John W. Campbell Jr. (story Who Goes There?) and Bill Lancaster (screenplay)
Kurt Russell as R.J. MacReady
A. Wilford Brimley as Dr. Blair
T.K. Carter as Nauls
David Clennon as Palmer
Keith David as Childs
The foreshadowing is brief and to the point in the opening seconds of The Thing. A space craft erratically heads through space toward earth. There is a bit of flame upon entry to earth’s atmosphere and then the craft descends to land on our planet’s surface.
Beautiful and peaceful snowscapes fill the screen as The Thing continues – peaceful and isolated. The chopping of a helicopter shatters the silence as it streaks across the snow-covered landscape and engages in a desperate hunt for…a dog.
The dog avoids capture and enters a camp of scientists with the helicopter occupants in hot pursuit. The crazy behavior and foreign tongue of the dog-pursuers along with explosions and gunfire result in the destruction of the helicopter and both occupants. The dog survives.
These opening sequences of The Thing give a hint to the action-packed experience the next 90 minutes or so will bring. The dog, you see, is actually an alien that has the ability to assume the shape and personality of any life-form it comes in contact with. And this alien is deadly.
John Carpenter’s The Thing is one of the most well-loved horror movies there are, and with good reason. The acting is great, led by Kurt Russell as the forever-drunk frustrated action hero R.J. MacReady. A. Wilford Brimley also does a great job as the kindly Dr. Blair that sees a potential global threat in the alien…and then loses his marbles and goes nuts.
The effects in The Thing are fantastic. Keep in mind this was 1982, before many of the technological advances in FX, so the effects were primarily done manually through make-up and animatronics. Dreamstate was the company that provided the effects, and a crew of almost 40 effects artists worked on The Thing including Lance Anderson (Shocker, Pet Semetary, The Serpent and the Rainbow), Brian Wade (Blade, The Omen )remake(, Van Helsing) and David P. Kelsey (The Craft, Mission Impossible: II, Bruce Almighty) among many others.
John Carpenter’s direction and interpretation of the story are absolutely flawless. The moods are cast just right, the build-up to sheer panic and insanity is smooth and appropriate and the story is told expertly.
Now, the guys in The Thing are a bit “rough and tumble” to be scientists in my book…but I let that part slide. The Thing was so well-made for 1982 that modern technology does not render the film silly or obsolete. In those days the $10 Million budget was pretty high for a horror flick (compared to $700K for Friday the 13th and $375K for Halloween), and it shows.