|By AL J. Vermette
As you and your friends slowly freeze to death in what seems to be your last moments on Earth, you
stare each other down wondering who is still human and who among you is The Thing. The creature that
has killed nearly all of your friends and is now setting its sights on the last of your crew has hidden itself
among one of you as it has changed its shape and has become human looking....but far from being
human. If discovered, the beast will regress back into its true form of a monster of unspeakable horror
before killing everyone who learns its dark secret. But the question remains the same...who is human and
who will kill everyone as The Thing?
"Who Goes There" written by science fiction author John W. Campbell under the pen name of Don A.
Stuart, was first published in 1938 in Astounding Stories magazine and later turned into a novella as a
standalone work of fiction. It told the story of a research team working in the frozen world of Antarctica
where they discover a flying saucer that crashed landed on Earth millions of years ago encased in ice.
Along with the ship, they find petrified in the ice what seemed to be an alien being locked away in his
frozen tomb. They cut the creature out in a large block of ice that held the thing and bring it back to the
station to look it over. Soon The Thing awakens from its million year sleep and starts killing off members of
the team as it has the ability to mimic human beings or in-fact any living creature. By taking human form,
the creature could use this power to get in close to its victims pretending it’s their friend until it reveals itself
and the horror that it truly is.
By imitating members of the team, the creature after it kills and consumes them takes on not only their
appearance but also all their memories as well to help keep up the illusion that this is truly the person that it
is impersonating. Soon a panic of who is still human and who is the creature creates fear among the
people as fingers are pointed as anyone could be The Thing. Using whatever they had on hand to fight the
creature, such as flamethrowers to melt unwanted ice or firearms, the creature seemed nearly invincible
due to the fact that each time the monster transforms into a new person, it leaves behind some matter of
itself that can in-turn become someone else even if some of the creature is killed off ending with an
unstoppable creature that can’t be stopped. The Thing hides within the stations team members as well as
in even their sled dogs until it’s time to strike and consumes another victim.
"Who Goes There" was first made into a Hollywood movie in 1951 as "The Thing From Another Wold"
but this time the creature was of a single humanoid creature who very much like Alien 29 years later, hunts
its prey one by one as the people of the station fight to survive. Gone was the story of a shape shifting
thing that imitated its victims in favor of one tall man like creature played by the 6 foot 7 actor James
Arness. His height plus his creature costume gave the film a very imposing Thing even though it did not
follow the original story and its masquerade of humans and other lifeforms. Other than the monster itself,
"The Thing From Another World" plays out much the same as the book with its hero's discovering the
downed spacecraft and its frozen creature within the ice.
The mix of sci/fi and horror played well in the movie as the creatures hunts and is hunted by the
members of a North Pole scientific outpost who calls in the Air Force when the spaceship is found locked
in the ice. It is there that the creature is also found only yards away from the ship as it too is trapped within
the ice. Like in the book, once the ice is melted the alien wakes and soon is on a killing spree taking out
anyone it finds. The Thing in this incarnation was a creature that need to feed on blood and unlike the
shape changing beast of the book and the two other films to follow, this was a creature that had a body
structure closer to that of a plant giving it faster than human healing powers from guns and other weapons
could not harm it.
In 1982 John Carpenter took his own shot at making "Who Goes There" after his horror film
"Halloween" was such a runaway success." Carpenter's film with the simpler and yet forbidding title of that
of "The Thing" returned the space monster back to the human impersonating lifeforms that the author
envisioned in his 1938 story. The movie opens with a helicopter in chase of a dog as a man fires upon it
running along the snow and ice. The dog enters the encampment of a American researcher center and
soon as the chopper lands the gunman is shot and killed by the centers leader who sees this as an attack
on them and through an accident the copper is destroyed making the whole event a mystery. While the
dog is taken in and added to the rest of the sled team, the men of the unit backtrack where this chopper
came from and discover that it came from a Norwegian camp much like their own some miles away. It was
the Norwegian team that first found the doomed spacecraft and the alien creature within.
Soon things go array when the dog that they took in turns out to be an unspeakable nightmarish
eponymous creature that can assume the identity of anyone in the camp. The creature itself is brought to
life not by an actor as in the 1951 film but by amazing puppets and other on stage special effects that
created a monster of truly nightmare proportions. Make-up artist and effects master Rob Bottin was the
mastermind creating the creature as people and even the dog turned from human to a terrifying monster
unlike anything ever seen before on film. As in the book, people start pointing fingers at each other
thinking that anyone or any living thing in the camp site could be The Thing.
John Carpenter's "The Thing" was released in June of 1982 and shockingly it was not a hit when
release in the theaters and reviews for the movie were poor as well, (I know shocking). But the film took on
new life once hitting VHS in the video stores where horror and science fiction fans discovered this
masterpiece. In the years that followed, it is now thought of as one of the best sci/fi horror films of all time. It
was also one of a very limited movies ever made with an all male cast....meaning not a single woman was
in the cast. After a long battle with The Thing, only two members of the station are left alive in the end. One
human....as the other is for sure The Thing. They sit waiting for the other to turn as they both slowly freeze in
the cold. In the end one will die... the human as the other will freeze only to be found one day and released
upon a new set of victims as it is really The Thing. The viewer of the movie never learns the outcome of
who is the human and who is The Thing leaving the viewer guessing as to who was who.
Although John Carpenter's 1982 movie so far has never had a movie sequel, there was however a
third person shooter video game that did pick up where the movie left off. "The Thing" 1982 video game
was released as an Xbox, Play Station 2 and Game Boy game that brought members of a Special
Forces unit to the Antarctic station to find out what happened when they outpost goes dark and no one can
be contacted. The team soon discovers the creature and like the outpost members before them are soon
in a battle to the death to kill The Thing. Unlike the movie, upon its release the game had very positive
reviews and was even given the blessing of John Carpenter himself and even voiced one of the games
characters. The game "The Thing" went on the sell over a million units of the horror sci/fi game and there
was even plans for a follow up until in 2003 the company who now owned the game Computer Artworks
The video game however did answer the question as to who lived at the end of the movie and who
was The Thing. In the game, its story line was that when the rescue team arrives they find the frozen body
of Childs in the snow implying that it was MacReady, played by Kurt Russell, who was after all The Thing. In
the game, the team also find the recordings made by MacReady while still human talking about what was
happening in his camp and the creature that has invaded it. As the game player, you fight The Thing as it
is still rampaging within the station and hiding within the new people that have been sent in to discover the
horror within the outpost.
In 2011, 29 years after Carpenter's movie, a new film called "The Thing" was released telling the story
before the story. It told of what really happened at the Norwegian outpost before the events in the John
Carpenter film. It showed how the Norwegian team first discover the spaceship locked in the ice and the
creature that they brought back to their camp. Still alive as the ice it’s encased in melts, the beast soon
starts mimicking members of the station as it kills everyone. Also set in 1982 just days before it comes to
the American camp, the movie like the film before sports a very scary and sinister monster brought to life
by CGI special effects opposed to Rob Bottin's on sight practical effects of rubber mechanical puppets
controlled by cables and wire. The updated from on-set practical effects to the now norm of going with CGI
was somewhat of a clean transition. Although the creature effects were all done in post-production
compared to being on the set with the actors, still looked pretty good and The Thing itself played true to
who and what it was. As before, the gore was high and the body count rose as the monster hid within
members of the outpost making everyone mistrust each other to the point that The Thing could be anyone.
Upon its release like the ‘82 classic. it was not well liked and although it is never been loved as well as
the 1982 Carpenter movie, it’s still a solid film and horror movie in its own right. When this film was first
proposed to Universal Studios, they knew that trying to remake the 1982 movie could never be done, so
taking the story of the shape shifting alien in a new direction by going back to the original source where the
monster was first found along with his ship was a shoe in. We always knew from the Carpenter film that
before the creature came to the American outpost, it attacked and killed everyone in the Norwegian camp.
This was their story and how the monster was found.....bringing the story full circle.
Today and to date, "Who Goes There" has been turned into three movies and a video game and
although there are no plans on making a new The Thing anytime soon....like the creature itself The Thing,
may just return in a new form or format.