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How Quentin Tarantino's 'Reservoir Dogs' was inspired by 'The Thing'

@Russellisation

A self-confessed lover of horror movies, Quentin Tarantino has embraced aspects of the very best genre films for use in his own films, from the violence of Kill Bill to the pulpy chaos of From Dusk Till Dawn. Whilst the films of Takeshi Miike and William Friedkin among others inspired the filmmaker, as he recently told Steven Colbert. “I love horror movies, I’m a big horror movie fan. I don’t get scared in horror movies, I respond to suspense…I can jump by a ‘boo’ scare but that’s not really terror. I don’t get scared in movies. The Thing I got scared in”.

Directed by the great John Carpenter, the master of cult filmmaking who was also responsible for Escape from New York, Halloween and Big Trouble in Little China, The Thing is a tense psychological horror that plays on the cosmic fears of the unknown. Starring Kurt Russell, Keith David, T. K. Carter and Donald Moffat, the story follows a team of scientists on a remote Arctic research facility who become stalked by an alien who can mimic the human form.

Discussing their love for the 1982 film, Quentin Tarantino announced: “I love Howards Hawks’ The Thing and I love John Carpenter’s The Thing…Rob Bottin’s effects in that movie are some of the greatest practical special effects ever put on a movie theatre screen”. Showering the film with critical acclaim, the director even added: “I think it’s one of the greatest horror movies ever made, if not one of the greatest movies ever made”.

Digging deeper into just why he finds Carpenter’s horror thriller such a success, Tarantino rightly points to the escalating tension of the film, in which the friends and co-workers steadily grow more paranoid of each other. As Tarantino further explains, “The movie makes the paranoia of that so palpable, so real, it’s almost like another character in the movie, the sheer paranoia of it”. 

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Whilst John Carpenter’s The Thing remains an all-time favourite of Tarantino, the film also had a profound impact on the filmmakers’ approach to his debut film, Reservoir Dogs, released in 1992. Elaborating on this, Tarantino clarifies, “By me putting that under a microscope and realising, ‘I’m affected by The Thing for that reason’ and I figure out why it is, when I started writing Reservoir Dogs I was like ‘I need to have that aspect that’s in The Thing”. 

Inspired by the film’s excellently-constructed tension, Tarantino suffused a similar sense of dread into his film starring Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi, Tim Roth and Harvey Keitel. Discussing how he implemented Carpenter’s vision into his 1992 film, Tarantino stated: “I need to trap these bastards in this warehouse and no one can trust anybody else, and I want the paranoia of what’s going on in that warehouse to bounce across the walls and hopefully, like in The Thing, it will go out into the audience”. 

Take a look at the fascinating interview between Quentin Tarantino and Steven Colbert, below.