Starring Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David, Donald Moffat, Richard Masur, David Clennon, Charles Hallahan, Joel Polis, T.K. Carter, Richard Dysart, Thomas G. Waites, Peter Maloney
Directed by John Carpenter
Expectations: High. Seen this a few times, but it’s been about eight years or so since the last time.
As I mentioned in my review of Cigarette Burns, John Carpenter is one of my favorite directors. Before I had really ventured into the depths of horror filmmaking, Carpenter was there to introduce me to the genre proper. Sure, I had seen Universal monster movies and a few honest horror flicks as a kid, but it was this film and Prince of Darkness that really opened my eyes to the possibilities of horror. I was first exposed to his brand of cinema a few years earlier still, when trolling around the local video store during my elementary school years and my eyes fell upon the VHS box for Big Trouble in Little China. I instantly loved the movie just based on that art. I begged and pleaded to take it home and eventually wore my parents down. I was not let down by that film and I watched it a few times over the next couple of years. I never forgot the name that came up prior to the title, announcing that the film you were watching was the vision of a singular character, this mysterious figure named John Carpenter. Flash forward a few years to when I noticed that same name on The Thing and Prince of Darkness and I’ve never looked back. Carpenter is the first director I remember obsessing over, and he’s still got a very special place in my heart.
The Thing follows a research group stationed in Antarctica, opening with grand landscape shots and a helicopter tracking a dog across the vast snow fields. When a man leans out of the chopper and fires at the dog, we know some foul shit is afoot. The Thing is brilliant in its plotting, cutting out any extraneous bullshit and getting right down to the interesting stuff. As this opening scene unfolds we are introduced to our main group of characters, including Kurt Russell, Keith David and the Quaker Oats man himself, Wilford Brimley. The Thing is easily one of Carpenter’s best films, coming at a creative high after four fantastic films (Assault on Precinct 13 thru Escape From New York). The Thing succeeds because it is a very classically made picture, evoking the slow, careful pacing of an older generation, and thus requiring a different type of investment than your standard horror/sci-fi fare. The Thing is a slow-burn but incredibly rewarding, dishing out intense scenes and killer special FX.