In 1982 at the remote US Outpost 31 in Antarctica, twelve men stationed at the base are suddenly accosted by two men in a helicopter from a nearby Norwegian base. The two Norwegian men attempt to shoot a dog as they chase it over the frozen valley towards the American camp. In the ensuing confusion, the two men are killed, leaving the American team puzzled and in need of answers. They fly to the Norwegian base and discover a massacre, everyone’s either dead or missing, the base is on fire, and they find the remains of a strange creature burned outside. What follows is a tale of gripping paranoia and cosmic horror that’s sure to entertain.
They don’t make horror like this anymore. For starters the tone, its dark and hopeless. These men are trapped, there is no help coming for them no matter how much they radio for it. Outside they’ve got temperatures hitting in excess of fifty below. While inside they have primal fear driven by a creature they can barely comprehend. A creature that hides within the bodies of their friends, men they’ve known for years. This causes intense paranoia and mistrust, making the men as much of a danger to each other as the thing is to them. The thing knows this, and uses this to its advantage as it tries to keep suspicion off of itself, pushing the humans to suspect each other instead.
This dark and hopeless tone is amplified by the use of music. From the beginning of the opening scene you’re hit with this powerful haunting score with a thumping bass note that sounds almost like a human heartbeat, perhaps foreshadowing whats to come. There isn’t a lot of music used in the movie, but when it is used it helps to enhance the tension present.
One of my favorite things about his movie is the practical effects used. There’s nothing CGI, everything was built ranging from puppetry to stop motion. The creature designs are amazing. Take the Norris-Thing for instance, this guy was assimilated by the thing and has a heart attack. One of the doctors in the group attempts to revive him using a defibrillator. The thing, unfamiliar with the concept of a defibrillator perceives the shock as an attack and fights back, by opening up Norris’s chest revealing a large mouth that rips off the doctors arms. This is just one of many amazing designs used by the production to create this story.
The characterization is another standout for this movie. Whereas with horror movies of the modern era, you wind up with cheap jump scares, writing that makes no sense, or characters that make stupid decisions just to move the plot. With The Thing there’s really one jump scare, in the aforementioned part about Norris and his chest mouth. The characters are pretty smart in this. They try hard to do everything they can to survive the situation they’re placed in. There’s only one instance where you could claim that someone did something dumb and that’s when this guy runs off into the night after someone that he suspects is the thing. This goes completely against character for this individual as earlier on he was in a position where he had multiple armed men with him yet he refused to confront what he suspected was the thing behind a closed door, wanting to let it freeze to death instead. The sudden change in character or “stupidity” can be explained by the common fan speculation that the guy didn’t care about running off alone because he was actually the thing by that point.
The Thing is a timeless movie that only gets better with age. It is a film that was panned by critics during its initial release, but in the years following has gained the respect that it deserves. I consider this movie to be the greatest horror movie of all time. It has everything I want in a horror movie, from the great monster, the effects, the characters and the setting.