In the Antarctic life in an isolated American research station is disrupted when a Norwegian helicopter appears chasing a dog. The Norwegians seem intent on killing the animal. One of the men has a rifle is shooting at the dog.
The helicopter lands just outside the American base and the pilot grabs a thermite charge but ends up dropping it blowing himself and the helicopter up. The dog runs up to the Americans who have gathered to see what all the commotion is about and the man with the gun ends up shooting one of the Americans. Garry (Donald Moffat) shots back and kills the Norwegian.
The Americans are puzzled and Dr. Cooper (Richard Dysart) decides that they need to go check out the Norwegian base forcing pilot MacReady (Kurt Russell) to take him there. They find that the base is in shambles and everyone is dead. One person even committed suicide. Dr. Cooper takes a bunch of their research. MacReady finds a giant block of ice where something once appeared to in it. Outside they find the partially burned remains of something that kind of looked human if human heads could stretch apart like silly putty.
Meanwhile the dog that the Norwegians were chasing has been running free around base. MacReady and Doc return and show everyone what they’ve found. Doc and Dr. Blair (Wilford Brimley) begin an autopsy on the remains. The dog is finally taken to a pen with other dogs where once left alone the dog sprouts tendrils and starts trying to assimilate and become all the other dogs. The sounds alert everyone who witness the horror show before Childs (Keith David) burns the creature with fire.
Blair discovers that the weird corpse had normal human organs. An autopsy of the dogs finds that whatever the thing is, it’s trying to imitate the living. Cooper discovers that the Norwegians had uncovered something in the ice. MacReady flies them out to the coordinates and they find a giant flying saucer that was buried in the ice for hundreds of years. The passenger was what was in the block of ice. The Norwegians thawed it and then tried to destroy it. This thing can become anyone and it wants to hide and escape the Antarctic. Now no one knows who’s really themselves and who is really the thing.
The movie opened to terrible reviews and it bombed at the box office . E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial had opened two weeks before and Blade Runner opened the same day as The Thing and nobody was interested in a the film. Over the years the movie has been reevaluated and it’s now considered a classic. I saw it earlier this year in the theatre during Cineplex Digital Film Festival and the movie has only improved with time.
This is brilliant movie and in my opinion it’s John Carpenter’s best film. It’s a remake of the 1951 movie The Thing from Another World and while that’s a pretty good movie, John Carpenter’s The Thing is one of the most intense horror movies ever. The sense of paranoia and the wondering who is who they claim to be while out in an isolated and very cold looking landscape (Kurt Russell’s beard constantly seems to have icicles in it) is brilliantly achieved here. And the effects, while practical are still very effective. It’s a masterpiece.