Dead Air Movie Club: The Thing

We know, we know… it’s been over a month since the last Dead Air Movie Club review. But like that haunted doll we keep throwing away, we’re back. If you need to catch up before diving into this week’s movie, you can check out our previous entries over on Letterboxd.

The film we watched this week likely needs no introduction: The Thing by John Carpenter. This 1982 sci-fi horror classic stars an ensemble cast led by Kurt Russell and centers around a group of Antarctic researchers dealing with an alien lifeform, the shapeshifting “Thing,” that imitates its victims and must be stopped before it takes over the world.

This week, the Club is excited to be joined by Michelle Lega, narrative designer for Interference: Dead Air! As always, spoilers ahead.

The gang enjoys a nice, pleasant bonfire.

Brad: When it came time to do a write-up on The Thing it felt appropriate to revisit what we’d previously written about Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Both are movies that lean heavily into themes of paranoia and distrust and are not afraid to use some visceral body horror to make that point. But despite these similarities, I found that these two movies lend themselves to very distinct viewing experiences. Whereas Body Snatchers focuses on a more widespread paranoia at the societal level, The Thing is much more intimate – focusing on the person to person distrust in a smaller group in a confined space where there’s nowhere to run. It makes the movie feel bleaker; the underlying fear of not knowing if anyone is who they say they are is the same, but the way it plays out in the dark, cold isolation of the Antarctic setting feels more terrifying and personal. It’s not just the abstract concept of “humanity” at stake, it’s your humanity at stake. And every bloody abomination we see serves as a reminder of that. It might not pack quite the same punch as a political allegory that Body Snatchers brings to the table, but when it comes to creating a memorable horror experience, The Thing is hard to beat.

Jared: I technically cheated this week and did not watch The Thing fresh, but since it’s one of my all-time favorites, I’ve seen it several times and feel equipped to talk about it anyway. You’d be hard-pressed finding another film that grapples with the themes of paranoia and distrust as swiftly and effectively as The Thing. It’s truly remarkable how “in-control” Carpenter is over subject matter that quickly becomes anything but, and through the very end, he retains the mystery of who has been compromised by the alien entity. The ending in particular is fascinating to me, an ambiguous declaration that we can never really know who other people are. Trust is a fundamental aspect of our society, and without it, there’s only chaos and disorder. I don’t think I have to explain how that sentiment is as relevant as ever in this day and age. Bolstered by some absolutely disgusting practical effects, The Thing‘s themes become visceral, transcending the “horror” in a way that’s not simply, dare I say, superfluous. Combined with the claustrophobic setting, the intimacy and subsequent violation of trust saturate the movie, as inescapable as the creature itself. To me, this movie is a high-water mark for horror.

Michelle: The Thing is certainly about a thing, and boy do I have some things to say about it! There’s something reassuring about the humanness of the characters in The Thing that’s hard to find in modern films. The scenes aren’t drenched in melodrama or drawn out emotional agony. Though there’s not a lot of characterization there and I had trouble keeping track of which white guy was who and what all their jobs were, the characters aren’t really the point of the movie. These people are smart and act logically, with the exception of how often they split up. (Seriously, why would you keep splitting the group up when the monster’s whole thing is that it will infect someone when nobody’s around!) It’s also a horrendously gory movie. A lot of squelching gaping wet holes and very fake looking blood dripping everywhere. Oh, and I loved the ending. Love a good ambiguous ending and this one really takes the cake.

Disgusting alien shapeshifter… or cake?

Want to join the Dead Air Movie Club? It’s as simple as watching what we watch and leaving a comment! So give The Thing a whirl, and let us know what you think. And while you’re at it, go and wishlist Interference: Dead Air. You won’t regret it.

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