The Thing (1982) (R)

Horror 109 June 25, 1982
By Matthew Wilder
John Carpenter's 1982 remake of Howard Hawks's sci-fi suspense film was reviled in its day (I vividly recall Leonard Maltin proclaiming, "I give it a zero out of 10!"), but it now looks like the director's greatest achievement. In an Antarctic outpost, an alien life force attacks the occupying population--a team of American men and some animals. When the alien invades, it violently assaults the host body and then recreates that body perfectly, giving the question of who's genuinely human a unique urgency. It's rumored that Carpenter's all-male Thing was slated to feature a female character, and that when the actress fell through, Carpenter whimsically decided to keep it Guys Only. It's hard to imagine the movie any other way: The lack of a woman's humanizing presence lends the movie a panicky, claustrophobic quality. And while I'm not a fan of FX-driven horror, Rob Bottin's nauseating Thing imagery--all of it involving essential human structures turned inside-out--leaves you with the kind of psychic scars that last a lifetime. The Thing anticipates the apocalyptic oeuvre of James Cameron and the anti-E.T.-ism of Spielberg's War of the Worlds. But for my money, this austerely traumatizing movie is in a class by itself. (Matthew Wilder)
John Carpenter Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, T.K. Carter, David Clennon, Keith David, Richard A. Dysart, Charles Hallahan, Peter Maloney, Richard Masur Bill Lancaster, John W. Campbell Jr. David Foster, Lawrence Turman Universal Pictures