John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) is my favorite horror movie. It may be my favorite movie, period. It is, frankly, a masterpiece that sits atop many a horror aficionado’s Top 10 list. I remember watching it with my father as a kid. It terrified me. It stuck with me. It’s a big reason I love horror as much as I do. The ultimate in alien terror turns 35 years old this week. Let’s take a look back at this terrifying horror film.
Opening weekend for The Thing– June 25-27, 1982 – was a genre fan’s wet dream. The film opened alongside Blade Runner and MegaForce while E.T., Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Poltergeist, Conan The Barbarian, and The Sword and the Sorcerer were all still making their rounds in theaters. Unfortunately for director John Carpenter, The Thing was a box office dud. It opened 8th with just over $3,000,000 in receipts en route to a disappointing $19,600,000 run.
The box office wasn’t kind to The Thing. Neither were the reviews. Roger Ebert preferred the original Howard Hawks version, as did many critics. Variety said it was a “letdown.” The New York Times called it “instant junk.”
Carpenter told EW before a fan screening in 2013:
The movie tanked when it came out. It was hated, hated by fans. I lost a job, people hated me, they thought I was this horrible, violent — and I was.
What has been kind to The Thing is time. Over the years, the perception of the film changed for the better. If Rotten Tomatoes is any indicator, the film enjoys an 81% critical rating and a 94% audience rating. It is, to be perfectly honest, downright beloved. Deservedly so.
Something that’s undeniable about The Thing is its influence. The FX work in the film is phenomenal. It still resonates with modern audiences because it set the bar for practical FX. Modern creature features like The Void cite The Thing as its benchmark. Have you looked at Horror Kickstarters recently? One of the biggest selling points in this era of crappy CGI is “real practical FX.” You can thank John Carpenter and FX wizard Rob Bottin for that.
If you need a reminder of how brilliant the special effects were in The Thing, you need look no further than this:
The movie is enjoying a bit of a renaissance of late. Part of it, I imagine, is this milestone anniversary. The other part, as I’ve alluded to, is the film’s lasting legacy. It’s a classic, and still fun after all these years. So what do I mean by renaissance? Check out some of the cool tie-ins that are out now or are coming out soon.
First of all, there’s The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 board game. I wrote about it a short while ago here. October can’t get here soon enough! I can’t wait to play this.
Shout Factory released a 2k collector’s edition Blu-ray of The Thing late last year. Not to be outdone, the folks over at Arrow Video announced just this week that they’ve begun work on a 4k restoration of the film. Is it too much to hope for a theatrical re-release? I sure hope not!
And what about The Thing‘s 35th Anniversary Artbook? It’s due out in July and is premiering at the San Diego Comic-Con with a foreword by Eli Roth and an afterword by John Carpenter himself! You can bet I’ll be snagging one of these!
Last, but not least, have you heard about the new The Thing-inspired video game, Distrust? Alawar Entertainment announced it recently. The demo is available now on Steam. PopHorror is on the case: you can read all about it here.
It’s an exciting time to be a fan of The Thing. I, for one, am looking forward to watching it with my son when he gets a little older. I know we’ll bond over it, just like my father and I did. It’s been a great 35 years of fandom for me and I know it will be another great 35 years for him.
I leave you now with one final bit of The Thing-inspired fun before I retire and watch my Shout Factory Blu-ray. Have you seen the Disney Frozen Blood Test Scene? No? Well, here ya go. You’re welcome!
Until next time, “Watch Clark…and watch him close, do you hear me?”