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''The Thing'' is a 1982 American
science fiction Science fiction (sometimes shortened to sci-fi or SF) is a genre of speculative fiction which typically deals with imagination, imaginative and futuristic concepts such as advanced science and technology, space exploration, time travel, Parall ...
horror film A horror film is one that seeks to elicit fear Fear is an intensely unpleasant emotion Emotions are mental state, psychological states brought on by neurophysiology, neurophysiological changes, variously associated with thoughts, fee ...
directed by
John Carpenter John Howard Carpenter (born January 16, 1948) is an American filmmaker, actor and composer. Although Carpenter has worked with various film genre A film genre is a stylistic or thematic category for motion pictures A film, also ...
and written by
Bill Lancaster William Henry Lancaster (November 17, 1947 – January 4, 1997) was an American screenwriter and actor. Early life He was born November 17, 1947, in Los Angeles Los Angeles ( ; xgf, Tovaangar; es, Los Ángeles, , ), commonly referre ...
. Based on the 1938
John W. Campbell Jr. John Wood Campbell Jr. (June 8, 1910 – July 11, 1971) was an American science fiction File:Imagination 195808.jpg, Space exploration, as predicted in August 1958 in the science fiction magazine ''Imagination (magazine), Imagination.'' ...
novella ''
Who Goes There? ''Who Goes There?'' is a science fiction horror novella by American writer John W. Campbell, John W. Campbell Jr., written under the pen name Don A. Stuart. It was first published in the August 1938 ''Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Astounding ...
'', it tells the story of a group of American researchers in
Antarctica Antarctica ( or ) is Earth's southernmost continent. It contains the geographic South Pole and is situated in the Antarctic region of the Southern Hemisphere, almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle, and is surrounded by the Southern Oc ...

Antarctica
who encounter the eponymous "Thing", a
parasitic Parasitism is a Symbiosis, close relationship between species, where one organism, the parasite, lives on or inside another organism, the Host (biology), host, causing it some harm, and is adaptation (biology), adapted structurally to this w ...

parasitic
extraterrestrial life-form that assimilates, then imitates, other
organism In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, physiological ...

organism
s. The group is overcome by paranoia and conflict as they learn that they can no longer trust each other and that any of them could be the Thing. The film stars
Kurt Russell Kurt Vogel Russell (born March 17, 1951) is an American actor. He began acting on television at the age of 12 in the western Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US *Western, New York, a town in the US *Weste ...

Kurt Russell
as the team's helicopter pilot,
R.J. MacReady R.J. MacReady is a fictional character and the main protagonist from the 1982 body horror film ''The Thing'' portrayed by Kurt Russell. Fictional character biography R.J. MacReady served as a helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War. Later, at some ...
, and features
A. Wilford Brimley
A. Wilford Brimley
, T. K. Carter,
David Clennon David Clennon (born May 10, 1943) is an American actor. He is known for his portrayal of Miles Drentell in the ABC ABC are the first three letters of the Latin script known as the alphabet. ABC or abc may also refer to: Arts, entertainment, ...
,
Keith David Keith David Williams (born June 4, 1956) is an American actor and producer. He is known for his work as King in ''Platoon A platoon is a military unit typically composed of two or more squads, sections, or patrols. Platoon organization va ...
,
Richard Dysart Richard Allen Dysart (March 30, 1929 – April 5, 2015) was an American actor. He is best known for his role in the television series ''L.A. Law'' (1986–1994), for which he received four consecutive Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supportin ...
,
Charles Hallahan Charles John Hallahan (July 29, 1943 – November 25, 1997) was an American film, television, and stage actor known for his performances in ''Going in Style'', ''The Thing (1982 film), The Thing'', ''Cast a Deadly Spell'', and ''Dante's Peak''. ...
, Peter Maloney,
Richard Masur Richard Masur (born November 20, 1948) is an American character actor, who has appeared in more than 80 films. From 1995 to 1999, he served two terms as president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). Masur currently sits on the Corporate Board of th ...
,
Donald Moffat Donald Moffat (26 December 1930 – 20 December 2018) was an English–American actor with a decades-long career in film and stage in the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States ...
,
Joel Polis Joel Polis (born October 3, 1951) is an American television, film and stage actor. Polis has appeared in over one hundred television programs and films during his career. Career Polis' first film role was the character Fuchs in the 1982 science ...
, and Thomas G. Waites in supporting roles. Production began in the mid-1970s as a faithful adaptation of the novella, following 1951's ''
The Thing from Another World ''The Thing from Another World'', sometimes referred to as just ''The Thing'', is a 1951 American black-and-white Black-and-white (B/W or B&W) images combine black and white in a continuous spectrum In physics Physics (from ...
''. ''The Thing'' went through several directors and writers, each with different ideas on how to approach the story. Filming lasted roughly 12 weeks, beginning in August 1981, and took place on refrigerated sets in Los Angeles as well as in
Juneau, Alaska The City and Borough of Juneau, more commonly known simply as Juneau ( ; tli, Dzánti K'ihéeni ), is the capital city A capital or capital city is the municipality holding primary status in a Department (country subdivision), departmen ...

Juneau, Alaska
, and
Stewart, British Columbia Stewart is a district municipality at the head of the Portland Canal in northwestern British Columbia, Canada near the Southeast Alaska, Alaskan panhandle. In 2011, its population was about 494. History The Nisga'a, who lived around the Nass R ...
. Of the film's $15million budget, $1.5million was spent on
Rob Bottin Robin R. Bottin (born April 1, 1959) is an American special make-up effects creator. Known for his collaborations with directors John Carpenter John Howard Carpenter (born January 16, 1948) is an American filmmaker, actor and composer. Al ...
's creature effects, a mixture of chemicals, food products, rubber, and mechanical parts turned by his large team into an alien capable of taking on any form. ''The Thing'' was released in 1982 to very negative reviews. It was described as "instant junk", "a wretched excess", and proposed as the most-hated film of all time by film magazine ''
Cinefantastique ''Cinefantastique'' is an American Horror fiction, horror, fantasy, and science fiction List of film journals and magazines, film magazine. History The magazine originally started as a Mimeograph machine, mimeographed fanzine in 1967, then relaun ...
''. Reviews both praised the special effects achievements and criticized their visual repulsiveness, while others found the characterization poorly realised. The film earned $19.6million during its theatrical run. Many reasons have been cited for its failure to impress audiences: competition from films such as ''
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial ''E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial'' (or simply ''E.T.'') is a 1982 American science fiction film Science fiction (or sci-fi) is a film genre A film genre is a Genre, stylistic or thematic category for Film, motion pictures based on similariti ...
'', which offered an optimistic take on alien visitation; a summer that had been filled with successful science fiction and fantasy films; and an audience living through a recession, diametrically opposed to ''The Thing''s
nihilistic Nihilism (; ) is a philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosop ...
tone. The film found an audience when released on home video and television. In the subsequent years, it has been reappraised as one of the best science fiction and horror films ever made and has gained a
cult following A cult following refers to a group of fans Fan commonly refers to: * Fan (machine) Sounds from a household fan. A fan is a powered machine A machine is a man-made device that uses power to apply forces and control movement to perfo ...
. Filmmakers have noted its influence on their work, and it has been referred to in other media such as television and video games. ''The Thing'' has spawned a variety of merchandise—including a 1982
novelization A novelization (or novelisation) is a derivative In mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in w ...
, haunted house attractions, board games—and sequels in comic books, a video game of the same name, and a 2011 prequel
film of the same name A film, also called a movie, motion picture or moving picture, is a work of visual art used to simulate experiences that communicate ideas, stories, perceptions, feelings, beauty, or atmosphere through the use of moving images. These image ...
.


Plot

In Antarctica, a Norwegian helicopter pursues a
sled dog A sled dog is a dog The dog or domestic dog (''Canis familiaris'' or ''Canis lupus familiaris'') is a Domestication, domesticated descendant of the wolf which is characterized by an upturning tail. The dog Origin of the domestic dog, der ...
to an American research station. The Americans witness the Norwegian passenger accidentally blow up the helicopter and himself. The pilot shoots at the dog and shouts at the Americans, but they cannot understand him and he is shot dead in self-defense by station commander Garry. The American helicopter pilot,
R.J. MacReady R.J. MacReady is a fictional character and the main protagonist from the 1982 body horror film ''The Thing'' portrayed by Kurt Russell. Fictional character biography R.J. MacReady served as a helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War. Later, at some ...
, and Dr. Copper leave to investigate the Norwegian base. Among the charred ruins and frozen corpses, they find the burned remains of a malformed
humanoid A humanoid (; from English ''human'' and ''-oid In linguistics, a suffix is an affix which is placed after the Stem (linguistics), stem of a word. Common examples are case endings, which indicate the grammatical case of nouns, adjectives, an ...

humanoid
which they recover to the American station. Their biologist, Blair, performs autopsies on the remains and finds a normal set of human organs. Clark kennels the sled dog, and it soon metamorphoses and absorbs the station dogs. This disturbance alerts the team and Childs uses a flamethrower to incinerate the creature. Blair autopsies the new creature and learns that it can perfectly imitate other organisms. Recovered Norwegian data leads the Americans to a large excavation site containing a partially buried alien spacecraft, and a smaller, human-sized dig site. Norris estimates that the alien ship has been buried for at least 100,000 years. Blair grows paranoid after running a computer simulation that indicates that the creature could assimilate all life on Earth in a matter of years. The station implements controls to reduce the risk of assimilation. The malformed humanoid creature assimilates an isolated Bennings, but Windows interrupts the process and MacReady burns the Bennings-Thing. Blair sabotages all the vehicles, kills the remaining sled dogs, and destroys the radio to prevent escape. The team imprisons him in a tool shed. Copper suggests a test to compare each member's blood against uncontaminated blood held in storage, but after learning that the blood stores have been destroyed, the men lose faith in Garry, and MacReady takes command. MacReady, Windows and Nauls find Fuchs's burnt corpse and surmise he committed suicide to avoid assimilation. Windows returns to base while MacReady and Nauls investigate MacReady's shack. On their return, Nauls abandons MacReady in a snowstorm, believing he has been assimilated after finding his torn clothes in the shack. The team debates whether to allow MacReady inside, but he breaks in and holds the group at bay with dynamite. During the encounter, Norris appears to suffer a heart attack. As Copper attempts to defibrillate Norris, his chest transforms into a large mouth and bites off Copper's arms, killing him. MacReady incinerates the Norris-Thing, but its head detaches and attempts to escape before also being burnt. MacReady is forced to kill Clark in self-defense when the latter lunges at him from behind with a knife. He hypothesizes that the Norris-Thing's head demonstrated that every part of the Thing is an individual life form with its own survival instinct. He has everyone tied up and sequentially tests blood samples with a heated piece of wire. Everyone passes the test except Palmer, whose blood jumps from the heat. Exposed, Palmer-Thing transforms, breaks free of its bonds, and infects Windows, forcing MacReady to incinerate them both. Childs is left on guard while the others go to test Blair. They find that Blair has escaped, and has been using vehicle components to assemble a small
flying saucer A flying saucer (also referred to as "a flying disc") is a descriptive term for a type of flying craft having a disc or saucer A saucer is a type of small dishware upright=1.3, Table laid for six at the Royal Castle, Warsaw, (18th-1 ...

flying saucer
. On their return, Childs is missing and the power generator is destroyed. MacReady speculates that the Thing intends to return to hibernation until a rescue team arrives. MacReady, Garry, and Nauls decide to detonate the entire station to destroy the Thing. As they set explosives, Blair kills Garry and Nauls disappears. Transforming into an enormous creature, Blair-Thing destroys the detonator. MacReady triggers the explosives using a stick of dynamite, destroying the base. MacReady sits nearby as the station burns. Childs returns, saying he became lost in the storm while pursuing Blair. Exhausted and slowly freezing to death, they acknowledge the futility of their distrust and share a bottle of Scotch.


Production


Development

Development of the film began in the mid-1970s when producers David Foster and Lawrence Turman suggested to
Universal Pictures Universal Pictures (legally Universal City Studios LLC, also known as Universal Studios, or simply Universal; common metonym Metonymy () is a figure of speech A figure of speech or rhetorical figure is a word or phrase that entails an int ...
an adaptation of the 1938 John W. Campbell novella ''
Who Goes There? ''Who Goes There?'' is a science fiction horror novella by American writer John W. Campbell, John W. Campbell Jr., written under the pen name Don A. Stuart. It was first published in the August 1938 ''Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Astounding ...
''. It had been loosely adapted once before in
Howard Hawks Howard Winchester Hawks (May 30, 1896December 26, 1977) was an American film director, producer and screenwriter of the classic Hollywood era. Critic Leonard Maltin Leonard Michael Maltin (born December 18, 1950) is an American film critic ...
's and
Christian Nyby Christian Nyby (September 1, 1913 – September 17, 1993) was an American television and film director and editor. As an editor, he had seventeen feature film credits from 1943 to 1952, including ''The Big Sleep (1946 film), The Big Sleep'' (19 ...
's 1951 film ''
The Thing from Another World ''The Thing from Another World'', sometimes referred to as just ''The Thing'', is a 1951 American black-and-white Black-and-white (B/W or B&W) images combine black and white in a continuous spectrum In physics Physics (from ...
'', but Foster and Turman wanted to develop a project that stuck more closely to the source material. Screenwriters
Hal Barwood Hal Barwood (born ) is an American Screenwriting, screenwriter, film producer, film director, game designer, game producer, and novelist. Early life Born in Hanover, New Hampshire, his father ran a local movie theater in the town, this being on ...
and Matthew Robbins held the rights to make an adaptation, but passed on the opportunity to make a new film, so Universal obtained the rights from them. In 1976,
Wilbur Stark Wilbur Stark (August 10, 1912 – August 11, 1995) was an American writer and film, television, and radio producer and director. Life Stark was born in Brooklyn and was the brother of Douglas Stark, an actor, Sheldon Stark, a writer, and Midge St ...
had purchased the remake rights to 23
RKO Pictures RKO Pictures was an American film production and distribution company. In its original incarnation, as RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. (a subsidiary of Radio-Keith-Orpheum, aka: RKO) it was one of the Big FiveBig Five may refer to: Animals * th ...
films, including ''The Thing from Another World'', from three
Wall Street Wall Street is an eight-block-long street in the Financial District This is a list of financial districts in cities around the world. Background A financial district is usually a central area in a city where financial services firms suc ...

Wall Street
financiers who did not know what to do with them, in exchange for a return when the films were produced. Universal in turn acquired the rights to remake the film from Stark, resulting in him being given an executive producer credit on all print advertisements, posters, television commercials, and studio press material.
John Carpenter John Howard Carpenter (born January 16, 1948) is an American filmmaker, actor and composer. Although Carpenter has worked with various film genre A film genre is a stylistic or thematic category for motion pictures A film, also ...
was first approached about the project in 1976 by co-producer and friend Stuart Cohen, but Carpenter was mainly an independent film director, so Universal chose ''
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre ''The Texas Chain Saw Massacre'' is a 1974 American horror film produced and directed by Tobe Hooper from a story and screenplay by Hooper and Kim Henkel. It stars Marilyn Burns, Paul A. Partain, Edwin Neal, Jim Siedow and Gunnar Hansen, wh ...
'' (1974) director
Tobe Hooper Willard Tobe Hooper (; January 25, 1943 – August 26, 2017) was an American director, screenwriter, and producer best known for his work in the horror film, horror genre. The British Film Institute cited Hooper as one of the most influenti ...
as they already had him under contract. The producers were ultimately unhappy with Hooper and his writing partner
Kim Henkel Kim David Henkel (born January 19, 1946) is an American screenwriter, director, producer, and actor. He is best known as the co-writer of Tobe Hooper Willard Tobe Hooper (; January 25, 1943 – August 26, 2017) was an American director, ...
's concept. After several more failed pitches by different writers, and attempts to bring on other directors, such as
John Landis John is a common English name and surname: * John (given name) * John (surname), including a list of people who have the name John John may also refer to: New Testament Works *Johannine literature ** Gospel of John, a title often shortened ...
, the project was put on hold. Even so, the success of
Ridley Scott Sir Ridley Scott (born 30 November 1937) is an English film director and producer. He has directed, among others, the science fiction horror film ''Alien Alien primarily refers to: * Alien (law) In law, an alien is any person A person ...
's 1979 science fiction horror film ''
Alien Alien primarily refers to: * Alien (law) In law, an alien is any person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason, morality, consciousness or self-consciousness, and being a part ...
'' helped revitalize the project, at which point Carpenter became loosely attached following his success with his influential
slasher film A slasher film is a genre of horror films involving a killer stalking and murdering a group of people, usually by use of bladed tools. Although the term "slasher" may occasionally be used informally as a generic term for any horror film involving ...
''
Halloween Halloween or Hallowe'en (a contraction of "All Hallows' evening"), less commonly known as Allhalloween, All Hallows' Eve, or All Saints' Eve, is a celebration observed in many countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western Christian feast o ...
'' (1978). Carpenter was reluctant to join the project, for he thought Hawks's adaptation would be difficult to surpass, although he considered the film's monster to be unnotable. Cohen suggested that he read the original novella. Carpenter found the "creepiness" of the imitations conducted by the creature, and the questions it raised, interesting. He drew parallels between the novella and
Agatha Christie Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie, Lady Mallowan, (née__NOTOC__ A birth name is the name of the person given upon their birth. The term may be applied to the surname In some cultures, a surname, family name, or last name is the porti ...

Agatha Christie
's mystery novel ''
And Then There Were None ''And Then There Were None'' is a mystery fiction, mystery novel by the English writer Agatha Christie, described by her as the most difficult of her books to write. It was first published in the United Kingdom by the Collins Crime Club on 6 N ...
'' (1939), and noted that the story of ''Who Goes There?'' was "timely" for him, meaning he could make it "true to
is
is
day" as Hawks had in his time. Carpenter, a fan of Hawks's adaptation, paid homage to it in ''Halloween'', and he watched ''The Thing from Another World'' several times for inspiration before filming began. Carpenter and cinematographer
Dean Cundey Dean Raymond Cundey, A.S.C. The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC), founded in Hollywood in 1919, is a cultural, educational, and professional organization that is neither a labor union nor a guild. The society was organized to advance ...
first worked together on ''Halloween'', and ''The Thing'' was their first big-budget project for a
major film studio Major film studios are production Production may be: Economics and business * Production (economics) * Production, the act of manufacturing goods * Production, in the outline of industrial organization, the act of making products (goods and ser ...
. After securing the writer and crew, the film was stalled again when Carpenter nearly quit, believing that a passion project of his, ''
El Diablo Diablo or El Diablo may refer to: Arts and entertainment Fictional entities * Diablo (Disney), a raven in ''Sleeping Beauty'' * Diablo (Marvel Comics), a Fantastic Four villain * El Diablo (comics), several fictional characters from DC Comics * ...
'' (1990), was on the verge of being made by
EMI Films EMI Films was a British film studio A film studio (also known as movie studio or simply studio) is a major entertainment company or motion picture company that has its own privately owned studio A studio is an artist An artist is a pe ...
. The producers discussed various replacements including
Walter Hill Walter Hill (born January 10, 1942) is an American film director, screenwriter, and producer known for his action films and revival of the Western genre. He has directed such films as '' The Warriors'', '' Hard Times'', ''The Driver'', ''South ...

Walter Hill
,
Sam Peckinpah David Samuel Peckinpah (; February 21, 1925 – December 28, 1984) was an American film director and screenwriter. His 1969 Western (genre), Western epic ''The Wild Bunch'' received an Academy Award nomination and was ranked No. 80 on the Americ ...
and Michael Ritchie, but the development of ''El Diablo'' was not as imminent as Carpenter believed, and he remained with ''The Thing''. Universal initially set a budget of $10million, with $200,000 for "creature effects", which at the time was more than the studio had ever allocated to a monster film. Filming was scheduled to be completed within 98 days. Universal's production studios estimated that it would require at least $17million before marketing and other costs, as the plan involved more set construction, including external sets and a large set piece for the original scripted death of Bennings, which was estimated to cost $1.5million alone. As
storyboard A storyboard is a graphic organizer that consists of illustration An illustration is a decoration, interpretation or visual explanation of a text, concept or process, designed for integration in print and digital published media, such as pos ...

storyboard
ing and designs were finalized, the crew estimated they would need at least $750,000 for creature effects, a figure Universal executives agreed to after seeing the number of workers employed under
Rob Bottin Robin R. Bottin (born April 1, 1959) is an American special make-up effects creator. Known for his collaborations with directors John Carpenter John Howard Carpenter (born January 16, 1948) is an American filmmaker, actor and composer. Al ...
, the
special make-up effects Prosthetic makeup (also called special make-up effects and FX prosthesis) is the process of using prosthetic sculpting, molding and casting techniques to create advanced cosmetic special effects, effects. Prosthetic makeup goes back to the beginn ...
designer. Associate producer Larry Franco was responsible for making the budget work for the film; he cut the filming schedule by a third, eliminated the exterior sets for on-site shooting, and removed Bennings's more extravagant death scene. Cohen suggested reusing the destroyed American camp as the ruined Norwegian camp, saving a further $250,000. When filming began in August, ''The Thing'' had a budget of $11.4million, and indirect costs brought it to $14million. The effects budget ran over, eventually totaling $1.5million, forcing the elimination of some scenes, including Nauls's confrontation of a creature dubbed the "box Thing". By the end of production, Carpenter had to make a personal appeal to executive
Ned Tanen Ned Stone Tanen (c. September 20, 1931 – January 5, 2009) was an American film studio executive behind films that included ''American Graffiti'' and ''Animal House''. History Tanen was born to a American Jews, Jewish family in Los Angeles an ...
for $100,000 to complete a simplified version of the Blair-Thing. The final cost was $12.4million, and overhead costs brought it to $15million.


Writing

Several writers developed drafts for ''The Thing'' before Carpenter became involved, including ''
Logan's Run ''Logan's Run'' is a science fiction novel by American writers a William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. Published in 1967, the novel depicts a dystopic ageist future society in which both population and the consumption of resources are m ...
'' (1967) writer
William F. Nolan
William F. Nolan
, novelist
David Wiltse David Wiltse is an American novelist and playwright known for his versatility of form. He is the author of 12 novels, 14 plays and numerous screenplays and teleplays, including the CBS series "Ladies Man (1980 TV series), Ladies Man". Mr. Wiltse ...
, and Hooper and Henkel, whose draft was set at least partially underwater, and which Cohen described as a ''
Moby-Dick ''Moby-Dick; or, The Whale'' is an 1851 novel by American writer Herman Melville Herman Melville (Name change, born Melvill; August 1, 1819 – September 28, 1891) was an American novelist, short story writer, and poet of the American ...
''-like story in which "The Captain" did battle with a large, non-shapeshifting creature. As Carpenter said in a 2014 interview, "they were just trying to make it work". The writers left before Carpenter joined the project. He said the scripts were "awful", as they changed the story into something it was not, and ignored the chameleon-like aspect of the Thing. Carpenter did not want to write the project himself, after recently completing work on ''
Escape from New York ''Escape from New York'' is a 1981 American science fiction film, science fiction action film co-written, co-scored and directed by John Carpenter. It stars Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Donald Pleasence, Ernest Borgnine, Isaac Hayes, Adrienne B ...
'' (1981), and having struggled to complete a screenplay for '' The Philadelphia Experiment'' (1984). He was wary of taking on writing duties, preferring to let someone else do it. Once Carpenter was confirmed as the director, several writers were asked to script ''The Thing'', including
Richard Matheson Richard Burton Matheson (February 20, 1926 – June 23, 2013) was an American author and screenwriter, primarily in the fantasy, horror, and science fiction genres. He is best known as the author of '' I Am Legend'', a 1954 science ficti ...

Richard Matheson
,
Nigel Kneale Thomas Nigel Kneale (18 April 1922 – 29 October 2006) was a British screenwriter A screenplay writer (also called screenwriter for short), scriptwriter or scenarist, is a writer who practices the craft of screenwriting, writing sc ...
, and
Deric WashburnDeric Washburn is an American screenwriter. Washburn graduated from Harvard College in 1959. His early career was that of a playwright, penning the off-Broadway plays ''Ginger Anne'' and ''The Love Nest''. He is best known for co-writing the origin ...
.
Bill Lancaster William Henry Lancaster (November 17, 1947 – January 4, 1997) was an American screenwriter and actor. Early life He was born November 17, 1947, in Los Angeles Los Angeles ( ; xgf, Tovaangar; es, Los Ángeles, , ), commonly referre ...
initially met with Turman, Foster and Cohen in 1977, but he was given the impression that they wanted to closely replicate ''The Thing from Another World'', and he did not want to remake the film. In August 1979, Lancaster was contacted again. By this time he had read the original ''Who Goes There?'' novella, and Carpenter had become involved in the project. Lancaster was hired to write the script after describing his vision for the film, and his intention to stick closely to the original story, to Carpenter, who was a fan of Lancaster's work on ''
The Bad News Bears ''The Bad News Bears'' is a 1976 American sports film, sports comedy film directed by Michael Ritchie (film director), Michael Ritchie and written by Bill Lancaster. It stars Walter Matthau as an alcoholic ex-baseball pitcher who becomes a coach f ...

The Bad News Bears
'' (1976). Lancaster conceived several key scenes in the film, including the Norris-Thing biting Dr. Copper, and the use of blood tests to identify the Thing, which Carpenter cited as the reason he wanted to work on the film. Lancaster said he found some difficulty in translating ''Who Goes There?'' to film, as it features very little action. He also made some significant changes to the story, such as reducing the number of characters from 37 to 12. Lancaster said that 37 was excessive and would be difficult for audiences to follow, leaving little screen time for characterization. He also opted to alter the story's structure, choosing to open his
in the middle of the action
in the middle of the action
, instead of using a
flashback Flashback or flashbacks may refer to: * Flashback (narrative), in literature and dramatic media, an interjected scene or point that takes the narrative back in time from the current point * Flashback (psychology), in which a memory is suddenly and ...
as in the novella. Several characters were modernized for contemporary audiences; MacReady, originally a meteorologist, became a tough loner described in the script as "35. Helicopter pilot. Likes chess. Hates the cold. The pay is good." Lancaster aimed to create an ensemble piece where one person emerged as the hero, instead of having a
Doc Savage Doc Savage is a fictional character In fiction Fiction is any creative workA creative work is a manifestation of creative effort including fine artwork (sculpture Sculpture is the branch of the visual arts that operates in three d ...
-type hero from the start. Lancaster wrote approximately 30 to 40 pages, but eventually struggled writing the film's second act and it took him several months to complete the script. After it was finished, Lancaster and Carpenter spent a weekend in northern California refining the script, each having different takes on how a character should sound, and comparing their ideas for scenes. Lancaster's script opted to keep the creature largely concealed throughout the film, and it was Bottin who convinced Carpenter to make it more visible to have a greater impact on the audience. Lancaster's original ending had both MacReady and Childs turn into the Thing. In the spring, the characters are rescued by helicopter, greeting their saviors with "Hey, which way to a hot meal?". Carpenter thought this ending was too shallow. In total, Lancaster completed four drafts of the screenplay. The novella concludes with the humans clearly victorious, but concerned that birds they see flying toward the mainland may have been infected by the Thing. Carpenter opted to end the film with the survivors slowly freezing to death to save humanity from infection, believing this to be the ultimate heroic act. Lancaster wrote this ending, which eschews a ''
The Twilight Zone ''The Twilight Zone'' is an American media franchise A media franchise, also known as a multimedia franchise, is a collection of related media Media may refer to: Physical means Communication * Media (communication), tools used to d ...
''-style twist or the destruction of the monster, as he wanted to instead have an ambiguous moment between the pair, of trust and mistrust, fear and relief.


Casting

Kurt Russell Kurt Vogel Russell (born March 17, 1951) is an American actor. He began acting on television at the age of 12 in the western Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US *Western, New York, a town in the US *Weste ...

Kurt Russell
was involved in the production before being cast, helping Carpenter develop his ideas. Russell was the last actor to be cast, in June 1981, by which point
second unit Second unit is a discrete team of filmmakers tasked with filming shots or sequences of a production, separate from the main or "first" unit. The second unit will often shoot simultaneously with the other unit or units, allowing the filming stage ...
filming was starting in
Juneau, Alaska The City and Borough of Juneau, more commonly known simply as Juneau ( ; tli, Dzánti K'ihéeni ), is the capital city A capital or capital city is the municipality holding primary status in a Department (country subdivision), departmen ...

Juneau, Alaska
. Carpenter had worked with Russell twice before but wanted to keep his options open. Discussions with the studio involved using actors
Christopher Walken Christopher Walken (born Ronald Walken; March 31, 1943) is an American actor and comedian, who has appeared in more than 100 films and television programs, including '' Annie Hall'' (1977), '' The Deer Hunter'' (1978), '' The Dogs of War'' (1980) ...
,
Jeff Bridges Jeffrey Leon Bridges (born December 4, 1949) is an American actor, singer, producer, and composer. One of the most acclaimed actors of his generation, he is the recipient of numerous accolades, including a Screen Actors Guild Award Screen A ...

Jeff Bridges
, or
Nick Nolte Nicholas King Nolte (born February 8, 1941) is an American actor. He won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for the 1991 film ''The Prince of Tides''. He went on ...

Nick Nolte
, who were either unavailable or declined, and
Sam Shepard Samuel Shepard Rogers III (November 5, 1943 – July 27, 2017) was an American actor, playwright, author, screenwriter, and director whose career spanned half a century. He won ten Obie Award The Obie Awards or Off-Broadway Theater Award ...

Sam Shepard
, who showed interest but was never pursued. Tom Atkins and Jack Thompson were strong early and late contenders for the role of MacReady, but the decision was made to go with Russell. In part, Carpenter cited the practicality of choosing someone he had found reliable before, and who would not balk at the difficult filming conditions. It took Russell about a year to grow his hair and beard out for the role. At various points, the producers met with
Brian Dennehy Brian Manion Dennehy (July 9, 1938 – April 15, 2020) was an American actor of stage, television, and film. He won two Tony Awards The Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Broadway Theatre, more commonly known as the Tony Award, recogni ...
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Kris Kristofferson Kristoffer Kristofferson (born June 22, 1936) is a retired American singer, songwriter and actor. Among his songwriting credits are the songs "Me and Bobby McGee "Me and Bobby McGee" is a song written by American singer-songwriter Kris Kr ...

Kris Kristofferson
, John Heard,
Ed Harris Edward Allen Harris (born November 28, 1950) is an American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter. His performances in ''Apollo 13 Apollo 13 was the seventh crewed mission in the Apollo program, Apollo space program and the third me ...

Ed Harris
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Tom Berenger Tom Berenger (born Thomas Michael Moore; May 31, 1949) is an American actor An actor is a person who portrays a character Character(s) may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''Character'' (novel), a 1936 Dutch novel ...
, Jack Thompson,
Scott Glenn Theodore Scott Glenn (born January 26) is an American actor. His roles have included Wes Hightower in ''Urban Cowboy'' (1980), astronaut Alan Shepard in ''The Right Stuff (film), The Right Stuff'' (1983), Emmett in ''Silverado (film), Silverado'' ...
,
Fred Ward Fred Ward (born December 20, 1942) is an American actor and film producer, producer. Starting with a role in an Italian television film in 1973, Ward has had a long and diverse career, including such films as ''Escape from Alcatraz (film), Escap ...
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Peter Coyote Peter Coyote (born Robert Peter Cohon; October 10, 1941) is an American actor, author, director, screenwriter, and narrator of films, theatre, television, and audiobooks. He is best known for his work in various films such as ''E.T. the Extra- ...

Peter Coyote
, Tom Atkins, and
Tim McIntire Timothy John McIntire (July 19, 1944 – April 15, 1986) was an American character actor, probably best known for his starring roles as Alan Freed in the film ''American Hot Wax'' (1978), as singer George Jones in the television movie ''Stand ...
. Some passed on the idea of starring in a monster film, while Dennehy became the choice to play Copper. Each actor was to be paid $50,000, but after the more-established Russell was cast, his salary increased to $400,000.
Geoffrey Holder Geoffrey Lamont Holder (August 1, 1930 – October 5, 2014) was a Trinidadian-American actor, dancer, musician, and artist. He was a principal dancer for the Metropolitan Opera Ballet before his film career began in 1957 with an appearance in ''C ...
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Carl Weathers Carl Weathers (born January 14, 1948) is an American actor and former professional American football player. Several of his best known roles are Apollo Creed in the first four ''Rocky (film series), Rocky'' films, George Dillon in ''Predator (f ...
, and
Bernie Casey Bernard Terry Casey (June 8, 1939 – September 19, 2017) was an American actor An actor is a person who portrays a character Character(s) may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''Character'' (novel), a 1936 Dutch no ...
were considered for the role of Childs, and Carpenter also looked at
Isaac Hayes Isaac Lee Hayes Jr. (August 20, 1942 – August 10, 2008) was an American singer, songwriter, actor, composer and producer. He was one of the creative forces behind the Southern soul Southern soul is a type of soul music Soul music (o ...

Isaac Hayes
, having worked with him on ''Escape from New York''.
Ernie Hudson Earnest Lee Hudson (born December 17, 1945) is an American actor. His roles include Winston Zeddemore Dr. Winston Zeddemore is a fictional character appearing in the ''Ghostbusters'' films, TV series, and video games. He was played by Ernie ...
was the front-runner and was almost cast until they met with
Keith David Keith David Williams (born June 4, 1956) is an American actor and producer. He is known for his work as King in ''Platoon A platoon is a military unit typically composed of two or more squads, sections, or patrols. Platoon organization va ...
. ''The Thing'' was David's first significant film role, and coming from a theater background, he had to learn on set how to hold himself back and not show every emotion his character was feeling, with guidance from
Richard Masur Richard Masur (born November 20, 1948) is an American character actor, who has appeared in more than 80 films. From 1995 to 1999, he served two terms as president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). Masur currently sits on the Corporate Board of th ...
and
Donald Moffat Donald Moffat (26 December 1930 – 20 December 2018) was an English–American actor with a decades-long career in film and stage in the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States ...
in particular. Masur and David discussed their characters in rehearsals and decided that they would not like each other. For Blair, the team chose the then-unknown
Wilford Brimley Anthony Wilford Brimley (September 27, 1934 – August 1, 2020) was an American actor and singer. After serving in the United States Marine Corps and taking on a variety of odd jobs, he became an extra for western films, and in little mo ...

Wilford Brimley
, as they wanted an
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whose absence would not be questioned by the audience until the appropriate time. The intent with the character was to have him become infected early in the film but
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, so that his status would be unknown to the audience, concealing his intentions. Carpenter wanted to cast
Donald Pleasence Donald Henry Pleasence (; 5 October 1919 – 2 February 1995) was an English actor. He began his career on stage in the West End before transitioning into a screen career, where he played numerous supporting and character roles including RAF ...
, but it was decided that he was too recognizable to accommodate the role. T. K. Carter was cast as Nauls, but comedian
Franklyn Ajaye Franklyn Ajaye (born May 13, 1949) is an American stand-up comedian Stand-up comedy is a comedy Performing arts, performance to a live audience, addressed directly from the stage. The performer is known as a comic, comedian, or simply stan ...
also came in to read for the role. Instead, he delivered a lengthy speech about the character being a stereotype, after which the meeting ended. Bottin lobbied hard to play Palmer, but it was deemed impossible for him to do so alongside his existing duties. As the character has some comedic moments, Universal brought in comedians
Jay Leno James Douglas Muir Leno (; born April 28, 1950) is an American television host, comedian, and writer. After doing stand-up comedy for years, he became the host of NBC's ''The Tonight Show with Jay Leno'' from 1992 to 2009. Beginning in Septemb ...

Jay Leno
,
Garry Shandling Garry Emmanuel Shandling (November 29, 1949 – March 24, 2016) was an American actor, comedian, director, producer and writer. Two of his best-known works were ''It's Garry Shandling's Show'' and ''The Larry Sanders Show''. Shandling began his ...
, and
Charles Fleischer Charles Fleischer (born August 27, 1950) is an American stand-up comedian, actor, writer and musician, best known for appearing in films such as ''Who Framed Roger Rabbit'', ''A Nightmare on Elm Street'', ''The Polar Express (film), The Polar Exp ...

Charles Fleischer
, among others, but opted to go with actor
David Clennon David Clennon (born May 10, 1943) is an American actor. He is known for his portrayal of Miles Drentell in the ABC ABC are the first three letters of the Latin script known as the alphabet. ABC or abc may also refer to: Arts, entertainment, ...
, who was better suited to play the dramatic elements. Clennon had read for the Bennings character, but he preferred the option of playing Palmer's "blue-collar stoner" to a "white collar science man".
Powers Boothe Powers Allen Boothe (June 1, 1948 – May 14, 2017) was an American television, film and voice actor. He won an Emmy Award, Emmy in 1980 for his portrayal of Jim Jones in ''Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones''. He also played saloon owne ...

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Lee Van Cleef Clarence LeRoy "Lee" Van Cleef Jr. (January 9, 1925 – December 16, 1989) was an American actor best known for his roles in Spaghetti Western The Spaghetti Western is a broad subgenre of Western (genre), Western films produced in Europe. It ...
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Jerry Orbach Jerome Bernard Orbach (October 20, 1935 – December 28, 2004) was an American actor and singer, described at the time of his death as "one of the last'' bona fide'' leading men of the Broadway Broadway may refer to: Theatre * Broadway Theatr ...
, and Kevin Conway were considered for the role of Garry, and
Richard Mulligan Richard Mulligan (November 13, 1932 – September 26, 2000) was an American character actor A character actor is a supporting actor who plays unusual, interesting, or Eccentricity (behavior), eccentric character (arts), characters.28 April ...
was also considered when the production experimented with the idea of making the character closer to MacReady in age. Masur also read for Garry, but he asked to play Clark instead, as he liked the character's dialogue and was also a fan of dogs. Masur worked daily with the
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Jed and his handler, Clint Rowe, during rehearsals, as Rowe was familiarizing Jed with the sounds and smells of people. This helped Masur's and Jed's performance onscreen, as the dog would stand next to him without looking for his handler. Masur described his character as one uninterested in people, but who loves working with dogs. He went to a survivalist store and bought a flip knife for his character, and used it in a confrontation with David's character. Masur turned down a role in ''
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'' to play Clark.
William Daniels William David Daniels (born March 31, 1927) is an American actor, who is best recognized for his television roles, notably as List of St. Elsewhere characters, Mark Craig in the drama series ''St. Elsewhere'', for which he won two Primetime Emm ...

William Daniels
and Dennehy were both interested in playing Dr. Copper, and it was a last-second decision by Carpenter to go with
Richard Dysart Richard Allen Dysart (March 30, 1929 – April 5, 2015) was an American actor. He is best known for his role in the television series ''L.A. Law'' (1986–1994), for which he received four consecutive Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supportin ...
. In early drafts, Windows was called Sanchez, and later Sanders. The name Windows came when the actor for the role, Thomas Waites, was in a costume fitting and tried on a large pair of dark glasses, which the character wears in the film.
Norbert Weisser Norbert Weisser (born July 9, 1946) is a German-born actor, playwright, theatre director, and Theatre producer, producer. Based in Venice, Los Angeles, Venice, California, he is a founding member of Odyssey Theater Ensemble, the ProVisional Theat ...
portrays one of the Norwegians, and Jed appears uncredited as the Dog-Thing. The only female presence in the film is the voice of MacReady's chess computer, voiced by Carpenter's then-wife
Adrienne Barbeau Adrienne Jo Barbeau is an American actress, singer and the author of three books. Barbeau came to prominence in the 1970s as Broadway's original Rizzo in the musical '' Grease'', and as Carol Traynor, the divorced daughter of Maude Findlay (play ...

Adrienne Barbeau
. Russell described the all-male story as interesting since the men had no one to posture for without women. Foster, Franco, and Lancaster, along with other members of the crew, make a cameo appearance in a recovered photograph of the Norwegian team. Camera operator Ray Stella stood in for the shots where needles were used to take blood, telling Carpenter that he could do it all day. Franco also played the Norwegian wielding a rifle and hanging out of the helicopter during the opening sequence. Anita Dann served as casting director.


Filming

''The Thing'' was storyboarded extensively by
Mike Ploog Michael G. Ploog (; born July 13, 1940 or 1942) is an American storyboard and comic book artist, and a visual designer for films. In comics, Ploog is best known for his work on Marvel Comics' 1970s ''Man-Thing'' and ''Frankenstein's Monster (Marve ...
and
Mentor HuebnerMentor Huebner (July 19, 1917 - March 19, 2001) was a leading Hollywood production designer, production illustrator who did storyboards, production art and creative concepts for more than 250 films, including ''King Kong (1976 film), King Kong'' (197 ...
before filming began. Their work was so detailed that many of the film's shots replicate the image layout completely. Cundey pushed for the use of
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aspect ratio, believing that it allowed for placing several actors in an environment, and making use of the scenic vistas available, while still creating a sense of confinement within the image. It also enabled the use of
negative space Negative space, in art Art is a diverse range of (products of) human activities Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized by bipedality, opposable thumbs, hairlessness, a ...
around the actors to imply something may be lurking just offscreen.
Principal photography Principal photography is the phase of producing a film or television show in which the bulk of shooting takes place, as distinct from the phases of pre-production and post-production. Personnel Besides the main film personnel, such as actor ...
began on August 24, 1981, in Juneau, Alaska. Filming lasted approximately 12 weeks. Carpenter insisted on two weeks of rehearsals before filming as he wanted to see how scenes would play out. This was unusual at the time because of the expense involved. Filming then moved to the Universal lot, where the outside heat was over . The internal sets were climate-controlled to to facilitate their work. The team considered building the sets inside an existing refrigerated structure but were unable to find one large enough. Instead, they collected as many portable air conditioners as they could, closed off the stage, and used
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s and
misters
misters
to add moisture to the air. After watching a roughly assembled cut of filming to date, Carpenter was unhappy that the film seemed to feature too many scenes of men standing around talking. He rewrote some already completed scenes to take place outdoors to be shot on location when principal photography moved to
Stewart, British Columbia Stewart is a district municipality at the head of the Portland Canal in northwestern British Columbia, Canada near the Southeast Alaska, Alaskan panhandle. In 2011, its population was about 494. History The Nisga'a, who lived around the Nass R ...
. Carpenter was determined to use authentic locations instead of studio sets, and his successes on ''Halloween'' and ''
The Fog ''The Fog'' is a 1980 American supernatural horror film Supernatural horror film is a film genre that combines aspects of horror film and supernatural film. Supernatural occurrences in such films often include ghosts and demons, and many super ...

The Fog
'' (1980) gave him the credibility to take on the much bigger-budget production of ''The Thing''. A film scout located an area just outside Stewart, along the Canadian coast, which offered the project both ease of access and scenic value during the day. On December 2, 1981, roughly 100 American and Canadian crew members moved to the area to begin filming. During the journey there, the crew bus slid in the snow toward the unprotected edge of the road, nearly sending it down a embankment. Some of the crew stayed in the small mining town during filming, while others lived on residential barges on the
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. They would make the drive up a small, winding road to the filming location in Alaska where the exterior outpost sets were built. The sets had been built in Alaska during the summer, atop a rocky area overlooking a glacier, in preparation for snow to fall and cover them. They were used for both interior and exterior filming, meaning they could not be heated above freezing inside to ensure there was always snow on the roof. Outside, the temperature was so low that the camera lenses would freeze and break. The crew had to leave the cameras in the freezing temperatures, as keeping them inside in the warmth resulted in foggy lenses that took hours to clear. Filming, greatly dependent on the weather, took three weeks to complete, with heavy snow making it impossible to film on some days. It took eight hours to rig the explosives necessary to destroy the set in the film's finale. Keith David broke his hand in a car accident the day before he was to begin shooting. David attended filming the next day, but when Carpenter and Franco saw his swollen hand, they sent him to the hospital where it was punctured with two pins. He returned wearing a surgical glove beneath a black glove that was painted to resemble his complexion. His left hand is not seen for the first half of the film. Carpenter filmed the Norwegian camp scenes after the end scenes, using the damaged American base as a stand-in for the charred Norwegian camp. The explosive destruction of the base required the camera assistants to stand inside the set with the explosives, which were activated remotely. The assistants then had to run to a safe distance while seven cameras captured the base's destruction. Filmed when the heavy use of
special effect Special effects (often abbreviated as SFX, SPFX, F/X or simply FX) are illusions or visual tricks used in the theatre, film, television, video game, and simulator industries to simulate the imagined events in a Narrative, story or virtual world. ...
s was rare, the actors had to adapt to having Carpenter describe to them what their characters were looking at, as the effects would not be added until post-production. There were some puppets used to create the impression of what was happening in the scene, but in other cases, the cast would be looking at a wall or an object marked with an ''X''. Art director John J. Lloyd oversaw the design and construction of all the sets, as there were no existing locations used in the film. Cundey suggested that the sets should have ceilings and pipes seen on camera to make the spaces seem more claustrophobic.


Post-production

Several scenes in the script were omitted from the film, sometimes because there was too much dialogue that slowed the pace and undermined the suspense. Carpenter blamed some of the issues on his directorial method, noting that several scenes appeared to be repeating events or information. Another scene featuring a snowmobile chase pursuing dogs was removed from the shooting script as it would have been too expensive to film. One scene present in the film, but not the script, features a monologue by MacReady. Carpenter added this partly to establish what was happening in the story and because he wanted to highlight Russell's heroic character after taking over the camp. Carpenter said that Lancaster's experience writing ensemble pieces did not emphasize single characters. Since ''Halloween'', several horror films had replicated many of the scare elements of that film, something Carpenter wanted to move away from for ''The Thing''. He removed scenes from Lancaster's script that had been filmed, such as a body suddenly falling into view at the Norwegian camp, which he felt were too clichéd. Approximately three minutes of scenes were filmed from Lancaster's script that elaborated on the characters' backgrounds. A scene with MacReady absentmindedly inflating a Sex doll, blow-up doll while watching the Norwegian tapes was filmed but was not used in the finished film. The doll would later appear as a jump scare with Nauls. Other scenes featured expanded or alternate deaths for various characters. In the finished film, Fuchs's charred bones are discovered, revealing he has died offscreen, but an alternate take sees his corpse impaled on a wall with a shovel. Nauls was scripted to appear in the finale as a partly assimilated mass of tentacles, but in the film, he simply disappears. Carpenter struggled with a method of conveying to the audience what assimilation by the creature actually meant. Lancaster's original set piece of Bennings's death had him pulled beneath a sheet of ice by the Thing, before resurfacing in different areas in various stages of assimilation. The scene called for a set to be built on one of Universal's largest stages, with sophisticated hydraulics, dogs, and flamethrowers, but it was deemed too costly to produce. A scene was filmed with Bennings being murdered by an unknown assailant, but it was felt that assimilation, leading to his death, was not explained enough. Short on time, and with no interior sets remaining, a small set was built, Maloney was covered with K-Y Jelly, orange dye, and rubber tentacles. Monster gloves for a different creature were repurposed to demonstrate partial assimilation. Carpenter filmed multiple endings for ''The Thing'', including a "happier" ending because editor Todd Ramsay thought that the bleak,
nihilistic Nihilism (; ) is a philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosop ...
conclusion would not test well with audiences. In the alternate take, MacReady is rescued and given a blood test that proves he is not infected. Carpenter said that stylistically this ending would have been "cheesy". Editor Verna Fields was tasked with reworking the ending to add clarity and resolution. It was finally decided to create an entirely new scene, which omitted the suspicion of Childs being infected by removing him completely, leaving MacReady alone. This new ending tested only slightly better with audiences than the original, and the production team agreed to the studio's request to use it. It was set to go to print for theaters when the producers, Carpenter, and executive Helena Hacker decided that the film was better left with ambiguity instead of nothing at all. Carpenter gave his approval to restore the ambiguous ending, but a scream was inserted over the outpost explosion to posit the monster's death. Universal executive Sidney Sheinberg disliked the ending's nihilism and, according to Carpenter, said, "Think about how the audience will react if we see the [Thing] die with a giant orchestra playing". Carpenter later noted that both the original ending and the ending without Childs tested poorly with audiences, which he interpreted as the film simply not being heroic enough.


Music

Ennio Morricone composed the film's score, as Carpenter wanted ''The Thing'' to have a European musical approach. Carpenter flew to Rome to speak with Morricone to convince him to take the job. By the time Morricone flew to Los Angeles to record the score, he had already developed a tape filled with an array of synthesizer music because he was unsure what type of score Carpenter wanted. Morricone wrote complete separate orchestral and synthesizer scores and a combined score, which he knew was Carpenter's preference. Carpenter picked a piece, closely resembling his own scores, that became the main theme used throughout the film. He also played the score from ''Escape from New York'' for Morricone as an example. Morricone made several more attempts, bringing the score closer to Carpenter's own style of music. In total, Morricone produced a score of approximately one hour that remained largely unused but was later released as part of the film's soundtrack. Carpenter and his longtime collaborator Alan Howarth (composer), Alan Howarth separately developed some synth-styled pieces used in the film. In 2012, Morricone recalled:
I've asked [Carpenter], as he was preparing some electronic music with an assistant to edit on the film, "Why did you call me, if you want to do it on your own?" He surprised me, he said – "I got married to your music. This is why I've called you." ... Then when he showed me the film, later when I wrote the music, we didn't exchange ideas. He ran away, nearly ashamed of showing it to me. I wrote the music on my own without his advice. Naturally, as I had become quite clever since 1982, I've written several scores relating to my life. And I had written one, which was electronic music. And [Carpenter] took the electronic score.
Carpenter said:
[Morricone] did all the orchestrations and recorded for me 20 minutes of music I could use wherever I wished but without seeing any footage. I cut his music into the film and realized that there were places, mostly scenes of tension, in which his music would not work... I secretly ran off and recorded in a couple of days a few pieces to use. My pieces were very simple electronic pieces – it was almost tones. It was not really music at all but just background sounds, something today you might even consider as sound effects.


Design


Creature effects

''The Thing''s special effects were largely designed by Bottin, who had previously worked with Carpenter on ''The Fog'' (1980). When Bottin joined the project in mid-1981, pre-production was in progress, but no design had been settled on for the alien. Artist Dale Kuipers had created some preliminary paintings of the creature's look, but he left the project after being hospitalized following a traffic accident before he could develop them further with Bottin. Carpenter conceived the Thing as a single creature, but Bottin suggested that it should be constantly changing and able to look like anything. Carpenter initially considered Bottin's description of his ideas as "too weird", and had him work with Ploog to sketch them instead. As part of the Thing's design, it was agreed anyone assimilated by it would be a perfect imitation and would not know they were the Thing. The actors spent hours during rehearsals discussing whether they would know they were the Thing when taken over. Clennon said that it did not matter, because everyone acted, looked and smelled exactly the same before being taken over. At its peak, Bottin had a 35-person crew of artists and technicians, and he found it difficult to work with so many people. To help manage the team, he hired Erik Jensen, a special effects line producer who he had worked with on ''The Howling (film), The Howling'' (1981), to be in charge of the special make-up effects unit. Bottin's crew also included mechanical aspect supervisor Dave Kelsey, make-up aspect coordinator Ken Diaz, moldmaker Gunnar Ferdinansen, and Bottin's longtime friend Margaret Beserra, who managed painting and hair work. In designing the Thing's different forms, Bottin explained that the creature had been all over the galaxy. This allowed it to call on different attributes as necessary, such as stomachs that transform into giant mouths and spider legs sprouting from heads. Bottin said the pressure he experienced caused him to dream about working on designs, some of which he would take note of after waking. One abandoned idea included a series of dead baby monsters, which was deemed "too gross". Bottin admitted he had no idea how his designs would be implemented practically, but Carpenter did not reject them. Carpenter said, "what I didn't want to end up with in this movie was a guy in a suit ... I grew up as a kid watching science-fiction monster movies, and it was always a guy in a suit." According to Cundey, Bottin was very sensitive about his designs, and worried about the film showing too many of them. At one point, as a preemptive move against any censorship, Bottin suggested making the creature's violent transformations and the appearance of the internal organs more fantastical using colors. The decision was made to tone down the color of the blood and viscera, although much of the filming had been completed by that point. The creature effects used a variety of materials including mayonnaise, creamed corn, microwaved bubble gum, and K-Y Jelly. During filming, then-21-year-old Bottin was hospitalized for exhaustion, double pneumonia, and a bleeding ulcer, caused by his extensive workload. Bottin himself explained he would "hoard the work", opting to be directly involved in many of the complicated tasks. His dedication to the project saw him spend over a year living on the Universal lot. Bottin said he did not take a day off during that time and slept on the sets or in locker rooms. To take some pressure off his crew, Bottin enlisted the aid of special effects creator Stan Winston to complete some of the designs, primarily the Dog-Thing. With insufficient time to create a sophisticated mechanical creature, Winston opted to create a hand puppet. A cast was made of makeup artist Lance Anderson's arm and head, around which the Dog-Thing was sculpted in oil-based clay. The final foam-latex puppet, worn by Anderson, featured radio-controlled eyes and cable-controlled legs, and was operated from below a raised set on which the kennel was built. Slime from the puppet would leak onto Anderson during the two days it took to film the scene, and he had to wear a helmet to protect himself from the bullet hit squib, explosive squibs simulating gunfire. Anderson pulled the tentacles into the Dog-Thing and reverse motion was used to create the effect of them slithering from its body. Winston refused to be credited for his work, insisting that Bottin deserved sole credit; Winston was given a "thank you" in the credits instead. In the "chest chomp" scene, Dr. Copper attempts to revive Norris with a defibrillator. Revealing himself as the Thing, Norris-Thing's chest transforms into a large mouth that severs Copper's arms. Bottin accomplished this scene by recruiting a double amputee and fitting him with prosthetic arms filled with wax bones, rubber veins and Jell-O. The arms were then placed into the practical "stomach mouth" where the mechanical jaws clamped down on them, at which point the actor pulled away, severing the false arms. The effect of the Norris-Thing's head detaching from the body to save itself took many months of testing before Bottin was satisfied enough to film it. The scene involved a fire effect, but the crew were unaware that fumes from the rubber foam chemicals inside the puppet were flammable. The fire ignited the fumes, creating a large fireball that engulfed the puppet. It suffered only minimal damage after the fire had been put out, and the crew successfully filmed the scene. Stop-motion expert Randall William Cook developed a sequence for the end of the film where MacReady is confronted by the gigantic Blair-Thing. Cook created a miniature model of the set and filmed wide-angle shots of the monster in stop motion, but Carpenter was not convinced by the effect and used only a few seconds of it. It took 50 people to operate the actual Blair-Thing puppet. The production intended to use a camera centrifuge—a rotating drum with a fixed camera platform—for the Palmer-Thing scene, allowing him to seem to run straight up the wall and across the ceiling. Again, the cost was too high and the idea abandoned for a stuntman falling into frame onto a floor made to look like the outpost's ceiling. Stuntman Anthony Cecere stood in for the Palmer-Thing after MacReady sets it on fire and it crashes through the outpost wall.


Visuals and lighting

Cundey worked with Bottin to determine the appropriate lighting for each creature. He wanted to show off Bottin's work because of its details, but he was conscious that showing too much would reveal its artificial nature, breaking the illusion. Each encounter with the creature was planned for areas where they could justify using a series of small lights to highlight the particular creature-model's surface and textures. Cundey would illuminate the area behind the creature to detail its overall shape. He worked with Panasonic and a few other companies to develop a camera capable of automatically adjusting light exposure at different film speeds. He wanted to try filming the creature at fast and slow speeds thinking this would create a more interesting visual effect, but they were unable to accomplish this at the time. For the rest of the set, Cundey created a contrast by lighting the interiors with warmer lights hung overhead in conical shades so that they could still control the lighting and have darkened areas on set. The outside was constantly bathed in a cold, blue light that Cundey had discovered being used on airport runways. The reflective surface of the snow and the blue light helped create the impression of coldness. The team also made use of the flamethrowers and magenta-hued flares used by the actors to create dynamic lighting. The team originally wanted to shoot the film in black and white, but Universal was reluctant as it could affect their ability to sell the television rights for the film. Instead, Cundey suggested muting the colors as much as possible. The inside of the sets was painted in neutral colors such as gray, and many of the props were also painted gray, while the costumes were a mix of somber browns, blues, and grays. They relied on the lighting to add color. Albert Whitlock provided matte (filmmaking), matte-painted backdrops, including the scene in which the Americans discover the giant alien spaceship buried in the ice. A scene where MacReady walks up to a hole in the ice where the alien had been buried was filmed at Universal, while the surrounding area including the alien spaceship, helicopter, and snow were all painted. Carpenter's friend John Wash, who developed the opening computer simulation for ''Escape from New York'', designed the computer program showing how the Thing assimilates other organisms. Model maker Susan Turner built the alien ship approaching Earth in the pre-credits sequence, which featured 144 Strobe light, strobing lights. Drew Struzan designed the film's poster. He completed it in 24 hours, based only on a briefing, knowing little about the film.


Release

The lack of information about the film's special effects drew the attention of film exhibitors in early 1982. They wanted reassurance that ''The Thing'' was a first-rate production capable of attracting audiences. Cohen and Foster, with a specially employed editor and Universal's archive of music, put together a 20-minute showreel emphasizing action and suspense. They used available footage, including alternate and extended scenes not in the finished film, but avoided revealing the special effects as much as possible. The reaction from the exclusively male exhibitors was generally positive, and Universal executive Robert Rehme told Cohen that the studio was counting on ''The Thing''s success, as they expected ''E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial'' to appeal only to children. While finalizing the film, Universal sent Carpenter a demographic study showing that the audience appeal of horror films had declined by 70% over the previous six months. Carpenter considered this a suggestion that he lower his expectations of the film's performance. After one market research screening, Carpenter queried the audience on their thoughts, and one audience member asked, "Well what happened in the very end? Which one was the Thing...?" When Carpenter responded that it was up to their imagination, the audience member responded, "Oh, God. I hate that." After returning from a screening of ''E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial'', the audience's silence at a ''The Thing'' trailer caused Foster to remark, "We're dead". The response to public pre-screenings of ''The Thing'' resulted in the studio changing the somber, black-and-white advertising approved by the producers to a color image of a person with a glowing face. The tagline was also changed from "Man is the warmest place to hide"—written by Stephen Frankfort, who wrote the ''Alien'' tagline, "In space, no one can hear you scream"—to "The ultimate in alien terror", trying to capitalize on ''Alien''s audience. Carpenter attempted to make a last-minute change of the film's title to ''Who Goes There?'', to no avail. The week before its release, Carpenter promoted the film with clips on ''Late Night with David Letterman''. In 1981, horror magazine ''Fangoria'' held a contest encouraging readers to submit drawings of what the Thing would look like. Winners were rewarded with a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Studios. On its opening day, a special screening was held at the Hollywood Pacific Theatre, presided over by Cassandra Peterson, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, with free admission for those in costume as monsters.


Box office

''The Thing'' was released in the United States on June 25, 1982. During its opening weekend, the film earned $3.1million from 840 theaters—an average of $3,699 per theater—finishing as the number eight film of the weekend behind supernatural horror ''Poltergeist (1982 film), Poltergeist'' ($4.1million), which was in its fourth weekend of release, and ahead of action film ''Megaforce'' ($2.3million). It dropped out of the top 10 grossing films after three weeks. It ended its run earning a total of $19.6million against its $15million budget, making it only the 42nd highest-grossing film of 1982. It was not a box office bomb, box office failure, nor was it a hit.


Reception


Critical reception

The film received negative reviews on its release, and hostility for its cynical, anti-authoritarian tone and graphic special effects. ''
Cinefantastique ''Cinefantastique'' is an American Horror fiction, horror, fantasy, and science fiction List of film journals and magazines, film magazine. History The magazine originally started as a Mimeograph machine, mimeographed fanzine in 1967, then relaun ...
'' printed an issue with ''The Thing'' on its cover asking, "Is this the most hated movie of all time?" Some reviewers were dismissive of the film, calling it the "quintessential moron movie of the 80's", "instant junk", and a "wretched excess". ''Starlog''s Alan Spencer called it a "cold and sterile" horror movie attempting to cash in on the genre audience, against the "optimism of ''E.T.'', the reassuring return of ''Star Trek II'', the technical perfection of ''Tron'', and the sheer integrity of ''Blade Runner''". The plot was criticized as "boring", and undermined by the special effects. The ''Los Angeles Times''s Linda Gross said that ''The Thing'' was "bereft, despairing, and nihilistic", and lacking in feeling, meaning the characters' deaths did not matter. Spencer said it featured sloppy continuity, lacked pacing, and was devoid of warmth or humanity. David Ansen of ''Newsweek'' felt the film confused the use of effects with creating suspense, and that it lacked drama by "sacrificing everything at the altar of gore". The ''Chicago Reader''s Dave Kehr considered the dialogue to be banal and interchangeable, making the characters seem and sound alike. ''The Washington Post''s Gary Arnold said it was a witty touch to open with the Thing having already overcome the Norwegian base, defeating the type of traps seen in the 1951 version, while ''New York (magazine), New York''s David Denby lamented that the Thing's threat is only shown externally, without focusing on what it is like for someone who thinks they have been taken over. Roger Ebert considered the film to be scary, but offering nothing original beyond the special effects, while ''The New York Times''s Vincent Canby said it was entertaining only if the viewer needed to see spider-legged heads and dog autopsies. Reviews of the actors' performances were generally positive, while criticizing the depictions of the characters they portrayed. Ebert said they lacked characterization, offering basic stereotypes that existed just to be killed, and Spencer called the characters bland even though the actors do the best they can with the material. ''Time (magazine), Time''s Richard Schickel singled Russell out as the "stalwart" hero, where other characters were not as strongly or wittily characterized, and ''Variety (magazine), Variety'' said that Russell's heroic status was undercut by the "suicidal" attitude adopted toward the film's finale. Other reviews criticized implausibilities such as characters wandering off alone. Kehr did not like that the men did not band together against the Thing, and several reviews noted a lack of camaraderie and romance, which Arnold said reduced any interest beyond the special effects. The film's special effects were simultaneously lauded and lambasted for being technically brilliant but visually repulsive and excessive. Reviews called Bottin's work "genius", noting the designs were novel, unforgettable, "colorfully horrific", and called him a "master of the macabre". Arnold said that the "chest chomp" scene demonstrated "appalling creativity" and the subsequent severed head scene was "madly macabre", comparing them to ''Alien''s chest burster and severed head scenes. ''Variety'' called it "the most vividly gruesome horror film to ever stalk the screens". Conversely, Denby called them more disgusting than frightening and lamented that the trend of horror films to open the human body more and more bordered on obscenity, Spencer said that Bottin's care and pride in his craft were shown in the effects, but both they and Schickel found them to be overwhelming and "squandered" without strong characters and story. Even so, Canby said that the effects were too "phony looking to be disgusting". Canby and Arnold said the creature's lack of a single, discernible shape was to its detriment, and hiding it inside humans made it hard to follow. Arnold said that the 1951 version was less versatile but easier to keep in focus. Gross and Spencer praised the film's technical achievements, particularly Cundey's "frostbitten" cinematography, the sound, editing, and Morricone's score. Spencer was critical of Carpenter's direction, saying it was his "futile" attempt to give the audience what he thinks they want and that Carpenter was not meant to direct science fiction, but was instead suited to direct "traffic accidents, train wrecks, and public floggings". Ansen said that "atrocity for atrocity's sake" was ill-becoming of Carpenter. ''The Thing'' was often compared to similar films, particularly ''Alien'', ''Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978 film), Invasion of the Body Snatchers'' (1978), and ''The Thing from Another World''. Ebert and Denby said that ''The Thing'' seemed derivative compared to those films, which had portrayed the story in a better way. ''Variety'' called it inferior to the 1951 version. Arnold considered ''The Thing'' as the end result of ''Alien'' raising the requirement for horrific spectacle. ''The Thing from Another World'' actor Kenneth Tobey and director Christian Nyby also criticized the film. Nyby said, "If you want blood, go to the slaughterhouse ... All in all, it's a terrific commercial for Justerini & Brooks, J&B Scotch". Tobey singled out the visual effects, saying they "were so explicit that they actually destroyed how you were supposed to feel about the characters ... They became almost a movie in themselves, and were a little too horrifying." In Phil Hardy (journalist), Phil Hardy's 1984 book ''Science Fiction'', a reviewer described the film as a "surprising failure" and called it "Carpenter's most unsatisfying film to date". The review noted that the narrative "seems little more than an excuse for the various set-pieces of special effects and Russell's hero is no more than a cypher compared to Tobey's rounded character in Howard Hawks' ''The Thing''". Clennon said that introductory scenes for the characters, omitted from the film, made it hard for audiences to connect with them, robbing it of some of the broader appeal of ''Alien''.


Accolades

''The Thing'' received nominations from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films for Saturn Award for Best Horror Film, Best Horror Film and Saturn Award for Best Special Effects, Best Special Effects, but lost to ''Poltergeist'' and ''E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial'', respectively. The film was nominated at the Razzie Awards for Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Musical Score, Worst Musical Score.


Post-release


Performance analysis and aftermath

Since its release, cultural historians and critics have attempted to understand what led to ''The Thing''s initial failure to connect with audiences. In a 1999 interview, Carpenter said audiences rejected ''The Thing'' for its nihilistic, depressing viewpoint at a time when the United States was in the midst of a recession. When it opened, it was competing against the critically and commercially successful ''E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial'' ($619million), a more family-friendly film released two weeks earlier that offered a more optimistic take on alien visitation. Carpenter described it as the complete opposite of his film. ''The Thing'' opened on the same day as the science fiction film ''Blade Runner'', which debuted as the number two film that weekend with a take of $6.1million and went on to earn $33.8million. It was also regarded as a critical and commercial failure at the time. Others blamed an oversaturation of science fiction and fantasy films released that year, including ''Conan the Barbarian (1982 film), Conan the Barbarian'' ($130million), ''Poltergeist'' ($121.7million), ''Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan'' ($97million), ''Mad Max 2'' ($34.5million), and ''Tron'' ($33million). Some analysts blamed Universal's poor marketing, which did not compete with the deluge of promotion for prominent films released that summer. Another factor was the Motion Picture Association of America film rating system, R rating it was given, restricting the audience to those over the age of 17 unless accompanied by an adult. In contrast, ''Poltergeist'', another horror film, received a PG rating, allowing families and younger children to view it. The impact on Carpenter was immediate—he lost the job of directing the 1984 science fiction horror film ''Firestarter (1984 film), Firestarter'' because of ''The Thing''s poor performance. His previous success had gained him a multiple-film contract at Universal, but the studio opted to buy him out of it instead. He continued making films afterward but lost confidence, and did not openly talk about ''The Thing''s failure until a 1985 interview with ''Starlog'', where he said, "I was called 'a pornographer of violence' ... I had no idea it would be received that way ... ''The Thing'' was just too strong for that time. I knew it was going to be strong, but I didn't think it would be too strong ... I didn't take the public's taste into consideration." Shortly after its release, Wilbur Stark sued Universal for $43million for "slander, breach of contract, fraud and deceit", alleging he incurred a financial loss by Universal failing to credit him properly in its marketing and by showing his name during the end credits, a less prestigious position. Stark also said that he "contributed greatly to the [screenplay]". David Foster responded that Stark was not involved with the film's production in any way, and received proper credit in all materials. Stark later sued for a further $15million over Foster's comments. The outcome of the lawsuits is unknown.


Home media

While ''The Thing'' was not initially successful, it was able to find new audiences and appreciation on home video, and later on television. Sidney Sheinberg edited a version of the film for network television broadcast, which added narration and a different ending, where the Thing imitates a dog and escapes the ruined camp. Carpenter disowned this version, and theorized that Sheinberg had been mad at him for not taking his creative ideas on board for the theatrical cut. ''The Thing'' was released on DVD in 1998 and featured additional content, such as ''The Thing: Terror Takes Shape''—a detailed documentary on the production, deleted and alternate scenes, and commentary by Carpenter and Russell. An HD DVD version followed in 2006 containing the same features, and a Blu-ray version in 2008 featuring just the Carpenter and Russell commentary, and some behind-the-scenes videos available via picture-in-picture during the film. A 2016 Blu-ray release featured a 2K resolution restoration of the film, overseen by Dean Cundey. As well as including previous features such as the commentary and ''Terror Takes Shape'', it added interviews with the cast and crew, and segments that focus on the music, writing, editing, Ploog's artwork, an interview with Alan Dean Foster, who wrote the film's
novelization A novelization (or novelisation) is a derivative In mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in w ...
, and the television broadcast version of ''The Thing'' that runs 15 minutes shorter than the theatrical cut. A 4K resolution restoration was released in 2017 on Blu-ray, initially as a United Kingdom exclusive with a limited run of 8,000 units. The restoration was created using the original film negative, and was overseen by Carpenter and Cundey. A 4K resolution Ultra-high-definition television, Ultra HD Blu-ray was released in September 2021. MCA released the soundtrack for ''The Thing'' in 1982. Varèse Sarabande re-released it in 1991 on compact disc and Compact Cassette. These versions eventually ceased being manufactured. In 2011, Howarth and Larry Hopkins restored Morricone's score using updated digital techniques and arranged each track in the order it appears in the film. The album also includes tracks composed by Carpenter and Howarth for the film. A remastered version of the score was released on Phonograph record, vinyl on February 23, 2017; a deluxe edition included an exclusive interview with Carpenter. In May 2020, an extended play (EP), ''Lost Cues: The Thing'', was released. The EP contains Carpenter's contributions to ''The Thing''s score; he re-recorded the music because the original mastering (audio), masterings were lost.


Merchandise

A novelization of the film was published by Alan Dean Foster in 1982. It is based on an earlier draft of the script and features some differences from the finished film. A scene in which MacReady, Bennings, and Childs chase infected dogs out into the snow is included, and Nauls's disappearance is explained: Cornered by the Blair-Thing, he chooses suicide over assimilation. In 2000, McFarlane Toys released two "Movie Maniacs" figures: the Blair-Thing and the Norris-Thing, including its spider-legged, disembodied head. SOTA Toys released a set featuring a MacReady figure and the Dog-Thing based on the film's kennel scene, and a bust of the Norris-Thing's spider-head. In 2017, Mondo (American company), Mondo and the Project Raygun division of USAopoly released ''The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31'', a board game. Players take on the role of characters from the film or the Thing, each aiming to defeat the other through subterfuge and sabotage.


Thematic analysis

The central theme of ''The Thing'' concerns paranoia and mistrust. Fundamentally, the film is about the erosion of trust in a small community, instigated by different forms of paranoia caused by the possibility of someone not being who they say they are, or that your best friend may be your enemy. It represents the distrust that humans always have for somebody else and the fear of betrayal by those we know and, ultimately, our bodies. The theme remains timely because the subject of paranoia adapts to the age. ''The Thing'' focuses on being unable to trust one's peers, but this can be interpreted as distrust of entire institutions. Developed in an era of cold-war tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, the film refers to the threat of nuclear annihilation by Mutual assured destruction, mutually assured destruction. ''Diabolique''s Daniel Clarkson Fisher notes that MacReady destroys the chess computer after being checkmated, and similarly vows to destroy the Thing, even at the expense of the team. The Cold War-style isolationism hurts the group, while a lack of trust destroys it. Screen Rants Michael Edward Taylor draws allusions between ''The Thing'' and the accusatory Red Scares and McCarthyism, as the film conveys an anti-communist fear of infection of civilized areas that will lead to assimilation and imitation. ''Slant Magazine''s John Lingsan said the men display a level of post-Vietnam War (1955–1975) "fatigued counterculturalism"—the rejection of conventional social norms, each defined by their own eccentricities. Lancaster's script eschews female characters because he believed that a female character would be a love interest who inevitably gets in the way. ''The Atlantic''s Noah Berlatsky said that unlike typical horror genre films, females are excluded, allowing the Thing to be identified as a fear of not being a man, or being homosexual. Indeed, several assimilations involve penetration, tentacles, and in Norris's case, opened up at the stomach to birth his own replica. The slasher genre favors female stars as they are perceived as weaker and therefore more empathetic, providing a cathartic release when they defeat the villain, but in ''The Thing'' the men are not meant to survive. ''Vice (magazine), Vice''s Patrick Marlborough considered ''The Thing'' to be a critical take on masculinity. Identifying the Thing requires intimacy, confession, and empathy to out the creature, but masculinity prevents this as an option. Trapped by pride and stunted emotional growth, the men are unable to confront the truth out of fear of embarrassment or exposure. Berlatsky noted that MacReady avoids emotional attachments and is the most paranoid, allowing him to be the hero. This detachment works against him in the finale, which leaves MacReady locked in a futile mistrust with Childs, each not really knowing the other. Nerdist Industries, Nerdist's Kyle Anderson and ''Strange Horizons''s Orrin Grey analyzed ''The Thing'' as an example of author H. P. Lovecraft's cosmic horror, the notion that ancient, inhuman beings exist that do not care about humanity in any way. This also includes the fear of losing one's humanity, and being consumed, figuratively or literally, by these ancient wikt:eldritch, eldritch behemoths. The Thing is a being beyond our understanding and possesses the ability to destroy all life on Earth quickly. Just as Lovecraft left his creatures undescribed, the Thing can be seen, but its shape is mostly indescribable, beyond the realm of human knowledge. Grey said that MacReady represents a more traditional Hollywood film protagonist, but Blair represents the Lovecraftian protagonist, who succumbs to his fear of the creature, is driven insane by the implications of its nature, and eventually becomes what he fears. The Thing never speaks or gives a motive for its actions, and ruthlessly pursues its goal. Grey describes the creature as fear of the loss of self. It attacks, consumes and imitates an individual perfectly with memories and behaviors. The original is subsumed by an alien copy that is virtually impossible to identify. Den of Geeks Mark Harrison and Ryan Lambie said that the essence of humanity is free will, which is stripped away by the Thing, possibly without the individual being aware that they have been taken over. In a 1982 interview, when given the option to describe ''The Thing'' as "pro-science" like ''Who Goes There?'' or "anti-science" like ''The Thing from Another World'', Carpenter chose "pro-human", stating, "It's better to be a human being than an imitation, or let ourselves be taken over by this creature who's not necessarily evil, but whose nature it is to simply imitate, like a chameleon." Further allusions have been drawn between the blood-test scene and the HIV/AIDS in the United States, epidemic of HIV at the time, which could only be identified by a blood test. Since its release, many theories have been developed to attempt to answer the film's ambiguous ending shared by MacReady and Childs. Several suggest that Childs was infected, citing Dean Cundey's statement that he deliberately provided a subtle illumination to the eyes of uninfected characters, something absent from Childs. Similarly, others have noted a lack of visible breath from the character in the frigid air. While both aspects are present in MacReady, their absence in Childs has been explained as a technical issue with the filming. During production, Carpenter considered having MacReady be infected, and an alternate ending showed MacReady having been rescued and definitively tested as uninfected. Russell has said that analyzing the scene for clues is "missing the point". He continued, "[Carpenter] and I worked on the ending of that movie together a long time. We were both bringing the audience right back to square one. At the end of the day, that was the position these people were in. They just didn't know anything... They didn't know if they knew who they were... I love that, over the years, that movie has gotten its due because people were able to get past the horrificness of the monster... to see what the movie was about, which was paranoia." However, Carpenter has teased, "Now, I do know, in the end, who the Thing is, but I cannot tell you."


Legacy


Critical reassessment

In the years following its release, critics and fans have reevaluated ''The Thing'' as a milestone of the horror genre. A prescient review by Peter Nicholls (writer), Peter Nicholls in 1992, called ''The Thing'' "a black, memorable film [that] may yet be seen as a classic". It has been called one of, if not the best film directed by Carpenter. John Kenneth Muir called it "Carpenter's most accomplished and underrated directorial effort", and critic Matt Zoller Seitz said it "is one of the greatest and most elegantly constructed B-movies ever made". Trace Thurman described it as one of the best films ever, and in 2008, ''Empire (film magazine), Empire'' magazine selected it as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time, at number 289, calling it "a peerless masterpiece of relentless suspense, retina-wrecking visual excess and outright, nihilistic terror". It is now considered to be one of the greatest horror films ever made, and a classic of the genre. Several publications have called it one of the best films of 1982, including Filmsite.org, Film.com, and ''Entertainment Weekly''. Muir called it "the best science fiction-horror film of 1982, an incredibly competitive year, and perhaps even the best genre motion picture of the decade". ''Complex (magazine), Complex'' named it the ninth-best of the decade, calling it the "greatest genre remake of all time". Numerous publications have ranked it as one of the best science fiction films, including number four by ''IGN'' (2016); number 12 by ''Thrillist'' (2018); number 17 by ''GamesRadar+'' (2018); number 31 by ''Paste (magazine), Paste'' (2018); number 32 by ''Esquire (magazine), Esquire'' (2015) and ''Popular Mechanics'' (2017); and number 76 by Rotten Tomatoes (2017) based on its average review score. Similarly, ''The Thing'' has appeared on several lists of the top horror films, including number one by ''The Boston Globe''; number two by Bloody Disgusting (2018); number four by ''Empire'' (2016); and number six by ''Time Out (magazine), Time Out'' (2016). ''Empire'' listed its poster as the 43rd best film poster ever. In 2016, the British Film Institute named it one of 10 great films about aliens visiting Earth. It was voted the ninth best horror film of all time in a ''Rolling Stone'' readers poll, and is considered one of the best examples of body horror. ''GamesRadar+'' listed its ending as one of the 25 best of all time. Contemporary review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes offers an 82% approval rating from 74 critics—an average rating of 7.40/10, which provides the consensus, "Grimmer and more terrifying than the 1950s take, John Carpenter's ''The Thing'' is a tense sci-fi thriller rife with compelling tension and some remarkable make-up effects." The film also has a score of 57 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 13 critical reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews". In a 2011 interview, Carpenter remarked that it was perhaps his favorite film from his own filmography. He lamented that it took a long time for ''The Thing'' to find a wider audience, saying, "If ''The Thing'' had been a hit, my career would have been different. I wouldn't have had to make the choices that I made. But I needed a job. I'm not saying I hate the movies I did. I loved making ''Christine (1983 film), Christine'' (1983) and ''Starman (film), Starman'' (1984) and ''Big Trouble in Little China'' (1986), all those films. But my career would have been different."


Cultural impact

The film has had a significant impact on popular culture, and by 1998, ''The Thing'' was already considered a Cult film, cult classic. It is listed in the film reference book ''1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die'', which says "one of the most influential horror movies of the 1980s, much imitated but rarely bettered... It is one of the first films to unflinchingly show the rupture and warp of flesh and bone into grotesque tableaus of surreal beauty, forever raising the bar of cinematic horror." It has been referred to in a variety of media, from television (including ''The X-Files'', ''Futurama'', and ''Stranger Things'') to games (''Resident Evil 4'', ''Tomb Raider III'', ''Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden,'' and ''Among Us''), and films (''The Faculty'', ''Slither (2006 film), Slither'', ''The Mist (film), The Mist''). Several filmmakers have spoken of their appreciation for ''The Thing'' or cited its influence on their own work, including Guillermo del Toro, James DeMonaco, J. J. Abrams, Neill Blomkamp, David Robert Mitchell, Rob Hardy, Steven S. DeKnight, and Quentin Tarantino. In 2011, ''The New York Times'' asked prominent horror filmmakers what film they had found the scariest. Two, John Sayles and Edgar Wright, cited ''The Thing''. The 2015 Tarantino film ''The Hateful Eight'' takes numerous cues from ''The Thing'', from featuring Russell in a starring role, to replicating themes of paranoia and mistrust between characters restricted to a single location, and even duplicating certain angles and layouts used by Carpenter and Cundey. Pieces of Morricone's unused score for ''The Thing'' were repurposed for ''The Hateful Eight''. Tarantino also cited ''The Thing'' as an inspiration for his 1992 film ''Reservoir Dogs''. The film is screened annually in February to mark the beginning of winter at the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station. In January 2010, ''Clarkesworld Magazine'' published "The Things (short story), The Things", a short story by Peter Watts (author), Peter Watts told from the Thing's point of view; it is unable to understand why humans are hostile toward it and horrified to learn that they do not shapeshift. The story received a 2011 Hugo Award Hugo Award for Best Short Story#Winners and nominees, nomination. In 2017, a 400-page art book was released featuring art inspired by ''The Thing'', with contributions from 350 artists, a foreword by director Eli Roth, and an afterword by Carpenter. The 2007 Halloween Horror Nights event at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, featured "The Thing: Assimilation", a haunted attraction (simulated), haunted attraction based on the film. The attraction included MacReady and Childs, both held in stasis, the Blair-Thing and the outpost kennel. An excursion of fans to the filming location in British Columbia is currently scheduled to take place in 2022, to celebrate the film's 40th anniversary.


Sequels

Dark Horse Comics published four comic book sequels starring MacReady, beginning in December 1991 with the two-part ''The Thing from Another World'' by Chuck Pfarrer, which is set 24 hours after the film. Pfarrer was reported to have pitched his comic tale to Universal as a sequel in the early 1990s. This was followed by the four-part ''The Thing from Another World: Climate of Fear'' in July 1992, the four-part ''The Thing from Another World: Eternal Vows'' in December 1993, and ''The Thing from Another World: Questionable Research''. In 1999, Carpenter said that no serious discussions had taken place for a sequel, but he would be interested in basing one on Pfarrer's adaptation, calling the story a worthy sequel. A 2002 The Thing (video game), video game of the same name was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 2, and Xbox (console), Xbox to generally favorable reviews. The game's plot follows a team of U.S. soldiers investigating the aftermath of the film's events. In 2005, the Syfy channel planned a four-hour miniseries sequel produced by Frank Darabont and written by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick. The story followed a Russian team who recover the corpses of MacReady and Childs, and remnants of the Thing. The story moves forward 23 years, where the Thing escapes in New Mexico, and follows the attempts at containment. The project never proceeded, and Universal opted to continue with a feature film sequel. A prequel film, ''The Thing (2011 film), The Thing'', was released in October 2011 to a $27.4million worldwide box office gross and mixed reviews. The story follows the events after the Norwegian team discovers the Thing. In 2020, Universal Studios and Blumhouse Productions announced the development of a remake of Carpenter's ''The Thing''. The remake was described as incorporating elements of ''The Thing from Another World'' and ''The Thing'', as well as the novella ''Who Goes There?'', and its expanded version, ''Frozen Hell'' that features several additional chapters. Although released years apart, and unrelated in terms of plot, characters, crew, or even production studios, Carpenter considers ''The Thing'' to be the first installment in his "Apocalypse Trilogy", a series of films based around Cosmicism, cosmic horror, entities unknown to man, that are threats to both human life and the sense of self. ''The Thing'' was followed by ''Prince of Darkness (film), Prince of Darkness'' in 1987, and ''In the Mouth of Madness'' in 1994. All three films are heavily influenced by Carpenter's appreciation for the works of Lovecraft.


References


Notes


Sources


Bibliography

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External links

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''The Thing'' at theofficialjohncarpenter.com


{{DEFAULTSORT:Thing, The (1982 film) 1980s monster movies 1980s science fiction horror films 1982 horror films Alien invasions in films American films American monster movies American science fiction horror films American body horror films Fictional amorphous creatures Fictional parasites and parasitoids Films about extraterrestrial life Films about shapeshifting Films adapted into comics Films based on science fiction novels Films based on science fiction short stories Films directed by John Carpenter Films scored by Ennio Morricone Films set in 1982 Films set in Antarctica Films shot in Alaska Films shot in British Columbia Films using stop-motion animation The Thing (franchise) Universal Pictures films