Can one write enough articles about John Carpenter’s masterpiece of a remake, The Thing? The correct answer is no. The Thing turns 35 today, so let’s celebrate (as if you needed another reason to pop this bad boy in the Blu-Ray player).
The Thing opened on June 25, 1982, the same day as Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and just two weeks after the release of Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Because of this (Carpenter believed that audiences wanted a more positive outlook at alien life), the film was a critical and commercial flop. It was greeted with negative reviews upon its release and earned just $3.1 million on its opening weekend, placing it at the number eight spot at the box office.
The Thing went on to gross $19.6 million against its $15 million budget, which doesn’t account for marketing and advertising costs. Of course, the film was eventually reappraised by critics and is now considered one of Carpenter’s best films, if not one of the best films ever made, horror or otherwise.
In fact, the film has had a rather significant impact on pop culture over the last 35 years. It seems that any film or television show includes a reference to the 1982 classic (okay, that’s an exaggeration, but just look at this list!), so here are some of the more memorable references to the film over the past 35 years.
Tomb Raider III: The Adventures of Lara Croft
Not only does much of the climax of this video game take place in an Antarctic research base where the human researchers have been turned into mutants by an alien that crash landed on earth, but the final boss is a giant spider creature with a human head! They should have just called this Tomb Raider III: The Thing.
This one probably needs to explanation, but screenwriter Kevin Williamson pays homage (Or rips off? Your call.) to the infamous blood testing scene in The Thing with a slight tweak (ha ha) on the formula. The students in this alien invasion thriller learn that the aliens are susceptible to a homemade drug made by Zeke (Josh Hartnett) so they all take turns snorting it to figure out if any of them have been infected. Spoiler alert: it’s Delilah (Jordana Brewster).
Ghosts of Mars
I couldn’t find a clip of this, but John Carpenter references one of his best films in one of his worst films. Pam Grier’s character asks the question “Who goes there?”, which is the name of the novella that Carpenter’s film (and the original) is based on. She probably shouldn’t have asked, because this is what happens to her later:
Resident Evil 4
The Resident Evil franchise is known for its eclectic set of monsters for your character to fight against, but the dogs in Resident Evil 4 dog transformationfrequently have tentacles from the Las Plagas parasite emerge from their spines. This is a direct homage to the in The Thing.
Attentive viewers will see that the funeral home is in James Gunn’s 2006 film Slither is owned by none other than R.J. MacReady, the name of Kurt Russell’s character in The Thing. Maybe he did make it out of Antarctica after all?
The opening scene of Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novella features quite a few Easter Eggs for horror fans, the most high profile of which is some Dark Tower artwork and a poster of The Thing hung up on a wall.
Monsters Vs. Aliens
In the 2009 film Monsters Vs. Aliens, the Missing Link (Will Arnett) escapes from a block of ice much like the titular baddie in Carpenter’s 1982 film.
Futurama: “Murder on the Planet Express”
The 24th episode of the seventh season of Futurama is a full-on parody of The Thing. The episode sees the core cast of characters thrust into a team-building trust exercise in which an alien slowly begins shape-shifting into them and eating the other characters.
Celebrity Deathmatch: “Deathbowl ’98”
In this episode of the hilariously inappropriate MTV series, Charles Manson bites a chunk of flesh out of Marilyn Manson’s shoulder and spits it out. After a brief moment, the chunk of flesh grows legs and walks away, much like Norris’s (Charles Hallahan) head in The Thing.
The X-Files: “Ice”
The eighth episode of the first season of The X-Files took a lot of inspiration from The Thing in that it put Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) in an Alaskan outpost where an alien parasite has begun taking over the team of geophysicists who are stationed there. Before they know it, they are turning against everyone on their team, which includes Desperate Housewives‘ Felicity Huffman, as they try to figure out who is infected and who isn’t.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: “Buried Secrets”
April O’Neil’s mother returns to her in the third episode of the third season of Nickelodeon’s hit cartoon series, but she is actually a Kraang creature posing as her to get intel from the Turtles. The tentacles that emerge from her are highly reminiscent of the creature in The Thing.
The Hateful Eight
Not only does Quentin Tarantino’s latest film feature a group of people locked in an icy setting as they try to figure out who among them is working against them, but it also features an Academy Award-winning score by Ennio Morricone, the same man who composed the score for The Thing!
Any science fictions television set in the 80s has to mention The Thing, right? There is a poster for the film in Mike’s house and footage from the film can be seen on science teacher Mr. Clarke’s TV screen in the seventh episode of the series.
There are a lot more references to The Thing out there in popular culture, and I’m sure I’ve missed most of them. What are some of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below and help celebrate The Thing‘s 35th anniversary!