Let’s talk about The Thing

Taken by Wikimedia Commons

It’s hard to believe that when “The Thing” first premiered it did poorly at the box office and was actually hated by the public.  Now over 30 years later it has gained a cult following and become a beloved classic that many believe has defined the monster movie genre.

It is a loose adaption of the 1951 movie “The Thing from Another World” directed by Howard Hawks and Christian Nyby.  The story starts out with a helicopter chasing after a dog.  The helicopter soon makes its way to a base nearby.  It then crashes, leaving the group of scientists at the base perplexed by what just happened.  They take in the dog, and all seems fine until later when it starts to mercilessly kill the other dogs and changes into something horrendous.  Pilot R.J. MacReady (played by Kurt Russell) and the rest of the crew go on a seek-and-destroy mission to prevent the creature from reaching the outside world.

The movie features the best practical effects, which I believe really make this creature-based film as it makes the monster more believable than just seeing it through CGI effects.  I certainly felt the brutality when I saw the transformation scenes where you can hear bones crunching along with skin tearing as the creature mutates.  Paranoia plays a special role in the movie as each character questions the other.  This is especially apparent at the end where you find yourself questioning if the monster really is dead.

According to the commentary from director John Carpenter, the movie is the first of his Apocalypse Trilogy.  The other two were “Prince of Darkness” and “In the Mouth of Madness.”  He explains in an interview how the movie is about the end of the world, and it’s not meant to have a happy ending, which is why many of the audience disliked it when it first premiered.  There is also the fact that the ending wasn’t really an ending, but instead was left to be interpreted by the viewer.

Even Universal Studios wanted Carpenter to cut out that last scene and leave it with MacReady blowing up the monster.  However, Carpenter said no to Universal and stood by his ending.  It was Kurt Russell who thought of the last line of the movie.

“Why don’t we just… wait here for a little while… see what happens?” said MacReady.

To him the line was what the theme of the movie boiled down to: that the characters along with the audience are unsure who is who.

I can understand how that can turn off some people as they want the story to end and wrap up with a nice bow on top.  I admit I do enjoy it sometimes when a movie just ends with all the loose ends tied up. However, I do feel that this ending works especially for this kind of movie as it keeps up that feeling of paranoia which stays with you long after the movie ends.  Overall this movie is a fun watch with great effects, good tension building and an ending that will leave you thinking.


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