John Carpenter's The Thing, a film made way back in 1982, has one of the best opening scenes of any horror film. After a spaceship crash lands in the Antarctic, we cut to a beautiful Siberian Husky being shot at by two guys in a helicopter. As the dog keeps running, the tension builds until the audience in on the edge of their seat! It's really a simple setup, but by stressing the same beats over and over the importance is amplified to a breaking point. By the time the dog reaches the American outpost I was hooked.
Of course, I was eight at the time.
This brings me to a somewhat person reflection on the movie. My father, a man who introduced me to such classics as Total Recall and Predator thought it would be a good idea to show this movie to a child. It wasn't a good idea. It was a great idea! Because I was still underdeveloped both emotionally and physically this movie rooted itself in my brain until I couldn’t help but imagine that everyone around me was somehow infected by some unknown alien plague. It may have even inspired my self-diagnosed hypochondria as a young adult. Needless to say, my mother wasn't pleased when I spilled the beans the day after I saw it.
Is the movie perfect? No. And as I get older it's getting harder to give it a pass. There is virtually no character development. Nobody grows or changes, and forget about a backstory to hook us emotionally to any character. But is that really necessary? Some would argue yes. At the time, this movie was competing with both E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Blade Runner for bucks at the box office. The Thing, like other cult classics, was considered a box office failure when it was released. So I think a little more time spent on character might have pushed this to the front of the pack.
Also, there are no women in the film unless you count the woman on the game show who appears for about five seconds or the voice on the computer who Kurt Russell calls a "cheating bitch" right before he drowns her in whiskey. It's sort of an odd choice not to include any women especially when there seem to be plenty of jobs at the research station. According to IMDb, a woman was originally cast to be in the film but she got pregnant and was replaced by a man (someone who stood no chance of such an affliction).
But even watching the film again all these years later, I still have a soft spot in my heart for this kind of Wilford Brimley versus Kurt Russell blood fueled mayhem! The special effects are special, meaning they're done without computers so they're actually tangible, and I still gag a little when Brimley is up to his elbows in alien gore. This is a true cult classic in every sense of the word, and I'll keep coming back, year after year, to enjoy a little slice of my blood soaked childhood.