The Thing (also known as John Carpenter's The Thing) is a 1982 American science fiction horror film directed by John Carpenter, written by Bill Lancaster, and starring Kurt Russell. The film's title refers to its primary antagonist: a parasitic extraterrestrial lifeform that assimilates other organisms and in turn imitates them. The Thing infiltrates an Antarctic research station, taking the appearance of the researchers that it absorbs, and paranoia occurs within the group.
Ostensibly a remake of the 1951 Howard Hawks–Christian Nyby film The Thing from Another World, Carpenter's film is in fact an adaptation more faithful in its premise and characters to the novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr. which inspired the 1951 film, and not a remake in the conventional sense. Carpenter considers The Thing to be the first part of hisApocalypse Trilogy, followed by Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth of Madness. Although the films are unrelated, each features a potentially apocalyptic scenario; should "The Thing" ever reach civilization, it would be only a matter of time before it consumes humanity and takes over the Earth.
On June 25, 1982, The Thing opened #8 in 840 theaters and remained in the top ten box office for three weeks. The lower-than-expected performance has been attributed to many factors, including Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, which was also released by Universal Studios at the same time and features a more optimistic view of alien visitation.However, The Thing has gone on to gain a cult following with the release on home video. The film was subsequently novelized in 1982; adapted into a comic book miniseries in 1991 and published by Dark Horse Comics titled, The Thing From Another World; a 2002 video game sequel titled The Thing; and a prequel film with the same title, released on October 14, 2011.
A Norwegian helicopter with two Norwegians aboard pursue an Alaskan Malamute to an American Antarctic research station. As the Americans run out, a Norwegian rifleman attempts to throw a thermite charge at the dog, but accidentally drops it- which destroys the helicopter and kills the pilot in the process. The rifleman keeps firing at the dog until he is killed by Lt. Garry, the station commander. Helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady and Dr. Copper fly to the Norwegian camp for answers, but find only a burned ruin, with the body of a man who committed suicide and a large block of ice with a hollowed cavity. Outside they discover the burned remains of a humanoid corpse with two faces. Back at the station, the biologist Blair performs an autopsy on the creature, but finds only a normal set of internal organs.
Clark kennels the Malamute with the station's sled dogs, where it begins to metamorphose and attacks them. MacReady pulls the fire alarm when he hears the commotion, gathers everybody to the kennel, brings a shotgun, and calls for a flamethrower. Childs incinerates half of the creature, but the other half escapes. Blair's analysis leads him to believe it is capable of perfectly imitating other lifeforms, and he withdraws from the others. The Norwegians' records lead the team to a crater containing a flying saucer and a hole left by the block of ice from which they suspect the creature came. Fuchs tells MacReady that according to Blair's journal, the creature's "dead" remains are still active on a cellular level. Blair calculates that if the alien escapes to a civilized area, all life on Earth will be assimilated in three years.
Bennings is killed by the creature but he is caught outside by the team before his metamorphosis is complete, and MacReady burns him before he can escape. Garry realizes Blair was absent. MacReady sees Blair running inside and discovers he has wrecked the helicopter; Childs confirms that Blair also destroyed the other transports and killed the remaining sled dogs. The team corners him as he is destroying the radio, then locks him in the tool shed. Determined to learn who is infected, they discover the blood stores have been sabotaged before they can perform the blood-serum test Copper recommends, and the men begin to turn on each other. MacReady takes charge and orders Fuchs to continue Blair's work, but Fuchs disappears when the power goes out. As a storm closes in, MacReady, Windows, and Nauls continue the search for Fuchs outside where they eventually find his burned body. Windows goes back to tell the others, and MacReady takes Nauls to check out his shack, where the lights have mysteriously come on. On the way back, Nauls cuts MacReady loose from the tow line, assuming he has been assimilated when he finds a torn shirt with MacReady's name on it. As the team debates MacReady's fate, he breaks in and threatens to destroy the station with a bundle of dynamite if they attack him, and Norris suffers a heart attack.
When Copper attempts to revive Norris by defibrillation, his chest gapes open and closes like a giant mouth, biting off Copper's arms, who quickly dies from the injuries. MacReady incinerates the creature and orders Windows to tie up everyone for a new test, killing Clark when he tries to resist. MacReady explains his theory that every piece of the alien is an individual organism with its own survival instinct that will react defensively when threatened. One by one he tests everyone's blood with a heated piece of copper wire. They are all still human except Palmer, who begins to metamorphose and attacks Windows, forcing MacReady to burn them both.
Leaving Childs on guard, the others head out to test Blair, only to find that he has tunneled under the tool shed. They realize that Blair is an alien who has scavenged the equipment he appeared to destroy in order to build a small escape craft. MacReady speculates that the alien intends to freeze itself until a rescue team arrives in the spring. They decide to dynamite the complex hoping to destroy the alien but Garry and Nauls are killed by Blair before they finish setting the explosives underground. Blair transforms into a larger monster and attacks, but MacReady dynamites the monster and the base explodes as he escapes.
Stumbling through the burning ruins, MacReady finds Childs, who claims he got lost in the storm while pursuing Blair. Exhausted and with virtually no hope of survival, they acknowledge the futility of their distrust, sharing a bottle as the camp burns.
- Kurt Russell as MacReady
- Wilford Brimley as Blair
- Keith David as Childs
- Donald Moffat as Garry
- Richard Masur as Clark
- David Clennon as Palmer
- Charles Hallahan as Norris
- Joel Polis as Fuchs
- T. K. Carter as Nauls
- Richard Dysart as Copper
- Thomas G. Waites as Windows
- Peter Maloney as Bennings
- Norbert Weisser as Norwegian
- Larry J. Franco as Norwegian Passenger with Rifle