Plot: A research team in Antarctica is hunted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of its victims – The Thing
Director: John Carpenter
Starring: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David
If you liked: Escape From New York, Outland, Alien
This was the first 18-rated VHS I ever watched and for that reason John Carpenter’s sci-fi horror masterpiece about a shape-shifting alien The Thing will always have a special place in my heart and multiple viewings I no longer find it frightening but that hasn’t affected the quality of this tense and suspenseful classic.
Shaking off its cliche and cheesy image, the horror genre truly came into its own in the late ’70s and early ’80s, directors will try new things and very few taboos that were off-limits, The Shining and The Wicker Man both pushed boundaries, inspiring young directors like Carpenter and proving that if you’re willing to invest in the storytelling and scrip, you don’t need a million-dollar special effects budget, something that’s very clear when he made The Fog and Halloween, perfecting his skills so that when he was given a bigger budget to play with while making Escape From New York and The Thing the quality of the film was still great and the plot didn’t suffer.
Starting off with one of my favourite opening scenes of all time, drawing you in immediately gets you asking questions even before you meet any of the memorable cast of characters or even know what you’re supposed to be worried about.
Although the film is mostly remembered for its wonderful practical special effects and incredibly tense, for me it’s the cast that makes the movie, with my favourite scene being the one with the Petri dish where the growing mistrust and fear really shows and you can’t help but become swept up in the tension.
As I mentioned above, the SFX in the film made it so groundbreaking at the time and the fact that they still look so good even today is one reason that I love practical effects so much, Rob Bottin really outdid himself to give a creature that changes appearance throughout, a menacing and scary feel every time it appears on the screen.
One last note, the ending is probably the film’s crowning glory, not pandering to the norm by not giving you closure one way or the other. One to this day still hasn’t been resolved.
In my top 10 all time. I included it in an article I wrote for Taste of cinema.
Great list, so many films on here that I need to check out now