Paranoia in John Carpenter’s “The Thing”

⁣“Man is the warmest place to hide.”

“The Thing” is John Carpenter’s greatest work; it is also a strong contender for the most entertaining horror film ever made. The film takes place on a remote base camp stationed in Antarctica. Life gets disrupted when the scientists spot a helicopter chasing and attempting to shoot a sled dog on the run. The Americans take the dog in, and before you know it, all hell breaks loose. We get introduced to one of the most memorable movie monsters to ever grace the screen, the thing – a shapeshifting extra-terrestrial being that can assume the shape of its victims.

The practical effects used in this picture are second to none. Almost forty years after it was originally conceived, the wild and gruesome practical effects are more impressive than anything that we’ve seen since. In fact, the animatronic effects are worthy of purchasing this masterpiece alone. But what separates Carpenter’s film from every other gorefest out there is what it says about the human psyche. The most nerve-racking aspect about “The Thing” has nothing to do with the creature, but how the characters react to it.

As soon as the scientists discover the nature of the creature, heightened paranoia begins to feed the ever-growing presence of mistrust. The claustrophobic setting puts us face to face with mankind at his most dangerous. The thing is nothing but a catalyst that brings out the monster inside of us. This film is about the internal conflicts that arise when paranoia penetrates the psyche; it is about what happens when suspicion disturbs the sanity of an entire group. Ennio Morricone’s iconic score plays like an eerie heartbeat to the impending doom lurking inside. John Carpenter’s reimagining of “The Thing from Outer Space” (which was made shortly after World War II when Cold War paranoia was sweeping the United States of America) is the most blood-curdling version of John W. Campbell Jr. short story out there.

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