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Before Kurt Russell was Stuntman Mike, he was R.J. MacReady, the main character and leader of a fight to the death between human beings and the unknown in an American Antarctic research facility in John Carpenter’s 1982 film “The Thing.”
The most harrowing idea of human isolation is cleverly explored through Carpenter’s Antarctic set in “The Thing,” the arguable greatest masterpiece amongst his tremendously strong career. Terror and fear are created naturally considering the director’s undisputed ability to bring a sense of uneasiness to the screen – from “Halloween” to “They Live,” Carpenter is clearly the king of horrifying special effects. Many of them within “The Thing” are nauseating, others will startle you, and the rest bring about straight up WTF reactions. They have been copied countlessly, made fun of and even completely remade in the 2011 remake/prequel of the same name. Carpenter’s genius special effects influence is even apparent in Ridley’s Scott’s “Prometheus,” quite a feat considering Scott’s strong reputation within the sci-fi genre – and that the film was released almost 30 years later.
One very important and often overlooked aspect of both the horror and sci-fi genres is that the more seriously the characters take their roles, the better the film tends to be. Kurt Russell & Co. take their roles very seriously because of Carpenter’s adamant insistence on his characters being realistic no matter how unrealistic of a situation they are put in. He could have beefed up the plot all goofy and fluffy, but instead chose to make it much more tense and nerve-racking because that is his style, and it works very well in making it as frightening as it is. Seriously, I don’t think that there are more than a handful of films from the last 50 years scarier than “The Thing” or “Halloween.”
However, there is a possibility that the best aspect of the entire movie is not directly related to the director. In fact, the best thing about “The Thing” may be the lonesome and gloomy score that accompanies it, created by none other than Ennio Morricone. Morricone, who is recognized more within popular culture for having created the scores for the Leone/Eastwood spaghetti westerns of the 1960’s like “The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly,” is a musical mastermind that can truly enhance any film with his understanding of the tone that the director is trying to portray. He understood that however stylish and ahead of its time “The Thing” was in terms of its visual effects, it was still not to be taken lightly no matter how silly the plot seemed.
“The Thing” is example #1 of what happens when talented and diverse collaborators come together – they make a damn great movie. Kurt Russell, John Carpenter and Ennio Morricone already had established careers prior to collaborating on this wonderfully blood-curdling script and made something that would still be totally relevant and just as scary 30 years from then – and take my word for it, John Carpenter’s “The Thing” is still just as scary after every rewatch 30 years after its release.
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