The Thing

Year: 1982

Production: Turman-Foster / Universal

Director: John Carpenter

Starring: Kurt Russell, A. Wilford Brimley, T.K. Carter, Richard Dysart, Charles Hallahan, Richard Masur

Screenwriter: Bill Lancaster

Based on "Who Goes There?" (1938) by John W. Campbell Jr. Novelization (1982) by Alan Dean Foster

109 minutes; Color


Not so much a remake as a return to the original story, this film reinstates Campbell's shapeshifting alien that can kill and duplicate the base workers one by one, with all the paranoia that engenders. It was not very successful commercially, and was widely criticized as being merely a string of curiously disgusting special effects (designed by Rob Bottin, an uncredited Stan Winston and others) without any of the subtlety of the Hawks version. But the Hawks version, though vivid, was itself not very subtle, and Carpenter carries his beleaguered working men much further in extremis emotionally than Hawks would have cared to. Only 2 survive, and either or both may in fact be alien. There is a case for arguing that the Carpenter version goes as far as genre movies normally dare, if not further, in questioning not just the nature of humanity under stress but its value. Faced by the alien, the humans themselves become inhuman in every possible way. It is a black, memorable film, and may yet be seen as a classic.

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