Saturday, 25 June 2016

Superior Remakes #5:The Thing (1982)

The Thing is a 1982 sci fi horror film. Directed by John Carpenter (Halloween, The Fog, They Live) and starring Kurt Russell (Escape from New York, Big Trouble in Little China), Keith David (they Live) Wilford Brimley (Cocoon) and Thomas G Waites (The Warriors). The film is a remake of 1951's The Thing from another World as well as an adaptation of the novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell.

Set in an Antarctic research station, the film opens with a neighboring Norwegian helicopter chasing a husky into their camp in an attempt to kill it. Puzzled by this, MacReady (Russell) takes a few men to investigate the Norwegian camp only to find it abandoned apart from a bizarre twisted corpse. After realising that the Norwegians had uncovered an extraterrestrial being in the ice, the thing begins to work it's way through their ranks, imitating and assimilating. After uncovering the science behind the creature's behavior, Blair (Brimley) goes mad and it is down to the rest of the team to figure out which of them is human, and which of them is the thing.

Released to little fanfare in 1982, the studios blamed E.T and Blade Runner, The Thing has gone on to achieve cult status and quite rightly be hailed as a masterpiece. This should come as no surprise to those familiar with the work of John Carpenter, a man who produced several masterpieces at the peak of his powers, and also marks the high point of Carpenters numerous collaborations with Kurt Russell. The film has all the qualities you expect from a Carpenter film: crawling steadicam shots, creeping atmosphere and a tremendous score (This was actually credited to Ennio Morricone but has Carpenter's style all over it). The cast are also on top form and, although there may be a few characters too many, really capture the wild eyed suspicion that defined the novella.

Amidst the ground-breaking special effects work being done by Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London) and Tom Savini (Dawn of the Dead) at the time, Rob Bottin is a name that seems to have been lost in the shuffle and that is a real crime. Only 23 years of age at the time, Bottin's special effects are mind boggling and helped to create many memorable visuals that have been burned onto people's retinas for decades. I'm still unable to figure out how many of the creature effects were achieved and this could not (and in the case of 2011's remake in disguise, would not) be done better with CGI.

As a remake, it is vastly superior over Howard Hawks' The Thing From Another World, a film which unfortunately relied upon a walking vegetable as it's monster. As an adaptation, it takes all the interesting cold war paranoia found in Campbell's novella whilst cutting through the dry, and needlessly complicated, science of the alien. The Thing is a perfect horror film, a perfect science fiction film and proof that, in the hands of a master, remakes can be superior indeed.

***** 5 Stars

What do you think of The Thing? Have you seen the original?


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