“Why don’t we just wait here for a little while…see what happens?” – R.J. MacReady
Outpost 31 was the location, and man was on the menu. Back in the early 1980s, John Carpenter set about making a contemporary tale based loosely on the Agatha Christie ‘Ten Little Indians’, but with one exception – blood and gore galore. The first time I watched it was in my early teens, and it immediately tapped into my mistrust of those around me.
Unfortunately, as I continued to re-watch the movie over the years, I began drawing comparisons to Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’, with a sense of feeling somewhat insulted that a known, albeit left-field, filmmaker would plagiarise an established concept, only to recapture the public’s fear of extra terrestrial life (if there is any). In fact, for some considerable time it put me off revisiting the MacReady rite of passage; but after some purposeful reflection, I realized there was far more to this sci-fi suspense flick than mere plagiarism. As is always my eventual interpretation, the pattern of human relationships began to filter through, primarily through observation of playing one archetype against another, in order to seduce the viewer into false conclusions as to whom the ‘Thing’ had just inhabited.
This in itself is no easy feat, and full writing credit goes to John Carpenter, for using his own skewed view of people to pull it off. However, In addition to the complex storyline is the inventive use of practical effects, an approach so sorely missed today, and hopefully destined for a renaissance sometime soon.
On a personal note, I feel very strongly about the work of John Carpenter, despite some of his less successful outings (perhaps it’s because he is uncompromising in his vision, and because I trust the method in his madness when it comes to conveying messages through film). Needless to say, I now continue to watch ‘The Thing’ probably once, or even twice a year, because I am now firmly convinced that it requires a place in all of our lives, and because ultimately it’s just a damn good film, and a great way to spend nearly two hours in the dark, munching salted homemade popcorn.
If you haven’t taken the time to see ‘The Thing’ then it comes very highly recommended, particularly in its most current format of blu-ray, and for the purists there is the recent Arrow Video release (of which I have a Limited Edition copy, as yet unwatched), just don’t invest your time in the recent prequel/reboot as it only detracts from Carpenter’s craftsmanship and brings nothing new to the franchise.