It must be very hard to convey any kind of emotion or feeling in a film. We can show someone be happy or miserable but it takes true skill to make us, the audience, actually believe it. Whether it involves the best actors in the world or a very competent Director; if you can make these emotions believable then you have the stirrings of a classic film. Which is why John Carpenter’s The Thing is so revered even if it wasn’t at the time of its release. This film perfectly encapsulates the dread of paranoia that a movie has not evoked before or since.
The Thing is a slow build up in that regards as, early on, we just get the ins and outs of this Antarctic group of scientists. Once the titular ‘thing’ comes into play everything gets thrown out the window. With the idea that this alien can transform into anything or anyone you immediately start to question who is who. I think Carpenter does a masterful job fooling the audience and not making it overtly obvious who is or who isn’t the alien. Even after repeated viewings you can’t figure out when a change happens so it still becomes a bit of a surprise when a normal dude suddenly has his stomach open wide with monstrous teeth.
Speaking of monstrous: the creature designs in this are gorgeously done. If this film is any indication then John Carpenter does not have a favorable view on what aliens outside our system looks like. This alien is just gross to look at no matter what form it takes and the production crew goes all out on the gore. Gallons of blood, deformed features, and (again) just some of the grossest images around. That dog creature it tries to mimic is the stuff of nightmares and I am not sure I wanna meet the person responsible for that design.
All of this is summed up quite perfectly in the clip above. The ‘Blood Test’ scene is one of my all time favorites in film for all the things I mentioned. It’s got the tension because we have no idea if ANY of these guys tied up are the alien, everyone including Kurt Russell is showcasing paranoia extremely well, and when we finally get the reveal of the alien it is as gory as you can imagine. The scene is paced well too and this slow build up matches up perfectly with this sudden burst of excitement as the man changes into the monster. There are a lot of great scenes in The Thing and I didn’t even go over my other favorite involving Wilford Brimley and an ax. Like I said before, even after repeated viewings you can find a lot of enjoyment out of this film. It certainly beats a lot of the sci-fi/horror films that come out today that’s for sure.