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The Thing

Rejected by reviewers and moviegoers put off by John Carpenter's wholehearted embrace of state-of-the-art special effects technology, this remake of the 1951 classic THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD was a box office failure, but subsequently acquired a strong following. Deep in the frozen and isolated Antarctic, members of a 12-man American scientific expedition are startled when a helicopter swoops into view. Its occupants appear to have gone mad: They're pursuing a sweet-faced husky with firepower more suitable to all-out war. The helicopter explodes, killing the crew, and the men take the dog back to base camp. The expedition is a mix of scientists — senior biologist Blair (Wilford Brimley), biologist Fuchs (Joel Polis), meteorologist Bennings (Peter Maloney), geophysicist Norris (Charles Hallahan) and staff physician Dr. Copper (Richard A. Dysart) — and support staff — chopper pilot MacReady (Kurt Russell), station manager Garry (Donald Moffat), mechanics Childs (Keith David) and Palmer (David Clennon), radio operator Windows (Thomas G. Waites), dog handler Clark (Richard Masur) and cook Nauls (T.K. Carter) — trapped in close quarters and aware that once the winter weather settles in, there's no way out of the camp, no hope of help from the outside world and no chance of surviving in the bitter cold for long. The team members are already on edge, simultaneously bored and restless, but their workaday routine of maintenance chores, computer chess games and petty squabbling comes to an abrupt end when the rescued dog mutates into a vicious, tentacled horror that MacReady manages to repel with a flame-thrower. Desperate to find out what manner of monster is in their midst, the men head for the nearest neighboring research station and find it burned to the ground. They learn that its Norwegian crew discovered an alien craft imbedded in the ice and, to their everlasting regret, also excavated what they thought was an alien corpse. By the time they realized it was a living, parasitic organism that could move from host to host, it was too late. With its fades to blinding white and its atmosphere of testosterone-fueled paranoia, Carpenter's remake hews more closely to the source material — John W. Campbell, Jr.'s 1938 novella "Who Goes There?" — than THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD and is a masterful exercise in claustrophobic suspense. The strong cast brings the somewhat underwritten characters to vivid life, and the elaborate special effects (designed by then 22-year-old Rob Bottin) set a high standard for films that followed.