My 100 favourite films. Entry #4: The Thing.

The Thing (1982)
directed by John Carpenter
starring Kurt Russell, Keith David and Wilford Brimley
Country: USA
Genre: Horror

Visuals: 9/10
Writing: 7/10
Everyday watchability: 6/10
No. of men in the film: 15
No. of women: 0

I originally watched this film because I read that this film was actually better than expected. Usually "better than expected" is not very high praise. It's often something someone says when their hopes for a film are super-low, like expectations for any movie based on a video game. But this film is not only better than expected, it's better than most other movies like it. Coming a few years after Alien and being 10 times as gruesome, The Thing follows in that classic's footsteps quite well. There's constant tension from the moment Ennio Morricone's minimalist score kicks in with two foreboding bass notes to the start of the closing credits.

While some of the effects are dated (and let's face it, one that's downright silly), it's scarier more for what's not shown than what is. The plot goes: an alien that can shapeshift into any biological form and present itself as human is trying to hide at a research station in Antarctica. Since the creature can take the form of any of a dozen men at the station, they're at each other's throats most of the time instead of just fighting a monster... although they do that as well. The tension comes not from the monster fights, but the inbetween bits where the viewer tries to figure out where it's hiding (i.e. who it's pretending to be). It may sound cheesy, but Carpenter's steady directorial hand keeps things very well balanced and the visuals are interesting but unobtrusive with some great use of of deep focus.


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