The Thing (1982)
In the Spirit of Howard Philips.
In winter 1982, an American Antarctic research station is alerted by gunfire and explosions. An Alaskan Malamute flees across the snow, pursued by a Norwegian helicopter with an on-board sniper frantically trying to kill it. The dog makes its way into the camp as the science station's crew looks on in confusion. Through reckless use of a thermite charge, the helicopter is destroyed and its pilot killed shortly after landing. The surviving passenger, the sniper, fires at the dog with a rifle, grazing George Bennings (Peter Maloney), one of the researchers. The sniper is shot and killed by Garry (Donald Moffat), the station commander. Not knowing what to make of the incident, the station crew adopts the dog.
Unable to contact the outside world via radio, helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell) and Dr. Copper (Richard Dysart) risk a flight to the Norwegian camp to find an explanation. They find it destroyed, its personnel missing or dead (some of them having committed suicide). Finding evidence that the Norwegians had dug something out of the ice, the pair return to the station with the partially-burned remains of a hideous creature which bears some human features. An autopsy of the cadaver by Dr. Blair (Wilford Brimley) is inconclusive, save to find that the creature had what appeared to be a normal set of human internal organs.
At Bennings' request, the station's dog-handler, Clark (Richard Masur) kennels the stray with the rest of the station's sled dogs. Noises from the kennel cause Clark to return, finding almost the entire sled team in the process of being violently "assimilated" by the stray dog, which has transformed into a grotesque monster. MacReady summons the crew to the kennel and orders Childs (Keith David) to burn the creature with a flamethrower. A subsequent autopsy by Blair reveals that the stray dog was an extraterrestrial life form capable of absorbing and perfectly imitating other life-forms. Realizing the implications of this, Blair quickly becomes withdrawn and suspicious of the others. A second helicopter expedition to the destroyed camp discovers an alien spacecraft unearthed by the Norwegian research team, leading to the theory that the creature had re-animated after being buried within the ice for thousands of years.
Bennings and Windows (Thomas G. Waites) quarantine the remains of the dog-creature and the Norwegian monster cadaver in the storage room, but moments after leaving, the Norwegian creature proceeds to assimilate Bennings. The crew burns the Bennings replica before its transformation is complete. Determining that all life on Earth would be assimilated in just over three years if the creature were to reach another continent, Blair suffers a total mental breakdown, destroying the helicopters, tractor and radio with an axe, and killing the remaining sled dogs, containing the contamination from spreading beyond the base. The team overpowers him and locks him in the tool shed. With all contact to civilization cut off, the crew wonders how to determine who is still human. A torn shirt is found, confirming that the alien has indeed already assimilated at least one other person in the camp beside Bennings, but the name tag is torn out and the shirt cannot be matched to any one individual because they all wear the same size. Rampant paranoia quickly sets in as the first attempt to develop a test using uncontaminated blood samples is sabotaged by an unknown party. Station commander Garry and Doctor Cooper are under particular suspicion because they are the only ones with access to the key to the blood sample cabinet, though they claim the key could easily have been stolen by someone else. Clark is also strongly suspected, because he spent well over an hour along with the Dog-Thing the first day it was in camp. All three are tied up in the rec room.
Fuchs (Joel Polis), attempting to continue Blair's research, goes missing shortly after a power failure and his body is found severely burned. MacReady speculates that Fuchs used a flare to burn himself before the Thing could get to him. MacReady comes under suspicion when a scrap of torn shirt containing his name tag is found at the camp, and he is locked outside in a severe blizzard. Somehow finding his way back to camp without a guide line, MacReady breaks into a storage room and threatens the rest of the crew with dynamite. MacReady insists that he has been framed, but the others do not believe him. In the course of the standoff, Norris (Charles Hallahan) suffers a heart attack. When Copper attempts to revive him by defibrillation, Norris' torso transforms into a giant mouth and bites off Copper's arms, and he quickly bleeds to death. While the survivors destroy Norris' assimilated body, his head detaches from his neck and sprouts legs, transforming into a spider-like creature, and attempts to escape. However, MacReady spots the head creature and incinerates it with the flame thrower. Afterward, MacReady orders everyone to be tied up while he performs a test, which Childs initially resists. Distracted, Clark attempts to sneak up on MacReady and stab him with a scalpel, but is shot in the head and killed by MacReady in self-defense. The rest of the crew complies with the test. From observing the Norris-Thing, MacReady theorizes that every individual piece of the alien is a distinct unit capable of independent life, with its own survival instinct. Therefore, a sample of the alien's blood will react defensively and try to move away when touched with a heated metal wire. Blood samples are drawn from each member of the team, including Copper and Clark. Upon realizing that Clark was not infected, Childs proclaims MacReady to be a murderer. Palmer (David Clennon), the backup pilot, is unmasked as an imitation, and manages to kill Windows before being destroyed by MacReady with dynamite, who also torches Windows' body with a flamethrower as he begins to transform.
Confirming that MacReady, Childs, Garry, and the Station's Chef, Nauls (T. K. Carter) are still human, the surviving crew set out to the tool shed in order to administer the test to Blair, only to find that he has escaped by tunneling his way underground. They follow the path and discover that not only had Blair been assimilated, but he had been constructing a small flying vehicle of alien design underneath the tool shed in order to reach and infect the mainland. They return to the surface to witness Childs inexplicably abandoning his post at the main gate, followed by the facility losing power. Realizing that the creature now wants to freeze again so a future rescue team will find it, the remaining crew grimly acknowledge that they will not survive and set about destroying the facility in hopes of killing the creature. While setting explosives in the underground generator room, Garry is killed by the infected Blair. Nauls follows the sounds of the creature and is never seen again. The only indication of Nauls' fate is a lone noise MacReady hears from the other underground chamber. Alone, MacReady prepares to detonate the charges when the Blair monster, larger than ever, emerges from beneath the floor. MacReady attacks it with a stick of dynamite, which sets off the rest of the charges and destroys the entire facility.
After some time, MacReady is shown wandering alone in the flaming rubble. He encounters Childs, who claims to have seen Blair and gotten lost while chasing him in the snow. With the polar climate closing in around them and with no way to determine whether or not either of them is really human, they acknowledge the futility of their distrust, sharing a drink as the camp burns and the cold returns.
This is a remake of the classic 1951 Howard Hawks-Christian Nyby film The Thing from Another World, Carpenter's film is a more faithful adaptation of the novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr. which inspired the 1951 film. In the original film the creature had no shape shifting abilities.
- The film has a lot of similaries to At the Mountains of Madness. They are both about scientists in the same remote location (Antarctica) having to deal with shape shifting extraterrestrials (in the book they are Shoggoths). Also like much of Lovecraft's work there are no female characters.
- Both Nick Nolte and Jeff Bridges were first offered Kurt Russell's role.