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37. EMPIRE MAGAZINE GREATEST: The Thing

August 9, 2018

Director: John Carpenter
Screenplay: Bill Lancaster
Starring: Kurt Russell, Keith David, Wilford Brimley, Donald Moffat, Richard Dysart, Charles Hallahan, T. K. Carter
Runtime: 109 Minutes

 

Original UK Release: 1982

 

★★★★★

 

John Carpenter’s The Thing is one of the finest remakes/adaptations ever made. Tackling its source materials head-on with an entirely new approach and a contemporary mindset.

 

It’s a chamber piece, focusing on a small group of characters in a single contained and isolated location, where the primary dramatic tension relies on each man’s distrust of everyone else. Working from Bill Lancaster's shockingly solid screenplay, the film operates by slyly making the entire story an allegory for the aids epidemic of the 1980s. In an entirely male environment, those infected can seem perfectly ordinary until tested, spreading an immediate paranoia of infection and isolation. The fear on screen and the tension of the situation is flagrant and mature, while it's incredibly clever at weaving deceit amongst the characters.

 

It’s a crowning achievement of 80s body horror, indulging in the fantastical corruption or infection of the body. The mixture of practical and animatronics effects are delivered with an absurd level of imagination and physicality, and so many of the big shock horror moments are portrayed in a way that genuinely baffle in their presentation. Dean Cundey cinematography really exploits the positional of these moments through some creative framing choices that make the most of the figures.

 

Carpenter’s direction has a rhythmic construction to sequences that feels so perfectly timed and executed – specifically the blood test sequence which drags out the inevitable reveal for as long as possible. Kurt Russell is typically fantastic as MacReady, but the supporting cast from the likes of David, Carter, Brimley, Clennon and Dysart are brilliantly stressed. Ennio Morricone’s score - in collaboration with Carpenter – is throbbing, steady and gorgeously layered with worry and discomfort.

 

A culmination of so many of Carpenter’s finest works – both technical attributes and themes – this is a melting monster movie masterpiece like no other.

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