THE THING (John Carpenter, 1982)
136 Metropolitan Ave. between Berry St. & Wythe Ave.
Friday, February 19, and Saturday, February 20, 12:10 am
Series continues through February 27
“What were they doing flying that low, shooting at a dog, at us?” meteorologist Bennings (Peter Maloney) asks Dr. Copper (Richard Dysart) after watching a Norwegian helicopter pilot pursue a dog in the Antarctic, at the beginning of John Carpenter’s The Thing. “Stir crazy. Cabin fever. Who knows?” the doc answers, more than justifying Nitehawk Cinema’s inclusion of the cult film in its February Midnite series Cabin Fever. Carpenter’s 1982 remake of Christian Nyby’s 1951 Cold War sci-fi classic, The Thing from Another World, adds touches of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Alien, with Kurt Russell leading an all-star cast of familiar character actors set up like a Vietnam War platoon. Russell is the cowboy-hat-wearing R. J. MacReady, part of a group of men at U.S. National Science Institute Station 4 in the frozen Antarctic. The crew also includes soft-spoken biologist Dr. Blair (Wilford Brimley), pot-smoking hippie assistant mechanic Palmer (David Clennon), nice guy geophysicist Vance Norris (Charles Hallahan), dedicated dog handler Clark (Richard Masur), funkster cook Nauls (T. K. Carter), assistant biologist Fuchs (Joel Polis), excitable communications officer Windows (Thomas G. Waites), serious station commander M. T. Garry (Donald Moffat), and skeptical chief mechanic Childs (Keith David). Soon some kind of monster from outer space is on the loose, able to disguise itself as other living creatures, making everyone suspicious of one another, the paranoia growing along with the terror and violence.
Based on John W. Campbell Jr.’s novella Who Goes There?, The Thing was the third of former child star Russell’s four films with Carpenter, following Elvis and Escape from New York and preceding Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from L.A. The film was shot by longtime Carpenter and Robert Zemeckis cinematographer Dean Cundey (Halloween, Back to the Future) and written by Bill Lancaster, Burt’s son, who died in 1997 at the age of forty-nine after penning only three scripts: the first two Bad News Bears movies along with The Thing. Carpenter composed the creepy, pulsating music for most of his films, but he got spaghetti Western genius Ennio Morricone to write the score this time around. (Carpenter is about to set out on his first-ever concert tour, coming to New York City in July, playing music from his films as well as songs from his recent albums.) Carpenter’s wife at the time, Adrienne Barbeau, is the voice of the fantastically old-fashioned Chess Wizard computer game that frustrates MacReady. The special effects, by Rob Bottin (The Fog, RoboCop) and Oscar winner Stan Winston (Aliens, Jurassic Park), hold up pretty well, as does the general feeling of peril, although, like with many Carpenter films, the plot doesn’t always make sense. But Carpenter is nothing if not a master of dark mood, and he nails it again in this thriller. The first of Carpenter’s Apocalypse Trilogy (to be followed by Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth of Madness), The Thing is being shown February 19-20 at 12:10 am as part of Nitehawk Cinema’s February Midnite: Cabin Fever series, which concludes February 26-27 with Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.