The Thing ★★★★★

Let me first explain the ambience I pampered myself with before indulging into this film.

It was 2 AM yet I drew all the curtains over in my AV room in order to shun out the slight ray of street lights streaming through the window panes. I turned on the air conditioner to an abnormally low 14 degrees. I got moderately grassed and decided not to get cozy inside my comforter. I switched the projector on. I brought upon myself the best possible milieu to experience The Thing.

Then, it started with Ennio Morricone’s menacing, brooding bass chords and I could feel my heart pulsating and trembling. It was DUM DUM DUM DUM all the way. John Carpenter’s The Thing has such an atmospheric sense of horror which is different from most other horror films. The Antarctic setting places the characters in the wide openness yet distant from any other human contact giving them the most undesirable position to fight for survival. If you stay you die and if you run for your lives you die. It is a terrifying spot to be in and the film delves into this medium to expose its horror. This film almost kids the haunted house settings. It is isolation in the worst possible sense and the last place, with the biting cold piercing through the skin, that anyone wants some Alien Thing to scare them out of their wits.

Carpenter’s genius lies in the way in which he transcends the normal monster vs man story line and places the horror within the human protagonists. This paved way for some incredible suspense and thrills which always bond so well with horror. Aided by some brilliant set design the science centre which looked calm and warmly secluded gradually develops into something terrifying, a breeding ground for The Thing waiting rabidly to possess. The narrow alleys and the always intensely imminent yet low key score have a character of their own and are the greatest aides of the film for its terrifying impact on the viewer.

The special effects are true Carpenter style. Totally devoid of computer graphics, it is almost unbelievable how much a film can benefit and achieve its goal of chilling the viewer just by using old fashion techniques relying only on mechanical animation. There are bucket loads of blood spilt and absolutely no time or place for emotion as the next kill is fast approaching. The only other film that I have seen that brought out this kind of spooks using the same technique is Spielberg’s Jaws. Also the brilliant sound design produced a terrific sense of place. The howling polar wind was such a great strength to the film throughout that I never once doubted the authenticity of the location. After reading the trivia in IMDB I came to know that the interiors were shot in a LA sound stage which was refrigerated to 40F. Wow, I never would have believed such a statement had someone said it while I was watching the film. Everything felt so genuinely terrifying.

The Thing is a bona fide horror. Intensely suspenseful, never wavering and always sticking to its relentlessness, I can totally understand why it is considered a path breaking film. I am glad that I finally experienced it and have no doubt that it will induce in me the same effect on all my future revisits. John Carpenter said The Thing was his favourite amongst all the films he has ever made. It certainly deserves such a lofty placement.

PS, I also read that Nick Nolte and Jeff Bridges were considered for this role. But in my opinion no one could have been more perfect that the blue eyed, long haired, bushily bearded Kurt Russell to grab a flame thrower and burn some Thing Ass!

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