“Not knowing” is one of the greatest fears man possesses. Imagine being forced to live in a desolate camp in Antarctica, surrounded by your colleagues, only for one of them to be infected by an unknown creature. That would be frightening for any body, and that’s what makes John Carpenter’s 1982 film, The Thing, such a masterpiece. This film contains both the fear of “not knowing” and horrific special effects, allowing for the creation of a truly terrifying film.
Before diving into the truly horrifying element of The Thing, it’s important to note the visuals. This film was made quite a few years before CGI (Computer Generated Images) were in use, allowing the director and crew members to only use physical, practical effects; those are the best.
Without giving too much away, one of the weirdest scenes using special effects takes place in the Husky pen. The alien/creature infects one of the canines, then shows its true form to the other dogs. The skin and fur on its skulls splits from its face, spider-like legs rip through the side of the “dog,” and tentacles emerge from the body, wrapping around other dogs. The scene is truly horrific and just strange, but the visuals are fantastic. It creates a fun, but terrifying atmosphere, something almost all great horror movies should possess.
The fear of “not knowing” is the real trick to this film though. There are many suspenseful scenes, all containing this fear, especially in the second half of the film. After the creature destroys blood samples which could have been used to determine who was the thing or not, the inhabitants of the arctic station are forced to draw their own blood, and have it tested. The audience knows one of the humans isn’t human, but there isn’t a single indication as to who it might be. The crew is tied to a couch while the main protagonist tests the blood. Supsense arises in the audiences chest, making us squirm in our seats, hoping to cease this feeling. Most of the samples are clean, but one isn’t. The blood literally jumps for the petri dish and wriggles to its owner. The creature shows it’s true form in yet again, great visual effects.
Suspense is used perfectly in this movie. The idea of being isolated and not knowing who the killer/thing is, is horrifying. With great visuals, a great story, and horrifying, suspenseful scenes, this 1982 classic will live in infamy as one of the greatest horror films of all time.