The Thing (1982)

4 out of 5

Director: John Carpenter

While a bit dodgy in spots in the same way that most horror movies have “why are you walking into that dark corridor?” dodgy moments, “The Thing” nonetheless is nigh timeless in execution, and hot damn if your pants don’t fly off in wtf-ness when you’re first seeing the creature effects. An Antarctica US research crew takes in a dog that’s being chased (and shot at) by some wacky Norwegians. Why they are shooting at this dog and why the Norwegian camp is destroyed are illustrated with classic quiet-before-the-storm Carpenter, with his trademark minimal score highlighting the tension and isolation in the windy, snow-filled setting. The eventual plot development of an alien that can replicate any creature wasn’t new at the time this movie came out, nor was its methods of narrowing down the cast through back-and-forth arguments about who might be human or not. But it has plenty more going for it. Kurt Russell and the gang are scripted and act appropriately. They weren’t knocking down awards here, but Carpenter applied the same sense of basics to his cast and script, allowing every face to seem like it has a reason to be in the scenes and a runtime sprinkled with just enough dialogue to break up the silence. And while the technology at the time allowed for those awesome creature effects, Carpenter used lighting and timing to great effect, giving us blood and jaw-dropping creature shots when we need it, holding it off in the shadows when we can wait. Films nowadays try to mimic this slow-burn technique, but The Thing nailed it.

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