1982. Directed by John Carpenter.
"Man is the warmest place to hide."
The first entry in Carpenter's Apocalypse Trilogy, The Thing is pure lightning in a bottle. It's a film experience where so many elements combine in perfect synergy to deliver a science fiction horror film that is smart, vicious, and the pinnacle of practical special effects and makeup.
The denizens of an American research station in Antarctica have a dangerous encounter with Norwegian researchers who are desperately pursuing a dog with the intent to kill it. The aftermath leaves the Americans with an unwanted presence: a shape shifting alien that absorbs and then imitates it's victims. As time progresses the line between friend and foe is blurred and the survivors realize they are all that stands between the creature and world domination.
A frozen chamber piece (which would inspire Tarantino's Hateful Eight), The Thing features a fraternity of 80's character actors. Kurt Russell stars as the station's pilot Macreedy. He's supported by Carpenter favorite Keith David, a nihilisticaly insane Wilford Brimley, Richard Masur, and the always stalwart Donald Moffat. The chemistry is one of the threads that weaves through The Thing, keeping it comically relatable at times and brutally candid in others. These are men (mostly) pushed their limits with little chance of escape.
Ennio Morricone's score echoes the film's mood of solitude and dread. Carpenter was not able to directly communicate with the legend due to a language barrier, so Morricone was left to his own devices with an unscored cut of the film. The result is an electronic phantasm that haunt's every frame with it's presence.
Rob Bottin and Stan Winston's special effects are the main course. Using revolutionary stop motion techniques coupled with makeup and practical effects voodoo, the result is a creature feature unlike anything ever seen. The creature is constantly evolving and changing forms based on it's victim. Carpenter's restraint and lack of budget allowed the alien to remain mysterious in it's absence and nauseatingly terrifying in it's revelation.
Horror permeates Outpost 31, largely due to Henry Larrecq's art direction. The station is grungy and worn, but also full of shadows and long corridors that promise a grizzly demise. Dean Cundey's trickery behind the camera is a co-conspirator to the macabre. The film boasts an ever changing palette, like it's villain. In one seen you're overwhelmed with blizzard whites and in the next, the screen pulses with the neon crackle of a flare. The scenes with the creature are fast and furious highlighting the enormous possibilities of anamorphic filming.
Available now for digital rental, The Thing is an outright astonishing film experience. Not for the weak of heart, it features some of the most beautifully grotesque sequences of body horror ever put to film. From it's amazing interactions to it's ice cold finale, The Thing will continue to be a staple in in any horror fan's collection for decades to come.