John Carpenter is now regarded as one of the pioneers of American horror cinema, known for creating wildly popular gems such as Halloween as well as cult classics like They Live. However, the critical reception of many of Carpenter’s well-known works was very mixed when the films first came out which contributed to his cult status.
In recent years, Carpenter has contributed to new additions to the iconic Halloween franchise by working with the filmmakers as a creative consultant. Carpenter has also focused on his music career and his unique ability to construct moving scores for films that have influenced many great talents, including Hans Zimmer who later cited him as a source of inspiration.
Among Carpenter’s most famous films is the 1982 masterpiece The Thing, a movie that is often named among the greatest horror films ever made. At the time of its release, however, it was written off as a critical and commercial failure by audiences and cultural commentators who failed to see the artistic value in Carpenter’s vision.
The Thing is a thoroughly engaging sci-fi thriller that revolves around an alien entity with the horrifying ability to assimilate living beings. An essential horror experience, The Thing is a fan-favourite of modern audiences as well and many fans revisited it when the pandemic broke out all over the world.
While reflecting on the relevance of the film, Carpenter commented in an interview: “The Thing is a film about an alien—but it can be read as a metaphor for this pandemic, this disease. The appearance of normalcy is all-important for the creature. It wants to imitate perfectly, so no one can tell who’s sick and who’s not.”
The director talked about his own childhood and said that there was an omnipresent climate of scepticism and suspicion now. “In the United States there’s always been a cult of ignorance,” he said. “Always has been, and it’s just the way it is. Somehow it’s in our nature. Some people believe that ignorance is just as good as expertise. And it’s not true, but maybe it seems like freedom,” Carpenter mused.
Although it has become an indispensable horror classic, The Thing was labelled as “the most hated film of all time” by Cinefantastique and was described as “instant junk” and “a wretched excess”. Thankfully, newer audiences are continuing to discover the brilliance of Carpenter through his popular gems as well as his cult masterpieces.