THE THING1982 - MOVIE REVIEW
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I hate exposition. Are you with me? Don't you hate exposition? The first ten or (jeezus!) more minutes of a movie where we get to know everybody and meet the tough but lovable cop or the hard drinkin' crack whore with the heart of gold. You have to wade through all the introductions before stuff in the movie starts HAPPENING!
Which is why I love it so much when a movie opens in the middle of the action, the way God intended.
THE THING, John Carpenter's (HALLOWEEN, THE FOG, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, THEY LIVE, IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS, VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED , GHOSTS OF MARS) 1982 re-make of the 1951 Howard Hawks' classic (both based on the John W. Campbell Jr. short story "Who Goes There?"), opens with a helicopter chasing a dog across the endless frozen waste of Antarctica. A man leans out of the helicopter and aims a high powered rifle at the dog. Now that's the way to start a movie! Right away, you're drawn in. What the hell is going on?
Despite a great many bullets and a few thermite grenades, the dog makes it to a small American science base where the curious American residents have come outside to see what's going on. The helicopter lands but is quickly blown up by a poorly thrown grenade. The only survivor continues to fire at the dog, wounding one the Americans in the process. Unable to communicate with the crazed gunman (Norbert Weisser - who is screaming things in what turns out to be Norwegian), American base commander Garry (Donald Moffat: THE TERMINAL MAN) returns fire and kills him.
The murderous rampage is attributed to cabin fever (not at all unusual at the very isolated bases near the South Pole) and the nice doggie is allowed to roam the base. Meanwhile Dr. Copper (Richard A. Dysart: THE TERMINAL MAN, SPAWN [TV]) and helicopter pilot MacCready (Kurt Russell: ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, GRINDHOUSE: DEATH PROOF) fly over to the Norwegian base to see if they can help.
Now if you're at all into horror movies you instantly know that something weird is going on with the dog. The movie doesn't try to hide it, which would have been lame. Instead there are some excellent scenes where the dog gives various characters some intense, motionless stares that clearly imply intelligence (animatronics or just a well trained husky? I don't know, but it looked good). MacCready and Copper return from the burned out Norwegian base with evidence the Norse scientists had discovered something strange in the ice. Shortly thereafter things get tense.
The special effects are amazing, graphic, gory, cool and apparently nearly fatal for Rob Bottin (THE HOWLING, THE FOG, ROBOCOP, TOTAL RECALL, SE7EN). He did much of the special make-up work and lived on the set working seven days a week for over a year. He had himself hospitalized for exhaustion when filming was done.
This movie is part of the very well known formula of the "alien among us" story line. The creature in question can digest anything living and then make itself into a perfect copy. When these isolated men realize what's going on, they also realize that some of them may not be human anymore. Paranoia doesn't begin to describe the way they feel. This formula has been followed by many films, but here it's done well.
By the way, if you saw THE THING on network TV then you saw something very different from the theatrical version. The networks in their wisdom rearranged some scenes and added narration. Why would you add narration? Because the networks believe people are idiots and must have everything explained to them. Did I mention that I Hate exposition?
There are some flaws. The way computers are portrayed made me cringe and showed a complete lack of understanding on Carpenter's part as to exactly how they work. Plus you just have to ask yourself, once you understood that THE THING was taking people over only when they were alone and no one was looking, why would you EVER leave anyone alone? Wouldn't you stay together constantly, thus never giving the Thing the opportunity to absorb anyone else?
But the scary atmosphere and awesome creature effects allow your suspension of disbelief to skip these issues. That's why THE THING gets four shriek girls.