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Why The Thing is the best Horror Movie

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I pretty much want to discuss John Carpenters The Thing and why I think it's great compared to most horror movies to date.


The Thing covers so much vital factors in making a horror scenario such as;


1. Isolation. Being in a remote base in Antarctica during a storm has completely cut off communications, back-up or chance to escape. The purpose for isolation is logical and effective to the plot.


2. Rational. Speaking of logic, the characters actions make sense and believable. They try to come up with ways to identify and end the monster despite how tense the situation is while it's trying to foil them. Many horror movies have characters making stupid decisions just to lazily cause a death scene. For example "oh I just lost track of my friend after hearing a yelp. Hey look there is a trail of blood leading to a suspicious pitch black room with terrible unnatural sounds coming within, I better stick my head and and walk around asking if someone is there". This kills the movie for me.


3. It doesn't have the overused creepy little girls or some possessed person watching you sleep. Ok the latter is creepy but the little girl trope is just silly. However The Thing does give off the feeling that they are always being watched.


4. Doesn't completely rely on jumpscares or music cues to tell us we should scared. Those elements that are in majority of horror movies today feel cheap and are training wheels for horror. As for The Thing, the sound of the Antartic winds, the silence between conversations, the subtle sounds, the creepy soundtrack, I love it. This creates excellent atmosphere.


5. Intriguing and mysterious Antagonist. Many horror movies arguably do a decent job with this but I give The Thing an A+ for creativity, mystery and being a terrifying concept.


There are more elements I can share but these are most of the important points I can think of. Do you share my thoughts on this?

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I rewatched the John Carpenter version recently as well as the remake for this reason. You raise some really good points yeah. The setting and isolation in particular is something that always stands out, isolated setting is used really well in games like Bioshock for example, or the movie Sphere, which are both underwater locations cut off from the rest of the world. The part that separates the thing is, in Bioshock the Splicers and Andrew Ryan are obviously highly external factors, and in Sphere the conflict is almost too otherworldy to be really tangible.


In the Thing, it incorporates elements of body horror/virus/plague films at the same time as it uses the mystery that it could be anyone among the group, it creates a lot of suspense. I forget where I heard that point, maybe some commentary or youtube video, the idea that it could be the character's friend or whatever. Other media that has a similar isolated feeling the conflict is either really external or environmentally based, where in the Thing it implies a sort of undercurrent of suspicion and dread. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, or indeed the game Snatcher by Hideo Kojima have similar elements of "human body mimic" but again those take place in widespread urban settings.


The choice to put it in a snow-locked region calls back to the works of H.P Lovecraft and stories like "at the Mountains of Madness" which gives the Thing a rich literary history as well which only helps to reinforce the atmosphere of dark isolation and otherworldly horror. The high contrast between the dark night/bright snow and the mechanical interiors of the station are another thing I've always liked about it, it's similar to Star Wars or Alien in the way that there is really high contrast and variation in environment, even though in the case of the Thing or Alien it's a relatively small space that the movie takes place in.

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Yeah I came to the conclusion The Thing is pretty much the perfect horror movie and a case of perfect cinema. And John Carpenter is definitely my favourite film maker of all time, I mean they don't quite reach The Thing's level of perfection but Escape From NY, Halloween, Assault on Precinct 13, Prince of Darkness, They Live and In the Mouth of Madness... all made by the same director. Just the best run in my opinion of genre film making any Director has had. And you know what? I once read an interview where he talked about being quite a fan of Devilman and he did try to obtain the rights to make a live action version of it. If only. There's definitely a better parallel dimension than this one where that movie was made. 


I would add that the quality and imaginitive use of the creature's effects in The Thing was spot on and adds to the scenario a lot. 

Edited by hybridial

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The Thing is great. The awesome practical effects have a certain macabre portrayal that CGI can't quite mimic (see what I did there?!). The scene where Bennings lets out that other-worldly scream after showing his horribly mutated hands chills me to the bone. Somone on YouTube left a comment that I liked a lot about that scene that went something along the lines of this: "That scream is a melting pot of every person the Thing has ever assimilated."

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Not to derail the topic but those reasons you list could also apply to Alien, which is another great movie in the same vein.


Also, I think Kurt Russell is a supremely underrated actor, and even this relatively early entry in his career showcases his abilities.

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I don't understand why people feel compelled to declare something the best something. Many things are awesome for different reasons and we all perceive things differently. By all means discuss and praise away, but don't say something is the best.


And yes, the thing does it's thing very very well, an undoubted classic.



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Alien and the Thing are very similar that's true, they both deal with an otherworldly terror that uses the team members as hosts. They both have the viewer wondering who is next. The aspect Thing has over Alien is that with the Thing it's not just occupying the other crew members, it IS the other crew members. It ramps up the feeling from just dread to that level of paranoid suspicion. There's even scenes in the movie that highlight this, where they're all questioning who's who.


And people feel the need to say something is the best because it's their opinion. It's like they teach you in english class, when you're writing an essay you don't say "I think..." because everyone knows that since you're writing the essay it's what you think."best" and "favorite" are almost interchangable in casual conversation.

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I was just talking to my wife about "creepy little girls in white dresses" ghost movies and how most of them are not at all scary and a colossal waste of time if you enjoy horror films.


The Thing is a timeless classic because it explored cosmic horror in an earlier era of cinema and pulled it off successfully.

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Definitely one of my top 5 favorite movies. I can't exactly pin point what it is about the characters, but other than them being rational, they're also instantly likable. Even the ones that act like assholes, you can sympathize with them given the situation. I also like that all of the characters are men, so they can't pull the cliche, patronizing crutch of having the damsel in distress have to fend off by herself in a shallow attempt at building tension. I can't take that seriously anymore outside of campy b-movies.


The creature and the effects are unmatched by anything else, and it's funny that people would compare it to Mountains of Madness because the idea of the creature itself is something I could very well see being in an Lovecraft story. I'm gonna be the first to admit that I haven't watched the remake(reboot? prequel?). I can't motivate myself to watch those, even when people say they're good like the Evil Dead remake for example. But from the trailer I kinda feel like it lost all it's magic. It uses CGI that ironically looks more dated than the effects in the 80's movie, and just by surface look at it I can already tell the characters won't do it for me. Maybe I'm just judging a book by it's cover, but then again a trailer is supposed to hype you, and the remake's trailer did the opposite for me.


On 2/9/2020 at 5:38 PM, Chezza said:

3. It doesn't have the overused creepy little girls or some possessed person watching you sleep.

This also annoys me to no end. I blame the 2002 Ring remake for taking this trope and kicking it into overdrive. I love that movie, but I hate Sadako and Kayako clones.


Man, I'm getting too cynical. I remember when I could just turn off my brain and enjoy dumb things -.-

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The Thing is one of my favorite all-time horror movies but Alien beats it by value of having slightly more interesting characterization and much more visual richness. A month and a half ago, I actually rewatched The Thing with a few friends who had never seen it. The best parts:


The chest-rip scene elicited an "Oh my Gooood" from nearly everyone.

Palmer's joint was so huge a smoker friend of mine started laughing.

Palmer's transformation resulted in more "Oh my God!" goodness. Definitely the sickest sequence in the film.

I know it's kind of a circlejerky thing to state, but The Thing does atmosphere incredibly well. The shots of the outpost's empty hallways as the men go into Blair's shack are eerie as shit.

Nobody knew who was human at the end, and it put the biggest smile on my face to say "That's very intentional".

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Good points regarding Alien sharing similarities. Also I always praise the first two movies as doing female characters (well mostly ripley) well. Good likeable and believable character.


@Mr. Freeze What do you mean by visual richness? As my impression is that The Thing has much more visuals happening with the monster in particular.

Edited by Chezza

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Alien is gorgeous in it's visual design, from the Xenomorph to the Nostromo and everything in between. The combination of opposing art styles in Ron Cobb and H.R. Geiger created a visual spectacle the likes of which still haven't been surpassed. The Thing on the other hand is beautifully shot and has amazing creature design, but the scenery is more simplistic. There's a research facility in the snow, and we the audience know on some level what they look like. When you combine the Space Trucker aesthetic (which was new in itself) with the dark sexuality of Geiger's art you have a lot more on screen that inspires wonder and terror. 


Sorry but as much as I love The Thing, this...


...can't compare to this...


...in terms of sheer "holy shit!" factor. 

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A lot has already been said and while I'm not particularly fond of "the best X ever" formula, I share OP enthusiasm for the Thing.


I agree heartily with point n°4, this is what the movie is all about in my opinion. The constant blowing of the wind that takes a toll on everyone (including the viewer) while giving the feeling of silence at the same time.


It sounds contradictory but think about it this way ; we enjoy a diversity of sounds so that our minds don't get tired. But if for instance, you use a jackhammer for 3 hours straight, your mind will quickly get saturated to the point it becomes deafening.


Just take a look around and you see things and people that are supposed to produce other sounds but it's actually drowned by the jackhammer noise. And there you have it: the definition of a true deafening silence. When you take off your ear protection and stop the machine, it feels like you're discovering the sounds that you're so familiar with once again ("oh, that's the sound of the tramway", "oh, that's the children playing in the park next to me"). You feel vulnerable, exposed. Someone could catch you by surprise very easily.


Fortunately for us, that nauseating feeling goes away very quickly. As a matter of fact, it's the same for a lot of things, our minds are constantly refreshing.


In the context of the movie, you have the characters constantly on the look out for something bad but it's very hard to concentrate with their hearing saturated by the winds and/or by the humming of the station indoors. This is true anguish.





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