The thing about THE THING

I don’t know if you guys remember an awesome move that came out way back in 1982 called The Thing, but it has a prequel coming out in theaters in the U.S. today (also called “The Thing“).

This post isn’t about the current movie, this one is about the 1982 movie starring Kurt Russell, Keith David and directed by John Carpenter.

In short, that movie freakin’ ROCKED.

THE FIRST MOVIE

NOTE: I’m going ahead with some spoilers here. I’ll try to keep them to a minimum, but this film is 30 years old now…

So for those of you who don’t know about this one, The Thing is a horror movie set in Antarctica. A United States research team finds that they are forced to deal with a predatory alien that assumes the form of whatever it kills.

Check the original trailer:

When I first saw that this new movie was coming out, I was a bit annoyed. I’m pretty tired of the creative bankruptcy of Hollywood and all the remakes. I just didn’t think they could do any better than John Carpenter’s movie.

Looking further, though, I discovered that this was actually the prequel to the 1982 film. That changed my whole outlook on the new movie, since I knew they weren’t planning on poorly rehashing the characters from the first time around.

At this point I decided it was time to watch the movie again, and so I popped it in. I hadn’t watched it in probably 10 years, so I was a bit worried it wouldn’t live up to my fond memories.

Except when I watched it I thought it was even more awesome.

THE STORY

I’ll go a little bit more in-depth on the situation the characters are faced with.

Essentially we have the research team in Antarctica. They’re already isolated as it is, and now they have a huge blizzard bearing down on them where communication will be cut off for days, and no expected re-supply for longer than that.

As events unfold, the team is forced to accept the unlikely and extremely unpleasant fact that they are now being hunted by an alien creature that was previously asleep in the ice.

The creature not only kills people and animals, but it becomes them as it kills them.

So we have these 12 men, trapped in the storm together. By the time they figure out what’s happening they realize it’s pretty likely that not all of them are still human. The fear and paranoia set in quickly among the crew.

The ultimate problem here is a such: The creature kills people and then becomes them. It proceeds to kill more people and then becomes them. It keeps splitting and multiplying. It’s goal is to keep procreating.

While it’s trapped in the storm with the research team, there’s still a chance it can be stopped, but if it were to ever make it to civilization…

They run the numbers on that scenario, and it doesn’t look good. This is an extinction level threat forming and the only people there to deal with it are a hodgepodge of outsiders who are already several steps behind the game as the movie opens.

WHAT IS THE THING?

I remember watching the movie as a child and not quite understanding what the creature was.

Also I remember my Dad laughing as the people got killed. This is irrelevant to the discussion but he would also laugh whenever my character would die playing the video game “Pitfall” on my Atari 2600. Some people, man…

Anyway, what was cool about the creature was that it really didn’t have its own form, at least not one that we ever saw.

What it did was it imitated the life form of whatever it killed. It was NOT a perfect copy, it was still a thing, and could be found out under the right conditions.

What was difficult for me to understand at first was how the creature could divide itself.

It happens like this: Let’s say the creature is hiding as a cat. If the cat then goes and attacks a person, it becomes that person, but it’s also still a cat, so now there’s TWO things.

At first I thought that the creature was hiding inside someone. It even says that in the trailer. That’s not quite accurate though.

What it does is become you from the inside out, killing you in the process. As soon as thing cells encounter living cells different than itself, it copies and destroys those cells, assuming their place in the organism. This continues until you aren’t you anymore.

HOW CAN IT EXIST?

Only recently did I start thinking on this question. Yeah it was only a movie but it made me start thinking hard about it.

I’m no scientist, but what kind of evolutionary process produces a creature like this? Wouldn’t it inevitably overrun any ecosystem it became a part of?

Maybe wherever it came from there was something even worse keeping it in check?

Let’s say it did assimilate every animal organism on Earth (I don’t know if it ever becomes plant-life)…what then?

Does it keep on pretending to be people? Are their personalities on auto-pilot, and everyone keeps on going to work, going to school, etc?

Do they all just fall down and die then? They don’t seem to want to EAT people or animals, they just want to become them.

Obviously from the trailer we can see that a ship has crash-landed with that thing in it. I guess we’re supposed to assume that the crew of that starship was attacked by the thing or had some thing-related trouble and were forced to crash on Earth 100,000 years ago.

Maybe they picked it up unwittingly on another world? Or maybe they knew exactly what it was but the containment failed or something similar?

Whoever those damn aliens were, they screwed up big time!

I also saw it postulated somewhere that the creature could be a biological weapon created by inorganic beings. They would be immune to assimilation and the eventual ruination of whatever ecosystem it was dropped into would be the actual desired outcome.

BACK TO THE MOVIE

One reason this movie was so great was the characters.

They did a great job of defining the disparate personalities of these people who are now Earth’s last line of defense against this creature.

Kurt Russell plays R.J. MacReady. I’ve always been a Kurt Russell fan (Big Trouble in Little China anyone?) and to me this is one of his greatest roles (Jack Burton is the best, though).

MacReady isn’t the leader of the group by title, but he’s one of those people who leads through the force of his personality. You can tell he doesn’t want to be a leader, but yet people look to him and he just naturally takes charge of the situation.

You know how they say the stature of a man is measured by his enemies? Well we can see in the movie that the thing has a healthy respect for MacReady.

The creature is crafty and extremely intelligent. Some events happen in the movie that make you realize the creature is actually trying to specifically get rid of MacReady.

It seems to instinctively know who is the greatest threat to its survival, and it takes steps to remove that threat. Pretty clever steps actually.

Keith David is a somewhat “angry negro” in this one. He’s another strong-willed character that is a match for MacReady when it comes to force of personality, but his temperament doesn’t put him in a position to lead.

He had some great one-liners though, and Keith David has an awesome voice, too, so he can really deliver those lines with style.

The movie does a good job of showing us the character traits of all the team members, and then letting those traits dictate their actions through the course of the movie.

I feel for those mofos…

Sometimes I have issues with horror movies. Most of the time they just make me laugh and they’re not very scary at all.

One thing I discovered early on in my movie viewing life: My level of sympathy and/or fear for characters in a movie is directly proportional to the likelihood that I might find myself in that situation.

If I don’t ever see myself in the same predicament, sometimes I just can’t get into it.

I mean, look at some of these movies like Friday the 13th. Man, I ain’t going camping out by some serial killer’s old stomping grounds.

Friend: “JG, we’re all gonna be counselors this summer at Camp Crystal Lake, you want in?”

Me: “Ain’t that where the serial killer lives?”

Friend: “Yeah he’s probably still up there somewhere, but he won’t bother us, I’m sure.”

Me: “Right. Hey can I have your computer when you’re gone? I mean, er…have a good time!”

However, Nightmare on Elm Street started out with a scary premise. I just can’t control if my parents burned down some pedophile’s house and then he came back to torment me in my dreams.

This shit could really happen!!!

Of course, the series got so ridiculous it was impossible to be scared anymore, but the situation was out of your control.

Even a movie like Alien:

Corporation: “We need you to stop on LV-426 and check out this signal.”

Me: “Yeah, aiight.”

Light years later…

Me: “Headquarters? Yeah, it’s me. I’m at the planet. It’s kind of dark out there, and there’s some wind blowing and frankly it looks kinda scary. You didn’t tell me it was gonna be this scary out here.”

Me: “I can’t say for sure, but from here it looks like there might be some kind of alien face-huggers or something out there. I don’t think I wanna get involved in all that.”

Corporation: “Did you check it out?”

Me: “That’s what I’m getting to. I ain’t going out there, man. You need to send someone else out here to check out this shit, I don’t need the money that bad. Just fire me when I get back. Peace.”

So what I’m getting at here is that it takes a lot for me to feel empathy for the characters in a horror movie (guess my dad rubbed off on me, huh?), but I felt really bad for the characters in The Thing.

Even though there is no way in HELL I would ever end up in Antarctica, it was just luck (or lack of it) that had that alien ship crash-land there.

It could have landed in Russia or Africa, or here in the U.S. in Wisconsin, and since it would have been there for 100,000 years before I was born, there wouldn’t be a damn thing I could do about it.

If one of the aliens on the crashed ship would have turned to the left a little bit they could have altered the whole course of evolution on the planet. Gadzooks!

AN INTERESTING FIND

Since I had gotten curious about the film again. I decided to do some searching on the movie and see what people were saying about it.

Boy did I hit the jackpot! From reading the Wikipedia page, I came across an ebook written by a guy named Robert Meakin called All About The Thing (PDF – Dropbox link).

This ebook is 135 pages of detail and instrospection about the movie. I tell you, I started reading it and then I couldn’t stop. I cued up the movie again and went through the scenes with the ebook open. Pretty riveting stuff!

Meakin really made me reconsider some aspects of the film that I felt I just “knew” for solid truth.

  • Who was the first crew member assimilated?
  • Who really survived at the end?
  • Why did the creature do what it did at specific points in the movie?

I’ll tell you another thing, he made me think of the creature differently. Not that I was on the thing’s side all of a sudden, but I thought of it more as a natural (though alien to this world) creature just trying to survive.

I highly recommend that anyone interested in this movie, check it out first, then read this ebook and see what you might have missed as you watched.

You can get the 1982 The Thing film extremely cheap over at Amazon:

The Thing (Collector’s Edition) (1982) (Not an affiliate link)

If you want even more than that, the site that hosts the pdf is about all things thing:

http://www.outpost31.com/

ARTWORK ACTION

I couldn’t let this post go by without taking a crack at drawing the thing.

Here’s my take on it (click to view larger in a new window):

I was actually going to color it more but as I was about to, I discovered an critical imbalance to the Earth’s gravitational field that could have disastrous consequences if left unchecked and…

…aw, Hell who am I kidding…I was just too lazy to color it any more.

So to that end, I’m making the layered Photoshop file available to all you Photoshop/PaintShop Pro jockeys out there who want to give it a shot:

Click here to get the Photoshop File (153mb)

Feel free to turn off the “Hypertransitory” layer but leave my signature in there would ya?

If any of you do take a stab at it shoot me a link and I’ll update this post with your artwork.

Oh yeah, those of you who just want a bigger image of this disgusting thing you can download a hi-res thing jpeg right here (right-click or control-click for Mac…you know the deal):

Click to get the hi-res Thing jpeg (11mb)

So that’s all she wrote for this piece. I’ll leave you with two vids about the movie -the trailer for the 2011 The Thing movie opening today, and also a parody movie combining The Thing with Pokemon that I found amusing:

I gotta get to the theater and see this soon. Make sure to let me know if you see it. Until next time!

UPDATE: Alright, people. I just got back from seeing the new movie in the theaters.

I’m gonna give it a solid “OK”.

They couldn’t recreate the same level of suspense that was found in the 1982 movie. The characterization was a bit cookie-cutter, and it played out pretty much like a standard Hollywood horror film. Went a bit nuts with special effects and some of them ended up looking kind of cheap…sometimes worse than the Kurt Russell version.

There were some cheap scares in there, some leaps of logic that were necessary to move the film along, as well as changing a bit about how the creature operates -presumably also to keep the film moving.

Finally, I don’t think a good job was done connecting the two movies. It seemed like they got done and said “oh crap, we’d better throw in that nod to the first movie.” Some issues that would surely have been problematic were hastily covered.

It pales in comparison to the 1982 flick, but on it’s own I would say it’s about what you would expect for a horror movie these days.

Here’s a link to a review that I agree with about 99.99%:
Review: Irritating prequel to ‘The Thing’ gets the big choices wrong

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58 thoughts on “The thing about THE THING

    1. Hi Annie. Thanks for the compliment!

      I also couldn’t believe someone wrote that but it was damned good and I really enjoyed it, so I’m glad they did.

  1. I still have my Atari 2600 and Pitfall. Been thinking about hooking it up, but not sure that I am willing to take the abuse from my kids. ;)

    I remember seeing the original- sucker scared me.

    1. Hey Jack you should hook it up just to see the reactions from your kids as they see the blocky mess that we considered to be good graphics. Could be fun!

  2. Is this a prequel? Hmmm. I saw the movie today. I kept thinking that Joel Edgerton is playing as Kurt Russel’s character in prequel mode. I have to watch the thing with Kurt Russel to understand? whether if the 2011 version is a prequel or a sequel or none of the above.

    1. Hey Rock, yeah this one is definitely a prequel.

      When you watch the very beginning of the 1982 version you’ll see they reference the Norwegian team there.

      I suspect the “thing” scenario plays out the same in whatever environment the creature shows up in.

      So how’d you like the movie? I have to get out and see it soon…

      1. I saw The Thing with Kurt Russel, It is surely a great movie with a good director and above all it is a film for those who are looking for excitement in a movie! special effects in the media, but very convincing at the time! I think it has one of the designs more guessed I’ve ever seen, second only to Alien and Predator! However to be seen!

        1. Hi Alessia, yes it had the great John Carpenter as the director so it was destined to be awesome. And speaking of Alien I’m looking forward to the new (prequel) this summer. Thanks for commenting!

    1. Hi Nicko, yeah this was not a big hit when it came out so it kind of dropped off the scene.

      I also miss when movies actually scared me. I was hoping something like “Paranormal Activity” would be scary but I didn’t like it that much.

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. I haven’t seen “The Thing” yet, but I want to watch Kurt Russel’s version of the movie. That’s perfect for Halloween. Also, I remember my scary child memories with my cousins.

    1. Hi Leonor, I would definitely recommend watching Kurt Russell’s version before seeing the new one. You’ll have some context for the prequel then. Thanks for commenting!

  4. Hi, JG!
    I remember seeing this movie back when I was little-well,at least, let me rephrase myself-I remember the creature…the Thing…
    The rest of the action and the plot i cannot remember as it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it. To be honest, if you wouldn’t have mentioned it, I don’t think I would ever remember of this movie.
    Now when you refreshed my memories, I am hoping I will download it over the weekend and check it out again. After all, I like Kurt Russell.

    1. Hey Kristina, yes this is kind of a cult movie that isn’t at the forefront of horror movie history.

      The plus side of this is that since you barely remember it it will all be new to you. Make sure to let me know what you thought when you watch it, it’s a gruesome good time! :)

  5. Classic horror! My daughter will want to see that…she inherited my love for terror in the theater. Halloween, Friday 13th, and all the other slash em’ up movies always drove me crazy. I want to yell out “Don’t go outside!!! Lock that door! Hello! There is a killer out there.” They are always so stupid and walk right into danger. :) It’s almost comedy. I love scary suspenseful plot twisting movies. My all time favorites: Sixth Sense, The Others, Gothika (love Halle Berry!) and the classic original Psycho.

    1. Hey Melinda, that’s why I like this one so much, there’s very little of that “damn they were so stupid” plot contrivance stuff here. You’re right some of it is actually pretty funny.

      In this movie, they pretty much took the only actions they could at the time. Your daughter will love it, there’s some really good scares in there!

  6. I hate prequels! That’s so unimaginative. Everybody’s doing it and I have no desire to watch them whatsoever. I prefer watching oldies once more!

    As for those shape shifters, my favorite one is…actually, pretty lame…but that guy from the Deep Space Nine…

    1. Yeah Ana, Hollywood is just not known for creativity, alas! I heard they’re doing a Blade Runner remake and of course Footloose just came out.

      But back to prequels -I’m trying to think of some….

      I suppose Alien vs. Predator(s) were prequels, X-Men First Class…even though I did like that one.

      And you’re an Odo fan? Awesome. DS9 was my favorite Trek, though I will admit that it was the least popular overall (except for maybe enterprise).

  7. I can forgive them for making Alien vs Predator. Somehow, it doesn’t entirely rely on the fact that “some stuff happened before the movies”. It’s about merging the movies…didn’t like it that much, but I get it.

    However, STAR WARS!!! I expect a sincere apology in written form from Hollywood because they made those.

    Blade Runner is one of my favorite movies of all times and I’m absolutely in love with Daryl Hannah. I’m not gonna see that one. I can’t imagine anybody else say “I think, Sebastian, therefore, I am.” :)

    Yes, ODO! I couldn’t remember his name. I like all Star Tracks, but I loved DS9.

    1. Did you ever see that fan-made edit of The Phantom Menace? I believe they called it “The Phantom Edit”?

      It was actually pretty good! At the time, there wasn’t any way to sell it, but comic shop owners sometimes played it in the store for free.

      I’m in fear of this Blade Runner remake. BUt according to this link:

      http://scoop.today.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/08/18/7408886-turn-back-the-clock-to-a-future-with-no-blade-runner-remakes

      Ridley Scott s involved and there’s no details on if it’s a true remake or a continuation or a prequel.

      Keeping fingers crossed!

    1. Thanks Chris!

      You should definitely (re)-check it out, then go see the new one. I’m planning on seeing it on Friday, so I hope it’s good.

      There’s nothing quite like this movie that’s for sure!

  8. Hi JG. This is my first time here. I’ve known your blog from a friend. He said that this blog is interesting so I decided to take a look and yeah, it’s interesting, dude!
    The Thing? Of course I remember this movie! It’s just a few weeks ago me and some of my friends were talking about it and some other nice old movies. And this movie is rock for sure!

    1. Hey Jake thanks for dropping in!

      This is one of those true cult films that bombed when it came out but lived on inside of people…kind of like a THING. Uh oh.

      Anyway, thanks for the compliment man, I hope you stick around!

  9. Thanks for sharing a great article again. I really like this blog. I never saw the first The Thing movie but I will definitely see the new one. Thanks for sharing the great videos and artwork. Keep on the good work!

    1. Hey Peter, you’re welcome! If you can get your hands on it, try to check out this 1982 one first, you’ll love it I know.

      I’m sure you don’t “need” to see it to enjoy the new movie, but you might get more out of it!

  10. Isnt watching a very old movie kinda borin?

    I want to see the new one though, but I know im gonna be quick distracted when I watch the older movie..

    1. Hey Kristeen,

      some old movies are boring, but not this one, trust me :)

      If you see the latest one let me know what you thought!

  11. Alright, people. I just got back from seeing the new movie in the theaters.

    I’m gonna give it a solid “OK”.

    They couldn’t recreate the same level of suspense that was found in the 1982 movie. The characterization was a bit cookie-cutter, and it played out pretty much like a standard Hollywood horror film. Went a bit nuts with special effects and some of them ended up looking kind of cheap…sometimes worse than the Kurt Russell version.

    There were some cheap scares in there, some leaps of logic that were necessary to move the film along, as well as changing a bit about how the creature operates -presumably also to keep the film moving.

    Finally, I don’t think a good job was done connecting the two movies. It seemed like they got done and said “oh crap, we’d better throw in that nod to the first movie.” Some issues that would surely have been problematic were hastily covered.

    It pales in comparison to the 1982 flick, but on it’s own I would say it’s about what you would expect for a horror movie these days.

  12. When I saw this film I was a little boy .. and I must admit that scared me really well.The part with the dog that turns into monster in the cage is terrifying. I saw it some years later when I could enjoy the beauty of the film without getting scared.

    1. Hi Alin,

      yes that part with the dogs freaked me out for weeks after I first saw it!

      I’m glad you were able to enjoy it later because the film rocks. Thanks for commenting!

  13. Man, I was gonna go see this yesterday but I got too much other stuff going on.

    I’m glad I stopped here to see this review. Now I’m gonna go watch the original instead of this one. I’m surprised I’ve never seen it being I was like 8 when my dad was dragging me into the theatre to see Freddy Krueger and Full Metal Jacket and whatever other movies he was in love with.

    I love the 80’s movies and like you, I love me some Big Trouble In Little China! Thanks for the heads up John!

    1. hi Lewis!

      I think the 1982 movie got such horrible initial reviews that people avoided it, so that might be why your dad passed on it lol.

      Ah, a fellow Big Trouble in Little China fan!

      “May the wings of Liberty never lose a feather” ~Jack Burton.

      Thanks for commenting!

    1. Hi Hero! sometimes I feel that way about the characters in horror movies. they seem to act extremely stupid.

      although I didn’t have that problem with the 1982 movie.

      thanks for commenting!

  14. This is a great review! I don’t think I ever saw the original Thing, nothing against it, just never was dying to see it. Honestly after reading this post now I want to go rent it right now and make my roommate watch it with me (she loves scary movies). I wasn’t dying to see the new one, I might rent it when it comes out on DVD but I’m def not going to a theater for it. You definitely really, uh…thought about all the aspects of the movie, though. Lol. But you made it seem pretty interesting.

    Btw, loved your reference to Big Trouble in Little China- I have that on DVD! Love me some Kurt Russell in that, and Kim Cattrall was looking pretty good there, too!

    1. Hey Lizzy! You definitely gotta rent the 1982 version, and by all means AVOID the 2011 movie, trust me.

      I stil have the DVD on Big Trouble as well. Kim did look great in that movie!

      “It’s all in the reflexes…”

  15. The Thing terrified me when it came out! But so did Aliens, Poltergeist (that was probably the scariest), Predator….I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat. Did you see the original Fright Night? I prefer movies like that, ones that combine humor and horror. Like Ghoulies and The Puppetmaster! I think I feel an 80’s horror movie night coming on.

    1. 80’s horror night sounds great! And yes, I loved the original Fright Night. I’ve gotta see if I can find that one!

      Say are you watching American Horror Story? That show is CRAZY!!!

      1. I started watching it the other day- the one where the kid goes into the school and shoots a bunch of people, but I haven’t been watching it from the beginning and I’m big on knowing all back-story and stuff like that when I watch a show so I turned it off. I meant to DVR the whole series but forgot to set it up, I figure they’ll do a marathon toward the end of the season and I’ll try to watch them all then. Seems creepy though, I’d like to watch it! I did however DVR “People Under the Stairs” the other day, haven’t gotten around to watching it yet but I remember loving that movie when I was a kid! It’s been years since I’ve seen it, I hope I’m not disappointed!

  16. Awesomeness, JG!!

    I had no idea that they were doing another, “The Thing” movie. I’ll have to check it out at some point though. I vaguely remember the old one, but I do remember and loved “Big Trouble in Little China”. I think that was one of my favorite movies in the early 80’s. Another one of my faves that was really corny back then was “Howard the Duck”. Kind of left field there, but I’m getting the feeling that you have an appreciation for the movies of back in the day. :D Enjoyed the post man. Can’t wait to check out “The Thing”.

    1. Hey Deeone! I’m digging out my Big Trouble in Little China dvd and watching it this weekend lol. I’m gonna have to do a post on that one because I think it brings out a lot of great memories for people.

      You know I remember Howard the Duck. I used to get some of the comics, too, but now I might have to track down the movie again. Let me know what you think when you watch the 1982 “The Thing” again!

  17. I’m sorry to say, but I’ve never seen the original. And I’ll admit that when the new one came out I was slightly confused> I thought, “wait, hasn’t there already been a movie called that?” But apparently this new movie is the prequel, so now I feel kinda dumb lol. I’m usually not much for horror movies, but after reading your description, I was really intrigued! Unlike many of today’s horror films the original seems to have a legitimately interesting storyline, instead of just being gruesome. I’m surprising myself as I type this, but I think I might have to watch The Thing this weekend!

  18. I don’t really understand why they keep remaking just about everything from the past 30 years….oh wait…maybe I do. It’s called “lack of creativity”, isn’t it?

    My opinion is that both the first and second “Thing” are never going to be topped, so why try? Both are classics. I especially like the one with Kurt in it, but the older one was also amazing in its time.

    I hear now they will remake “Hansel and Gretal” as well. Sheesh.

    Nice work on the page.

    Paul

    1. Yeah, you’re right Paul. The creativity is pretty much non-existent and they’re not exactly ashamed of it, as long as it makes money.

      I remember that first movie, too. Definitely a great flick for its time!

      Thanks for reading!

  19. Woooow, your artwork is awesome!!!

    Thanks for the update about The (new) Thing and for giving us an extensive post about both movies…I didn’t realize the newer one was a prequel. Like you, I don’t care for many of the remakes these days…I’d rather just watch the original.

    But you are making me wanna go back and watch the original… *adds to my weekend movie list* :-)

  20. Lol! Interesting post.. i am here for a while and this bloge is a mix between a funny blog, and an informative blog and a starnge blog.

    I also like your post about the lessons we can learn from romans.. what i believe is that a blogger must be a warrior :)

  21. You all know, don’t you, that Carpenter’s cheesy film was a RE-MAKE of the1951 film version of a John W. Calpbell story, Who Goes There? The 2011 film is a third kick at the can, a three-make if you will, and still can’t equal the claustrophobia of the original.

  22. I would be so mad if a Thing remake came out with Arnold Schwarzzeneger, as I heard through the grape vine. I love the original Thing. I couldn’t get through that whole PDF you linked to though.

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