Released in 1981, directed by John Carpenter and starring Kurt Russell, The Thing is a horror movie that takes newcomers by surprise. Not only because it is one of the most stomach churning body horror films ever made, but because it could well have released this year, given how well it holds up. The movie tells the story of a research team in the Antarctic who encounter an alien life form, and are forced to fight for their lives in total isolation. The alien happens to be, of course, a shape-shifter.
It must be said that the movie isn’t exactly high on characters, or character development of any kind. Each of the researchers, Russell included, don’t exactly have any deep moments. The star of the movie instead is the alien itself. Or at least the multiple grotesque, horrifying transformations it undergoes. Some of the scenes are absolutely jaw dropping in how downright gruesome the special effects are.
Practical Effects Extravaganza
1981 was, naturally, before the explosion of computer generated special effects. This means that everything in the film is practical, which in itself is an absolute marvel. Numerous handcrafted rigs were created, each so detailed and complicated that they could have been the centrepieces of virtually any other horror film from the era. The time and effort that went into creating each monstrous form of the alien is clear to see, which is in large part why the film has become a cult classic.
Surely no attempts would be made in modern times to recreate this artistry, with Carpenter himself even declaring, in 1997, that a film like The Thing would never again be seen. Actually, anyone involved in online betting, and knowing modern Hollywood, would have put money on efforts being made to squeeze money out of the 80’s cult classic.
The Failed Prequel
A prequel did make its way onto cinemas in 2011, but was largely panned by fans of the original, and forgotten as quickly as it saw the light of day. The original has been lauded for its special effects, but also featured a masterfully created ambience of tension and growing terror.
Bizarrely, the 2011 prequel failed in both the special effects department, and the horror ambience department. Much to the dismay of everyone, it was announced that although plans had been made for the special effects to be practical, with rigs and artificial monsters even being created, all of it was dropped in favour of going digital. How it was so overlooked that the practical effects had been the stars of the original is anyone’s guess, but needless to say that the prequel was entirely shunned by 80’s horror fans the word over.
Let It Be
It would take a true miracle for a modern The Thing to be made that lived up to the ratings and acclaim the 1981 classic received. Only vague mutters have been heard of a third film being made, but nothing much beyond that. It would be best for everyone if the franchise was left alone and allowed to die, much like the craft of practical special effects.