Since today I have a lot going on, I think it's an appropriate time to share a survivor's story of The Thing. No, it's not a fake story of someone who survived the events in the movie, though that does sound pretty cool to write. For today, Todd Spence (the co-creater of the webseries Dealership) has written up a great piece on his experience with The Thing as well as its impact on him. I'd like to thank him for taking the time in writing this up and I hope you enjoy it.
If you're reading this, I know you've seen The Thing and are possibly as big of a fan as myself so I won't waste your time raving about Kurt Russell's easily top 5 performances or how Keith David makes one of the best bad guys/best friends or how the anonymous ending is possibly one of the best...scratch that, easily one of the best endings in film history. I could possibly go as far as saying The Thing's final moments are better than, say, The Godfather. Maybe because The Thing never ruined itself with sequels or prequels or maybe because it's not as heralded of a film so we keep it closer to the vest like a savant child, too brilliant to be with the other kids. Or maybe you're reading this because you're a raving T.K. Carter fan. Who isn't?
John Carpenter's The Thing is one of those films that I remember as far back...as I can remember. I honestly don't recall the first time watching it, much like the other million and five horror films I perused while growing up in Farmington, Missouri as a wee lad, hell bent on watching as many horror movies, as not only my brain, but my friends' brains could handle. And after all of that viewing, I've come to the conclusion that The Thing is truly the cadillac of horror movies. In fact, The Thing goes beyond horror. It is literature. And that's not just me trying to being poetic. It is literature, based on a short story by John W. Campbell, Jr., spookily and appropriately titled "Who Goes There?", relying less on scares and moreso on atmosphere, one of my favorite things about horror movies as a whole.
I actually acquired "Who Goes There?" randomly, which is a book compilation
of Campbell's short stories from the Brand Bookshop in Glendale, CA for only $11.95. Perusing the aisles of anthology fiction, I spotted "Who Goes There?" on the faded green binder and remembered that The Thing was based on that particular title. Without a doubt, I had to buy it and read where the Carpenter story originated. Turns out the Campbell story only lent half of the ingredients which we see in the film today. The rest was Carpenter's genius in story telling, character, direction, cold atmospheres and of course Rob Bottin's iconic creations. The alien, although shapeshifted in the Campbell version, also reveals its true physical form which I think makes the Carpenter's version that much more terrifying, that we don't really know what the alien being looks like flying that spaceship in the opening minute of the film.
I'm not the first person to point any of this out I'm sure. This film has been out for over twenty years of course. So the biggest point I personally would like to make and present to you, a point that I have never heard presented before as to why The Thing is a masterwork in filmmaking - There is no romantic plot at all in The Thing. Think about it. There is no romanticism. No longing looks at a photographed loved one waiting at home as some random unnecessary motivation. How many films can you point out that solely focus' on the story at hand, and doesn't waste our time with romantic sideplots, relying completely on the story's situation? Okay, okay, Alien and maaaaybe Exorcist did that. But Alien and Exorcist sullied itself with terrible sequels! Another point for The Thing.
John Carpenter's The Thing will continue to be one of those films that I will show to any friend that has never seen it, whether they like horror films or not. Because The Thing is simply a great movie. Thank you to Campbell and thank you to Carpenter for showing us the best because the best, these days, are really hard to come by.
I am a very strange person who loves horror movies and moviemaking in general. I hope to one day become a filmmaker and write reviews. I am also working towards a PhD in film as well. I love discussing and talking about horror movies and, interestingly enough, I am a huge Jimmy Buffett fan.
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