Sunday, December 31, 2023

John Carpenter's The Thing

I rewatched this 1982 classic and it is a greeat piece of Red Scare witchhunt paranoia. Thinking about the movie's ending and opening credits scene, I think I know how a sequel would play out. To quote from my memory hut:

In 1938 John Campbell wrote a science fiction novella called "Who Goes There?" Later it was adapted into two movies. The first movie by Howard Hawks, "The Thing From Another World", was considered a science fiction horror movie classic. The second movie, John Carpenter's "The Thing", conforms more to the original story. In Hawks' version, the monster is your standard humanoid monster, ala Frankenstein's monster. In Carpenter's version, it is much more alien, more like the Blob - all consuming, but with that imposter twist - and the accompanying paranoia as to whom to trust.

I've read Campbell's novella, and it scared the hell out me. I'll tell you why. One of the more delicious fears one can have is not fear of death, but fear of lack of control. The alien creature doesn't just consume you. It imitates you. It enslaves you. It mutilates your mind and will, and binds you to service it. The other factor is just the right amount of information. In a horror flick, or in a story, you need just enough information to know that something is a threat, perhaps even an existential threat, but not so much information that you are familiar with the threat. This has always been a problem in movies. How much of the monster do you show? Not enough, and it is all just boring. Too much, and the monster is just another character.

There is a defining scene in Campbell's story when the humans realize that even the tiniest piece of monster can take over an organism. And when one character realizes that their cows have not been monitored against "infection", and that they have all been drinking the milk.
"Mac, how long have the... cows been... not cows?"
 It's a great creepy moment, when he realizes, in a fit of revulsion, hysteria, and self-loathing, that he may be a Thing and not even know it.

The end scene is MacReady (Kurt Russell) and Childs (Keith David) sitting among a ruined camp, soon to freeze to death. There is indecision whether one of both of them is the Thing. MacReady points out they are in no position to do anything about it. They share a bottle of whiskey as the fire dies down and the dark and cold close in. If either of them is a Thing. one cell passed by whiskey makes two Things. Carpenter said he has the answer but won't say. It goes like this:

Point being the Earth is probably doomed. Not from the crashed Thing, but what was chasing it. 

In the opening credits scene, the flying saucer's flight path is erratic, probably damaged, and crashing on Earth is both an act of desperation and an attempt to hide. From something worse than the Thing.

The Thing might be a criminal or refugee or a larger threat to things like us out there. It is unlikely the things like us will have any sympathy towards us things like them. 

One sequel would be where the Thing talks to us, through somebody, giving us a choice to live because these things like us from the galaxy are going to blast the planet otherwise, just to be sure. So, do we become Things and maybe survive.

No, I think my sequel would be presented as the aliens chasing the Thing versus us, only at the end to find out we were Things all along and didn't know it.


  1. I don't believe I've ever seen The Thing. now I'm going to have to find it. or read the book or both. especially if Kurt Russell is in it.

    1. The Thing was not well received by critics or the box office. There is an irregular pacing to this movie, but the soundtrack is the most obvious clue that they are all doomed.