The Thing is a 1982 classic. A science fiction horror film directed by John Carpenter and written by Bill Lancaster it remains a cult-favourite with fairweather fans and cinehiles alike. But it will forever go down in history as one of the finest show of physical special effects that there will likely ever be.
Based on the 1938 John W. Campbell Jr. novella Who Goes There?, The Thing tells the story of a group of American researchers in Antarctica who encounter the eponymous “Thing”, a parasitic extraterrestrial life-form that assimilates, then imitates other organisms. The film stars Kurt Russell as, R.J. MacReady, and features A. Wilford Brimley, T. K. Carter, David Clennon, Keith David, Richard Dysart, Charles Hallahan, Peter Maloney, Richard Masur, Donald Moffat, Joel Polis, and Thomas Waites in supporting roles.
The film itself was produced as an adaptation of the novella following the popular 50s film The Thing from Another World. The film was an untamed beast and went through several directors and writers, each with different ideas on how to approach the story.
But the key reason we all love The Thing came from Rob Bottin and his incredible creature effects. Of the film’s $15 million budget, $1.5 million was spent on Rob Bottin’s creature effects, a mixture of chemicals, food products, rubber, and mechanical parts turned by his large team into an alien capable of taking on any form.
Bottin and Carpenter had previously worked together on The Fog (1980) and so their relationship was already established when the 21-year-old Bottin joined pre-production on The Thing in 1981 with a briefcase full of rubber, gas and glue.
Bottin concocted a huge array of wild ideas from dead baby monsters, to chest mouths and giant spiders legs sprouting from heads. He later admitted he had no idea how his designs would be implemented practically, but Carpenter did not reject them. Carpenter said, “what I didn’t want to end up with in this movie was a guy in a suit … I grew up as a kid watching science-fiction monster movies, and it was always a guy in a suit.”
They went on to create some of the most notable physical special effects we have ever seen and landed The Thing its cult-classic status. It redefined what we thought could be done with materials you could likely find in your garden shed, and it shaped cinema because of it.
While the level of incredible creations Bottin supplies the film with makes the film a cult-classic it is this working relationship which is the real winning factor in this film. With this in mind, we take a look behind the scenes of The Thing.