Man you guys, John Carpenter’s The Thing sure is a fantastic movie. You seen it? Man, it’s so good you guys. Love that movie. The prequel from 2011? Eh, I can take it or leave it but the Carpenter version? Goooooooood, so gooood you guys! Though there’s another Thing movie, this one from the 1950’s. Carpenter’s version is a remake and the guy is such a huge fan of the original that you can also see the characters watching it in the first Halloween movie. I found a good deal on the DVD, then proceeded to leave it unwatched on a shelf for about a year. It’s time to correct that and finally get my 3 dollars’ worth out of this DVD!
Similar to the later versions of The Thing, here a group of people (scientists and officers) are in Alaska (or somewhere cold and snowy at least) when they find the remains of a fallen flying saucer. It’s obviously a huge scientific find but they almost immediately ruin everything by blowing it up with dynamite to get it out of the ice. Thankfully right after this happens they also excavate a huge block of ice that seems to contain a tall, frozen body. Eventually the body is accidently thawed because for some strange reason an electric blanket is left sitting on top of it and everyone finds themselves having to fight back against the alien creature who is made of vegetables and wants to drink human blood.
I was surprised by how few of the plot elements I knew from the Carpenter remake are actually featured here. The creature doesn’t take over the bodies of dogs or people and the whole idea of not knowing who could be The Thing at any given time is not present here. The Thing from Another World is much more straight forward in its narrative. The creature never morphs or changes, it’s just one creature who doesn’t appear until near the end of the film. I haven’t read the original book, Who Goes There, upon which all of these movies are originally based, but I do understand that the idea of the monster changing forms is present there. I understand that this is a different take on the material but I did find a lot of the suspense is taken away by losing this plot point.
What really works well in this movie is the dialogue and the characters. The script is very fast, with people slinging lines back and forth at rapid fire pace. It’s very well written and often quite funny as well. There are a lot of characters in this movie but the spotlight is only given to a handful of them who, while not particularly memorable, are at least fleshed out well enough that you do care what happens to them. It’s the writing, plus the great use of the location, that keeps things interesting during the wait for the creature to actually arrive.
Things definitely do pick up once he makes his first appearance. The first thing I appreciated is that once he thaws and is encountered by one of the characters, everyone else immediately believes this guy when he comes running into the room screaming about how he was attacked by a monster. I’ve said before that I’m always a fan when people are immediately on board with the weirdness that is going on in a horror movie and here is a shining example. The creature doesn’t have a whole ton of screen time but they certainly make good use of what he does have, maintaining a solid level of suspense and employing some great reveal shots.
The absolute show stopper for me though is one hell of a fire stunt that comes right near the end of the movie. The team manages to light the creature on fire, however he still stumbles around the room, trying to attack them and knocking a bunch of stuff over. It’s a seriously impressive stunt that goes on for far longer than I would have anticipated. Perhaps its unfair thinking on my part, assuming these sorts of things weren’t done in the 1950’s, but I was very impressed with what they pulled off here.
While I quite enjoyed The Thing from Another World, it by no means replaces the Carpenter version as my definitive version of The Thing. That to me is still the ultimate practical effects/gore movie and I still revisit it often. The original here is still a very good movie that flies by at a solid pace and remains consistently enjoyable, but at no point does a dog’s head explode or does a man’s stomach bite off another man’s arms, and I’m sorry but for me that puts it in 2nd place. The 2011 remake….well it certainly does exist.