There seems to be something about movies centering on middle-of-nowhere, snow-bound places, particularly when outside’s snowing like a son of a bitch with no signs of letting up. I’ve just got a thing for them, apparently. John Carpenter’s The Thing fits the description like a glove.
Taking place in Antarctica- snow everywhere, as far as the eye can see and beyond- The Thing is just something else, for a change. Maybe it’s the setting indeed, or perhaps the simple but oh-so-efficient score, or the subject matter. I guess they all conspired to forge this unique, bone-chilling, and horrendously pleasurable piece of art. The film kicks off with the image of a husky hightailing it for all it’s worth, as two guys in a helicopter are hot on its heels, trying to shoot it. Surprisingly enough, the dog makes it home, namely The United States National Science Institute, Station 4. The guys that even now, with a good many Americans out in the yard to see what’s up, don’t give up on bringing down the curtain on the dog, are Norwegians. They keep shooting, the Americans open fire themselves, in all the mayhem the helicopter blows to kingdom come as well.
Following this most uncanny happening, the Americans decide to go check on the Norwegians, see whether they’re all right. Upon reaching their base, they found it in an out-and-out shambles. Axe stuck in the door, holes in the walls, trails and stains of blood, and a frozen body, to crown it all. No, they’re not ok. Things couldn’t look more offbeat, but as they give the place a once over, they actually find more uncanny things- some chunk of ice resembling a tomb of sorts, a burnt body and more. They’re soon about to find out what in hell it is that happened here. With hindsight, we understand that there was more to the Norwegians bending over backwards trying to take out the dog than just some off-the-wall, cabin-fever stuff. No sooner is the dog put in the pen with the other dogs that the thing splits it open from inside, sending the others in a fit of frantic barking. The noise brings, thick and fast, everybody down there to see what on earth is going on. The sight is nothing short of loathsome and horrific and all hell breaks loose with them attempting to burn the … whatever the heck that is. Well, it doesn’t just die , as expected. Instead, it devours the men one by one, taking every time the form of the consumed. It all turns into a horrendous and desperate hide-and-seek, with this gruesome creature having the people on the base down like ninepins.
After turning it over in my mind a couple of times, I have to give it up as a bad job, as I still can’t quite put my finger on what it is that makes this such a tremendous movie to see. Carpenter’s implacably dragging the audience into the middle of it all, while still somehow keeping it at arm’s length? Whatever the hell it is, it works like a charm. You just try not to like this movie. I dare you. I double dare you.