Horror · Movies

Watching John Carpenter’s The Thing Again

When I started this blog over three years ago, all I posted about was movies. I blogged about movies that people should see before they died, and later, I realized that so many film magazines and film sites did the same thing. So, I have let that concept go, but I am proud of my work. After looking back through my posts about movies, I stopped at my second post ever for this blog, which was about The Thing (1982). I stopped because I love this movie and I watched it twice yesterday. It was great to revisit it again, though I can’t eat food while watching it because I’ll barf.

I’m not usually a fan of gory movies, but I’ll make the exception for this movie. I enjoy this movie because John Carpenter, who also directed Halloween (1978), directed this feature and I like the similarities that the films share. Halloween and The Thing both have antagonists who are experts in the art of surprise. Michael Myers would lurk in the shadows, stalking the citizens of Haddonfield in the dark. The alien from The Thing infects its hosts and it overtakes the host’s body. If not caught early, the alien can completely take control of its host and perform its hosts’ mannerisms to perfection. Although Michael Myers has a whole sleepy college town to wreak havoc upon, the alien is isolated around Outpost 31 in Antarctica. The interesting difference between Myers and the thing is that Myers is killing because he’s a pure psychopath, while the thing is killing in order to survive.

Okay, perhaps, the thing isn’t trying to kill, though it may seem that way. The thing is trying to take over its host, but Macready (Kurt Russell) and the gang stay on the thing’s heels, so the thing can’t fully overtake its host. When the thing can’t finish the process, it will attack in order to survive. A good example of this is the scene where Macready is testing everyone’s blood in order to see who has the alien within them. Now, Macready is testing the blood by applying heat to it. Heat happens to be the only thing that seems to kill the alien. Macready holds a flame to the petri dish that has Palmer’s blood on it and his blood starts to scramble faster than a quarterback being rushed in the pocket. Then the alien just goes crazy inside of Palmer (David Clennon) and takes his body over, making this grotesque monster. I must admit that I laughed pretty hard when the alien grabs Windows in its huge mouth and just swung him everywhere like he was a rag doll.

That’s what makes the film so intriguing. It’s hard to figure out how exactly the alien gets inside of its target. Macready probably has the best theory that the every piece of the alien is an individual organism with a survival instinct. It’s probably true, but it’s hard to determine where certain characters were infected. It’s not a bad thing to not be able to figure out where the characters were infected. It helps intensify the crew’s paranoia of who is the alien and how it’s leaping into the bodies of the crew. I still would like to figure out Blair and Norris were infected. What did they touch? Or can the alien travel in the air in some kind of way? And whatever happened to Nauls? He disappears, but I guess it’s implied that he didn’t make it.

The ending was one of the best that I have seen from a horror film. Macready and Childs (David Keith) appear to be the lone survivors and they both question if they are the alien. That theme of paranoia stays constant throughout the film up until this final scene. Even if the alien doesn’t get to them, it looks as if they will eventually die from the cold. They lit every building on fire in an attempt to kill the creature for good, but it may not work. The thing always finds a way back throughout the film. It’s a survivalist. That’s what it does.

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