There have been many “things” and “body snatchers” at the movies, and this version from genre director John Carpenter does little to distinguish itself from the others except in the area of gory creature effects. A lot of this is familiar and uninspired – once again an alien life form insidiously imitates human victims – but I bet you’ve never seen a decapitated head sprout crab legs and go skittering along the floor.
Those are the pleasures (if you can call them that) of The Thing, which takes place on a research base in Antarctica (Kurt Russell, Keith David and Wilford Brimley are among the researchers). After a clever opening, in which Norwegian scientists are hunting a dog and we mistakenly root for the dog, the movie eventually settles into a familiar pattern. As an alien organism infects the researchers one by one, they take turns looking at each other suspiciously and bursting apart in increasingly grotesque fashion.
The Thing has been called a Cold War allegory, but reading that into it is doing the movie a very big favor. In reality, this is a film about tentacles and teeth and eyes and orifices and goo, goo, goo. That in itself isn’t bad – David Cronenberg uses such things to create deeply disturbing movie art – but Carpenter seems content to offer little more than soupy effects.