Horror Movie Redux: The Thing

Over the last year my older kids and I have been watching a lot of classic horror movies. Now is as good a time as any to revive this series where we take a look at some of these iconic gems. This time around we tackle John Carpenter’s 1982 classic, The Thing.

Based on the 1938 novel Who Goes There? from John W. Campbell Jr. and loosely adapted from the 1951 film The Thing From Another World, Carpenter’s version of the story has become, over time, a cult classic and is universally accepted as one of the greatest sci-fi/horror films of all-time. That wasn’t the case upon its release though. Critics hated it and audiences were somewhat indifferent. The former mostly because this was one of the more gruesome films to get a nationwide release at the time. In a summer dominated by the feel good alien of E.T., watching dogs and people explode and reanimate in gruesome ways probably wasn’t what most moviegoers were angling for.

The Thing centers around a team of researchers stationed in Antarctica who accidentally uncover the eponymous creature, one that is able to infest and mimic its prey. While the film has become somewhat (in)famous for its gory special effects, the true power of this film lies in the noir-like paranoia that every character spirals into at some point and the guessing game that audiences are asked to play when it comes to who is exactly who among the characters.

 

Did It Hold Up Over Time?
In a word, absolutely. This was the first time I had watched this film from start to finish in at least a decade. I was afraid going in that I had built it up in my head over time and that both myself and the kids would have a bit of a letdown. The special effects really are special, especially for the time. Despite the fact that my 16 and 13-year olds will never know a world before CGI super technology, they were equally impressed, maybe even more so knowing the limitations that filmmakers had compared to today’s counterparts.

The acting is still fantastic – possibly Kurt Russell’s best performance – and the atmosphere that I remember being so claustrophobic was still palpable. Despite some exceptional moments of gore, the true terror of this film lies in its ability to make you constantly question the reality which these characters are faced with. The film is also one that seemingly has little to no bright spots or glimmers of hope. The script is meant for you to feel as hopeless as the characters and even after 30 years the writing still finds success in this respect. (Probably another reason why it wasn’t widely accepted by audiences upon release, as there is absolutely no happy ending anywhere to be found here.)

 

Is It Child Appropriate?
At the time of our viewing last summer this was easily the most gory film I had allowed the kids to partake in up to that point. Is this film child appropriate? The simple answer is, no. Especially not for younger children. While my older kids handled this film like champs, and it quickly became a favorite of my Stephen King-loving 13-year old, I would be hesitant to recommend this film to other parents. I would be doubly remiss to recommend this film to a family that loves and/or owns dogs. Common Sense Media rated the film 17+, mostly due to the gore factor. Parents who use the sight rated it 13+ which sounds right to me. As always, only you know your kids well enough to make the decisions on what films to view. This is one you definitely want to ease them into.

 

Overall Rating
It’s interesting to do this exercise after the films have had a chance to marinate a bit. In the other entries in this series we had watched each of the films within a few weeks of me posting about it. Here we are months from watching and the 16-year old had to be reminded what film I was referencing. Meanwhile, much like myself at a similar age when I first watched this film, this has already grown to iconic status for my 13-year old. The 16-year old rated it a 6 out of 10, not because she didn’t like it, but because it just didn’t stick with her since viewing. The 13-year old gave it a 10 out of 10 and has already claimed it as one of his all-time favorite horror movies. While, I agree with him that it’s easily one of the best horror films of the last 30 or so years, I respectfully reserve 10 out of 10 ratings for only the absolute cream of the crop. I’ll give it a solid 9.
Overall Family Rating: 8.33


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