Villain Spotlight: The Thing
Good evening things and thingettes! I know you all have missed me in my slight absence over the past week or two as I was on a slight vacation, and by vacation I mean I was fully entrenched in biological warfare. Being sick is no joke, especially when it feels like you are imploding, but my sickness had the added effect of being a benefit to you all in the form of a rewatching of one of the best sci/fi horror movies in all the land; John Carpenter’s The Thing. I understand that the Thing would not be considered a villain of sorts to a few people, but the sheer malevolence and discord it sewed throughout the crew of the camp is the stuff of legend. So strap your heads down and heat up some of your buddy’s blood because this one is going to be a bumpy and slightly gross ride!
I first encountered The Thing when I was a young lad, and to be honest, I don’t even think I made it through the cherry popping first viewing. I was horrified and taken aback by the sheer grotesqueness of the creature itself that I just couldn’t even continue watching. As a kid I grew up watching Tales from the Crypt and all sorts of horror and scifi movies, but something about this one rubbed me the wrong way, which in turn is a shame because I deprived myself of something wonderful at an early age. This is not to say that my most recent viewing of the movie was the first time I made it all the way through, as I have seen this film well over 20 times now. The most recent just made me re-appreciate this film for what it is: a magnificent piece of pants shitting terror. The movie opens up with a dog running through the snow as a helicopter follows it while pumping rifle rounds around the pup. The crew of the camp notice the chopper flying and decide to see what is up, only to be supposedly shot at as well. Turns out they were aiming for the dog, but the grizzled old Captain of the crew breaks a window…in a negative degree environment… and fires off a couple revolver rounds to silence the threat of those crazy swedes. The dog is brought back to the camp to be penned up with the other ones, and this is where things take a turn for the fucked, and we are all luckier for it.
Before continuing, I would just like to say that Kurt Russell is the fucking man, and his beard knows no bounds. We also have the bad guy from Kindergarten Cop playing the crazy, laid back radio operator, and the guy who hates Rent-A Cops from the 90’s classic Men At Work. This cast was assembled when an asteroid hit the earth, and the dust and star stuff combined to form an 80’s dream team of everything you have ever wanted. I now know where Alan Moore got the idea for the League of Extraordinary Gentleman. We shoot forward a bit and see the dog that was being chased, is not an actual dog, but a mass of horror and head splitting (literally) terror. It attempts to assimilate another dog and take its form, and we now know what this thing can do, but not to a full extent. They put the dog down, but it was in there for a while, right? Who knows what the fuck else it could have imitated…or even *GASP* who?! The best part of a changeling style character is the fact that you really never know who is who. We all love the Chameleon, but if he assumed forms the way the Thing does, I wouldn’t want any part of that shit. For real. However, I will watch it all damn day and love every minute of it. After seeing what can happen when something is left alone with this creature, the whole crew begins to splinter and accuse each other of being Things, which I guess is technically true, but not in the way they are implying. The Thing, albeit with no voice that we can recognize or real form being shown, is a master of spreading uncertainty throughout the camp to the point that everyone is either pointing guns or fingers at each other. Imagine that: Fresh from space, you just drop down on an unknown planet (or unfreeze according to the recent sequel) and immediately start mortifying and killing everything within your tentacle grasp…fucking brutal. Its as if the Borg grew a set of tentacle balls and wound up being more violent and sloppy in their methods. I love it.
We eventually learn that the Thing had indeed taken over the body of one of the crew members, and had been slowly attempting to turn everyone against each other. The best part of this is that once the Thing takes over someone, it doesn’t end there. The new Thing entity is not the sole creature, but one of many. Each assimilation becomes a version of the Thing, and they act independently towards the same goal. Its almost like a team of lone wolves…if that makes sense. Of course it does. Its John Carpenter. So now we have Thing dogs, Thing people, and possibly even the real Thing itself running around out there in its true form. It gives such a sense of desperation and anxiety because the characters have no idea, and events unfold exactly the way a riot would. People blame and accuse each other, guns are drawn, and Kurt Russell fucks the shit out of everything with the sweetest flame thrower ever.
Some of the crew have now either been killed or torn apart in some sort of fashion by the Thing and its clones, and it leads to a frantic and scary as shit blood test to find out who is the real thing. The best of all being the supposed second in command being revealed as a Thing, and openings its chest cavity during an attempted defibrillation, and ripping off the arms of a doctor, in what could be considered one of the best moments in any movie ever. Eventually, it detaches its head from the lifeless corpse, and we are treated to the most haunting and famous scene in the movie; The Spider Walking scene. Good lord is it awesome. A screaming pile of legs and severed head scurrying all over the place, begs you to ask for more of these amazing effects (for the time period). This was actually the scene that caused me to stop watching when I was a kid, mainly due to how scary it actually is. The head pulling itself from the body in a green bath of blood and bubbles really affected me to the point that even today, I do not fuck with anything with more than four or less than one leg (I mean this in wild fashion, not people. ) Fuck that all day , every day.
The Thing does not like fire, much like the Frankenstein monster, although more grotesque, it squeals away from any sort of gift of Prometheus, hence all the fire fucking being done by Kurt Russell. The crew learn that by sticking a heated piece of metal into a vial of everyone’s blood, a reaction occurs by the blood infected by the Thing, and by reaction I mean the shit comes to life and tries to strangle you. You heard me right, blood tries to strangle you, and now I have given you a new form of nightmare. Half of the crew at this point are dead, and the rest are tied up to a couch for safety’s sake while the blood is being tested by a recently accused and seriously pissed off Kurt Russell. Almost everyone checks clean, except the guy on the end ,who proceeds to roid out and devour Crisp from Kindergarten Cop in a most horrific fashion. At this point, we are down to just a few “real people” left.
The film continues and culminates in a last ditch effort on the part of the grizzled captain, I hate Rent-A-Cops and Snake Plisskin coming up with an idea to blow the place up after luring the creatures into an underground shaft. Upon reaching said destination, the Thing proceeds to take the form of the crazy old man they locked out back towards the beginning, and gives the grizzled captain the most brutal of all high fives, into his face with all fingers. It still makes me cringe to this day on how much that would hurt. The Thing then proceeds to try and fuck everyone’s day up by burrowing through the ground in a pretty awesome scene, while exploding the floor and giving Snake a run for his money. Kurt Russell however, tells it to go fuck itself before blowing up the entire facility while writing his name in gasoline all over the compound. Fuck…Yes.
The film ends (sadly) with Kurt Russell and Rent-A –Cop sitting on the ground in the bitter cold, waiting for the end of their lives. They pass a drink back and forth, and ponder on which one of them could possibly be a Thing. How amazing is that? Even after blowing the whole place up, they still can’t trust each other. The screen fades as they both sit in wait for either a rescue crew, or the end of everything. They never reveal if either one of them was a Thing, which I think was the best possible way to end the movie. It makes you think about it long after the credits roll and the blood has been mopped up. I love the ending of this movie. I was thinking about it for so long afterwards, to the point where I didn’t even want to come to my own conclusion, mainly because I didn’t want to know. I preferred to keep it ambiguous so as to add more mystique to the character of the Thing. If any of you geeks out there have not gotten a chance to check this out, I highly recommend you do so. I promise you won’t be disappointed, and you can find it on Netflix or the $5 bin at walmart, which I have bought two copies from already. Here’s to you Thing…..we miss you, even with your tentacled madness.
Follow me on Twitter! @ArthurHarkness
All images and characters depicted are copyright of their respective owners.Follow me on Twitter!