The Thing


The Thing

Critics Consensus

Grimmer and more terrifying than the 1950s take, John Carpenter's The Thing is a tense sci-fi thriller rife with compelling tension and some remarkable make-up effects.



Total Count: 62


Audience Score

User Ratings: 131,790
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Movie Info

John Carpenter's The Thing is both a remake of Howard Hawks' 1951 film of the same name and a re-adaptation of the John W. Campbell Jr. story "Who Goes There?" on which it was based. Carpenter's film is more faithful to Campbell's story than Hawks' version and also substantially more reliant on special effects, provided in abundance by a team of over 40 technicians, including veteran creature-effects artists Rob Bottin and Stan Winston. The film opens enigmatically with a Siberian Husky running through the Antarctic tundra, chased by two men in a helicopter firing at it from above. Even after the dog finds shelter at an American research outpost, the men in the helicopter (Norwegians from an outpost nearby) land and keep shooting. One of the Norwegians drops a grenade and blows himself and the helicopter to pieces; the other is shot dead in the snow by Garry (Donald Moffat), the American outpost captain. American helicopter pilot MacReady (Kurt Russell, fresh from Carpenter's Escape From New York) and camp doctor Copper (Richard Dysart) fly off to find the Norwegian base and discover some pretty strange goings-on. The base is in ruins, and the only occupants are a man frozen to a chair (having cut his own throat) and the burned remains of what could be one man or several men. In a side room, Copper and MacReady find a coffin-like block of ice from which something has been recently cut. That night at the American base, the Husky changes into the Thing, and the Americans learn first-hand that the creature has the ability to mutate into anything it kills. For the rest of the film the men fight a losing (and very gory) battle against it, never knowing if one of their own dwindling number is the Thing in disguise. Though resurrected as a cult favorite, The Thing failed at the box office during its initial run, possibly because of its release just two weeks after Steven Spielberg's warmly received E.T.The Extra-Terrestrial. Along with Ridley Scott's futuristic Alien, The Thing helped stimulate a new wave of sci-fi horror films in which action and special effects wizardry were often seen as ends in themselves. ~ Anthony Reed, Rovi


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Critic Reviews for The Thing

All Critics (62) | Top Critics (9) | Fresh (52) | Rotten (10)

  • The Thing is set in an all-male environment, and is as much a study of masculinity in crisis as an update of the sort of siege scenario that Carpenter had already played out in Assault on Precinct 13.

    Oct 23, 2017 | Full Review…
  • Carpenter's direction is slow, dark, and stately; he seems to be aiming for an enveloping, novelistic kind of effect, but all he gets is heaviness.

    May 25, 2011 | Full Review…
  • The special effects can't hope to be as creepy to our seen-it-all eyes as they were to the film's first viewers, but we can still enjoy the monster's unique weirdness, and the story is a rock-solid yarn.

    Sep 18, 2009 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • It's pretty scary and entertaining stuff, though I always get the feeling that nothing in it lives up to the tremendous opening section.

    Sep 18, 2009 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • If it's the most vividly guesome monster ever to stalk the screen that audiences crave, then The Thing is the thing. On all other levels, however, John Carpenter's remake of Howard Hawks' 1951 sci-fi classic comes as a letdown.

    Jun 6, 2007 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • Russell's sub-Eastwood heroics hardly compensate for the absence of all characterisation, while Bill Lancaster's script boasts the most illogical climax any monster movie ever had.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Thing

  • Apr 23, 2017
    The Thing being the second John Carpenter film I've watched this week, I'm starting to notice why he's such a "big deal" in the film business, but I'm also realizing that his style may not be best suited for my tastes in film. The Thing is a remake of a 1951 Howard Hawks film, which in itself is based on a novella, and the film was once again remade in 2011. Ultimately, this story is widely popular. But the funny thing is, the story doesn't feel all that special or unique. The film adapts the "whodunit" or rather "who is it" movie trope that has been used for as long as films have been made. I don't have a problem with that, but I do have a problem with this film feeling like a rip-off to Ridley Scott's 1979 Alien film. Right down to the chest bursting scene. Some people may say that the original novella probably influenced Scott in making Alien, which may be true. But then why not change up a few plot points and shot selections instead of feeling overtly derivative from a film that is only a few years old. It also doesn't help that for all the blood, guts, jumps, and scares, we don't really get a look inside the minds of any of these characters. None of them are memorable, even Kurt Russell's flame throwing bearded helicopter pilot. Heck, we never even see the guy fly a helicopter. I hate to keep bringing up Alien, so I'll compare the recent movie, Life. That film doesn't have anything new to add to the genre of "trapped-in-horror-thriller", but it consistently entertains you because you get to know each character and you care about them. The Thing's cast consists of a dozen or so men ranging from 30-65, and I don't remember any of their names or backstories. Why? Because the movie didn't take the time to establish either. The Thing does do quite a few things well, though. The practical special effects are mind-blowing for a film from the early-80's. I would love to see some of the behind the scenes featurettes and how they were able to pull off some of the shots. If only the film didn't make me cringe every few minutes with its gratuitous blood spatters and gut bursting shots. The Thing also did a nice job at pacing out the deaths and jump scares where it didn't feel too overpowering at any one point but it also never got to the point of boredom either. Not to mention Ennio Morricone's haunting main theme that plays throughout the film. That will surely send chills down anyone's spine. So overall, The Thing is another Carpenter film to get a mixed response from me. He's a good filmmaker, but I highly doubt I will ever sit down a re-watch his films as religiously as some film fans do. Perhaps I'd like Howard Hawks version better. +Score +Effects -No character depth -Feels derivative 6.4/10
    Thomas D Super Reviewer
  • Apr 02, 2013
    Directors C Super Reviewer
  • Mar 27, 2013
    The original Thing is a horror/sci fi masterpiece. As mentioned in my review of the new "The Thing", there is a nice setup in the prequel which would make watching both films back to back rather enjoyable.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Mar 21, 2013
    The Thing is a film I have long wanted to watch for, and I'm pleased by the overall result. The special effects were amazing, and there were plenty of creepy images. I found that the images though and eerie scenes were scarier than the actual idea. The film wasn't just about an alien, this film featured deep paranoia, and had myself asking, "what would I do?". After the movie I found out this was nominated for a Razzie, for the score. I didn't find the score was to bad, but I certainly can't say it was good. I would've wished for more character devolepmet, I ended not knowing any of the names or even characteristics of the characters. Most people probably like that it jumped straight in, but I wanted to be more attached. The Thing is still a successful eerie sci-fi, that movies quickly, but not always fluently. 3 stars+
    Daniel D Super Reviewer

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