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Members of an American scientific research outpost in Antarctica find themselves battling a parasitic alien organism capable of perfectly imitating its victims. They soon discover that this task will be harder than they thought, as they don't know which members of the team have already been assimilated and their paranoia threatens to tear them apart.
In my eyes, John Carpenter is an average director at best. Sure, he's had some great movies, and indeed, he's had a few duds, but the majority of his work seems to come across as average and forgettable. The man has a lot of fans though, so I may be in the minority with that opinion, but I felt that I should throw said opinion out there before getting into the review.
Review by Chad
Added: June 29, 2006
The Thing, as you may or may not know, is a remake as well as an unofficial sequel to a flick from the fifties called The Thing From Another World. While I haven't seen that film in ages and don't remember a whole lot about it, I did pick up on the fact that this remake picks up shortly after the events of the original, but at the same time, it recreates the events found in the original film. It all begins with a Swedish (excuse me, Norwegian) helicopter chasing after and attempting to shoot a lone dog in the Antarctica wilderness. The guy with the gun isn't having very good luck putting the dog down, and the chase eventually leads them to an American research base. The chopper lands and the actions of these over-excited Norwegian folks eventually gets them both killed; however, the dog is fine and seemingly happy to be with the Americans.
These Americans - helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell), Dr. Blair (Wilford Brimley), Childs (Keith David), and a slew of other men - decide that a couple of the men should head over to the Norwegian base to see if they can figure out what caused these fellows to go crazy. They eventually find out what's going on, all right; those Norwegians managed to discover an alien spacecraft in the ice, and when they dug it up, they let some sort of alien being loose. This alien can perfectly imitate any living creature that it comes across, including humans... and somehow, it has found its way into the American base. From there on out, it's a case of every man for himself with the paranoia running high and the chances of survival dropping by the hour.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I'm not a huge fan of the majority of Carpenter's work; however, this is one of those few movies of his that I consider to be "great." What makes it so good, in my view, is the mix of thought-provoking storytelling and old-fashioned horror that seems to be forgotten in most of today's cinematic offerings. Instead of having the alien run around the camp and rack up an impressive body-count for the hundred minutes of running time, the real horror comes from the humans themselves as they try to figure out what this alien wants and who amongst them is infected. The paranoia that these men feel translates perfectly from the screen to the audience, and just when you think you have it all figured out, here comes a new twist - this, my dear readers, is storytelling at its finest.
This storytelling aspect of the film isn't the extent of the goodness, though; those gorehounds in the audience will be treated to some nice displays of the red stuff as well as some very "interesting" visuals. Although this movie was released over twenty years ago, the effects still look very nice even by today's standards - just check out that damned creepy spider-head creation for an example of that. The tense atmosphere is also made that much better by the amount of characters involved in the storyline; sure, they're not all important in the grand scheme of things, but the fact is that not all of them can be shown on screen at once, and keeping in mind that we don't actually see the alien itself very often until the end of the movie, it's hard to tell who is being infected while we watch the particular characters in the given scene. When the characters start to mingle again after these separations, you never quite know who will turn out to be infected... and this makes more than a couple of scenes all the better.
With the recent flood of Hollywood remakes, I thought that it was appropriate to check out a film that proves that not every remake has to piss on the original and also shows that some remakes can actually outshine the original. Even though I'm not a huge fan of his work, this is one of those films that shows exactly why Carpenter is revered amongst the horror community as much as he is. 8/10.
- added June 30, 2006 at 3:54pm
JOHN CARPENTER IS AN AVERAGE DIRECTOR?!
"Halloween", "The Thing", "The Fog", "Prince of
Darkness", "Escape From New York", "Christine",
"Starman", "Big Trouble In Little China", and the
highly underrated "In the Mouth of Madness". GIVE
ME A BREAK! John Carpenter is one of the three
greatest horror directors of our time, or any
time, for that matter. He absolutely ruled the
1980's. Sure, he has slowed down quite a bit
lately and "Ghosts of Mars" was abismal, but that
does not discredit his early work. Carpenter's
influence can be seen all over modern horror films
these days. At least you told us you were not a
fan before the review, and I do appreciate that.
I guess it's just a matter of tastes, but WOW.
That is the first time I have ever heard someone
say that John Carpenter was overrated. Oh, as for
"The Thing"...of course, 10/10.
- added June 30, 2006 at 7:28pm
Sure, he's had some great movies; I even admitted
that in my opening paragraph, and I recognize what
he's brought to the horror genre. Halloween
opened the doors for one of my personal favorite
genres (the eighties slashers), and yep, some of
those movies you mentioned are indeed classics
(although I disagree heavily on The Fog - very
overrated, in my view). My problem with the man
(well, his work) is this: if you take away both
"extremes" of the spectrum (the great films and
the shit films), you're left with about half of
his career - films that were decent and enjoyable,
but nothing great. This is why I say that he's
overrated; sure, he's had a better career than a
lot of other directors, but when it's said that
he's a "master of horror" (no reference to the
television series), I feel that that is pushing it
too far. This is just my opinion though, and like
I also said in the beginning of the review, I'm
probably in the minority with that opinion.
- added April 4, 2008 at 8:25pm
Agreed about John being average. The only films I
care about are The Thing and Halloween. Other than
that, the man has nothing in my opinion.
- added May 3, 2010 at 3:09am
He is hit or miss, but this one was hit out of the
park for me. 9/10
- added June 19, 2015 at 2:39am
10/10 every day.