Musings in the Dark: Horror 102: Alien Horror


Horror 102: Alien Horror

Man, this was a toss-up between two of my absolute faves: Alien and The Thing.  Both are horror classics.  Both were game-changers; Alien more so than The Thing, but when I did mental gymnastics trying to decide between the two...I chose The Thing.  Why?  Because of that ending.

Based off J. W. Campbell’s short story “Who Goes There?”, John Carpenter’s The Thing came out in 1982, around the same time as Steven Spielberg’s E.T.  Most movie-goers at the time preferred to see a benevolent alien rather than a malevolent one, and as a result, The Thing flopped hard in theaters.  But over time, people have come to realize that The Thing is an excellent film; one of Carpenter’s best works and perhaps one of the greatest movies of all time.

The movie opens in Antarctica with a dog being chased by two men in a helicopter set to Ennio Morricone’s fantastic score.  One of the men is shooting at the dog and the dog wisely runs to the American research station for sanctuary.  The American researchers are warned by the frantic men (who are Norwegian) that the dog is not what it appears to be.  The Norwegians die (one by gunshot, the other by exploding helicopter) and the dog is free to roam the American compound.  Soon after its arrival, we see the dog enter the room of one of the researchers.  Later, the dog is put in the kennel and shortly thereafter, it morphs into its alien form and kills the other dogs.  

R.J. MacReady, played by Kurt M’f’n Russell and his beard, sees the mutating beast and fires it up with a flamethrower.  Afterwards, the remains of the monster are examined by Dr. Blair, played by Mr. Diabeetus himself, Wilford Brimley.  Blair explains that the creature assimilates other organisms and makes a perfect copy; one that is indistinguishable from the original organism.  Because we know that the dog visited one of the crewmen prior to being put in the kennel, we can logically suspect that the crewman was assimilated.  The rest of the movie is a brilliant exercise in perfect paranoia.  Who is human and who is a Thing?  And if someone is a Thing, we don’t know until Carpenter reveals it.  The best reveal comes about halfway through, when Norris collapses and Dr. Copper tries to revive him.  The second best comes when MacReady performs his infamous blood test.

Anyway, the paranoia and lack of trust between and among the men intensifies, and as this is happening, they are being assimilated one by one.  MacReady finally takes a stand and blows up the facility and while he sits and watches everything burn, Childs (played by the awesome Keith David), comes up and sits with him.  The movie ends with the men sharing a bottle of what looks to be alcohol.  What you’re supposed to take from this is that neither man is sure of the status of the other.  Have either (or both) been assimilated? You can’t be sure.  And that’s the genius of this film. 


  1. I am loving the articles. They are right on time for Halloween. I am going to re-watch some of your favs this weekend if I can find them.

    Congratulations on your new position. As a long time fan of your stories I wish you nothing but the best.

    1. Thanks, Cice527! I appreciate that. Life is great so far. Halloween is my favorite time of year and you just can't beat a good horror movie.

      Good to hear from you again. Hope all is well!

  2. I saw clips of this on YouTube but it was the remake.

    1. Naw honey...ya gots to find the original. This movie is damn near perfect.

  3. Seems like you don't want me to be able to sleep at night. LOL!!!


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