47 Years of Student Run Cinema
Student Film Society of the Year 2002, 2005, 2006
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John Carpenter, USA, 1982, 108 minutes
At an isolated outpost, surrounded by the constant bitter chill of Arctic temperatures, a desperate team of researchers battle an implacable enemy with the power to change its’ physical form. Contrary to popular opinion not the current situation at my flat, but the setting for John Carpenter’s tense sci-fi classic The Thing. Taking its’ inspiration more from John W. Campbell Jr.’s original short story, ‘Who Goes There?', than the Christian Nyby 1951 feature, the film met an unjustified negative critical reaction when it was first released, and only relatively recently has been re-appraised.
Undeniably extremely gory, with virtuoso make-up effects work by Rob Bottin, the film also works extremely well as a stark psychological thriller, with the audience kept guessing as much as the characters are as to which of the team has become infected by the deadly extra-terrestrial. Performances for the most part are effectively low-key, Kurt Russell has rarely been as good as he is here playing the resourceful MacReady and David Clennon provides amusing support as the permanently stoned Palmer, who gets one the finest lines containing an expletive ever committed to celluloid. On the other hand you can see, unfortunately, how A. Wilford Brimley was overlooked at the Oscars for his role as the paranoid Blair.
It is a testament to the The Thing’s greatness that many of it’s scenes can be recognised as having influenced, to a significant degree, some of the films and TV series that followed it, one particular scene clearly provided a basis for the coke-snorting ‘test’ segment from Robert Rodriguez’s The Faculty. This is one of the director’s finest moments, and with that recommendation should be seen as an evening’s horror entertainment worthy of anyone’s time, enjoyable right up to the astonishingly bleak finale. All that is left to be said is that the only disappointment to be found in this movie is the dawning realisation that the most frightening about it is Kurt Russell’s clearly otherworldly facial hair.
Review by Ben Wilkinson
Written for EUFS Programme Spring 2003
A lone husky fleeing across the antarctic snow from an armed helicopter draws us into John Carpenter's remake of the 1951 classic The Thing From Another World.
A paranoid web of suspicion and distrust weaves into existence as a polar research team completely and utterly fail to co-operate in the face of a hideous and parasitic shape-changing adversary.
Blood-spattered creature effects, which still deserve the term "incredible" ten years later, drive the film. While these have acquired the movie notoriety among fans of the genre, they are ultimately its critical downfall. The audience irresistably begins to watch for the next gorestretch sequence and suspense, even horror, is lost. Also lamentably absent is a Carpenter soundtrack, always a perfect partner to his direction.
The $15 million budget (ten years ago!) may have been the problem, no doubt earning the film substantial interference from investors, and this is perhaps one of the reasons why Carpenter returned to low-budget productions for later works such as Prince of Darkness and They Live. Despite its failings, The Thing remains a worthwhile 109 minutes; maybe not a flawed masterpiece, but something approaching one.
Review by Gavin Inglis
Taken from EUFS Programme 1992-93