I recently re-watched John Carpenter’s 1982 The Thing and it really fired up my brain cells. There’s just so much to love about that film and I think what I like most is how it gets me to think about it. I ponder who was infected and when. Were the last two survivors both human? Or was one of them a Thing? Where did the Thing come from? Was it simply an evil alien star traveler or did it take over the ship that scene in the beginning of the film? The unanswered questions is one of the reasons why I love that flick.
The Thing comes from the story “Who Goes There?” by Joseph A. Campbell, which you can listen to above (sort of). If you’re in for a good scare or have never read the original story that Carpenter’s film is based on (more on that in a second), click on that link and listen away! It’s a BBC production of “Who Goes There?” that’s told in the form of a radio play, like an old time radio drama. It’s not exactly close to the original story though. There’s some significant change to the ending.
Now while The Thing is based on the Campbell story, Carpenter was heavily influenced by the 1951 movie, The Thing from Another World which is also based on “Who Goes There?”. I also love The Thing From Another World, but it is far different than the original story or Carpenter’s take. The major difference is that the creature doesn’t shape shift. Yeah, that’s pretty much the main point of the original story, but the movie works well enough on its own and it follows the first part “Who Goes There” until the creature gets out of the ice. The fact that it inspired Carpenter to make The Thing is enough to enter it into the great horror film hall of fame.
I still have fond memories of watching The Thing From Another World when I was a little kid. I found it to be scary as hell and it’s one of the older horror movies I could watch with my mom. The end scene really sticks out in my head along with the discovery of the UFO and the dude putting an electric blanket on the cube of ice. What an idiot.
One aspect that I find great about The Thing by Carpenter is that the story isn’t an exact retread of the original. The team led by Kurt Russel isn’t the one to find the creature. They’re the second team to have it reach them. Before the 2011 prequel described what happened to that team it was almost a complete mystery (and still can be if you don’t watch it or disregard the events portrayed). That added element of not knowing what exactly happened helped to further the mystery of what was going to happen and bring an incredibly sense of foreboding to the fate of the American research station.