Remembering John Carpenter’s The Thing

The summer of 1982 was an incredible time for movies, but oddly enough, three great cult classics from that year were not hits in their time: Tron, Blade Runner, and The Thing.

John Carpenter’s remake of the Howard Hawks sci-fi classic was completely pummeled by the critics and did no business that summer, but so many fans love it today, and now realize what an innovative film it really was.

The Thing was definitely ahead of its time, and Carpenter is especially proud of it, not to mention the incredible make-up effects by Rob Bottin were very groundbreaking for their time. Come to think of it, they’re still great, and we’d love to see someone recreate them today without any CGI. (Yes, those effects were done live on a stage, “in camera,” as they say).

The Thing recently had several revival screenings in L.A., one hosted by Kurt Russell, another hosted by Carpenter. Russell has worked with Carpenter five times, and as Collider tells us, Kurt felt The Thing was Carpenter’s “finest hour.” Russell also reminded the audience that The Thing and Blade Runner came out on the same day, June 25, and although both movies were steamrolled by E.T., they’re of course very beloved by fans today. 

Russell feels the intense FX in The Thing lost a lot of people: “It disallowed some audiences, and certainly critics and reviewers, to be able to get past the horrificness of the monster to watch the movie.” But Carpenter “was just ahead of the curve.” 

As Entertainment Weekly reports, Carpenter told the audience, “The movie tanked when it came out. It was hated, hated by the fans. But now here we are 31 years later, and here you are filling the theater.” 

Carpenter said there were some things he couldn’t do with the FX because it was pre-CGI, even though Bottin still pulled off some amazing scenes. “There was a sequence written where the Thing attacks people from under the ice, and nobody could figure out how to do that.” 

In addition, Carpenter still refuses to give a definite answer about the ending, which was left wonderfully open ended. “I do know, in the end, who the Thing is, but I cannot tell you.” (Actually, maybe neither guy is the Thing, look at it any way you want.) “Really, this is a movie about the end of the world,” Carpenter continued. “It does not have a real happy ending. And it has what a lot of audiences cannot stand, which is an ending that has no real conclusion.” 

The Thing still stands the test of time wonderfully, and a lot of people making alleged “horror films” today should see it again, and be humbled by watching Carpenter at his peak.