properly teased until we are maybe fifteen minutes in. We do get a strong sense of unease, but no real details are revealed until the characters visit the Norwegian base, which is the setting of the prequel. What this movie does so well is resist the temptation to become a monster movie, even after the scariest monster I’ve ever freaking seen is revealed.


The thing (Ed. Really?) that this movie did so well was foster paranoia. Almost immediately after learning that they are in a horror movie, the characters stop trusting each other. This breakdown of the team pushes all of the action. In a brilliant move, the audience knows almost nothing more than the characters do. This breakdown in trust between the filmmakers and audience is something generally reserved for mysteries. Please don’t write in to explain how I’m an idiot and don’t know horror at all. While my experience in horror is pretty limited, it is important to remember that the film you were going to use to ruthlessly cut down my claim was probably made after 1982. Probably. Anyway, my point wasn’t that this movie is unique, but that it is brilliant.

Nothing here feels like an accident. I can’t tell you how many movies I’ve seen where plot holes pop up more often than middle school jokes in a Michael Bay movie, but the more I think about The Thing, the more impressive it is. Information is jealously handed out, and every detail seems to bear scrutiny. I’m talking “Did that character have a different shirt on earlier” and “were those guys alone together for more than ten minutes” level of scrutiny. I watched the movie yesterday and can reasonably guess where some things fit on the timeline, but other things (Ed. Stop it.) could have happened in several ways. The impression I get is that there is a correct answer to any question you might have, but you have to work for it. I have new a video game coming out in a matter of hours now, several movies I want to see, and several different TV series I am trying to get through. Unfortunately, all I want to do is watch The Thing again.

 

Last modified on Friday, 21 June 2013 01:34

Ben Rhodes, Fanbase Press Senior Contributor

Favorite Book:  Cryptonomicon
Favorite MovieYoung Frankenstein
Favorite Absolutely Everything:  Monty Python

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