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The Thing

The Thing (John Carpenter, 1982)

The Thing is a wild reimaging of the Hawks/Nyby 1951 flick and closer in tone to the original John W. Campbell Jr story which is apparently one of the first sci-fi stories about shape-shifters from outer space. At the time of its release, The Thing wasn't really greeted with good reviews, but I've always loved it, and I find it to be Carpenter's masterpiece. It's a lean, mean, fighting machine with almost nothing in the way of wasted scenes and a strong sense of its own capability of holding your interest while taking it's sweet time in building things up. Now, Carpenter has always tried to build his films in a similar fashion, but to me, this is the one where he's far more successful than ever before or since. Maybe it's the exotic location of Antarctica. Who can name more than five films, not including documentaries and cartoons, which take place on that continent? Maybe it's the mind-boggling special and makeup effects which to this day are some of the most-disgusting-yet-witty displays of violent destruction of life ever depicted on film. Maybe it's the combo of the men's camraderie and their contempt of each other because once it becomes clear what the hell this thing is and what it wants to do, it makes the all-male cast want to keep to themselves even though they all would probably like to have someone cover their back if they could only trust them. Both Twelve O'Clock High and The Thing are about men facing impossible odds in an attempt to survive and theoretically help save humankind. In The Thing, there's a computer calculation which states that if the ONE Thing were left to its own devices, it would take over every single living thing on earth in about three years. So yeah, that showdown at the end of The Thing, which reminds me more of John Huston's The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Dobbs and Curtin betting on who's going to fall asleep first) than it does anything in Hawks' Red River or the original The Thing (Hawks being Carpenter's fave director), is basically about the survival of the human race.