The Thing


Classic. Horror. Movie.

In commemeration of the prequel to The Thing being released this month, I have decided to publish my Thing Manifesto composed in the winter of 2009 after finally getting to view this classic horror movie in Blu Ray on a 65″ HD television.  The notion of begin able to finally see who blew the fuse in the lab Fuchs was working in after all of these years sparked an interest in laying out the timeline of the great flick, along with theories and questions still unanswered nearly 30 years after the film’s release.

We’ve paid tribute to John Carpenter’s masterpiece early on in our history here at isnotawasteland.  Go here to read up that that:

Look for a movie review of the prequel coming here shortly…I just have to juggle having our 2nd baby and going to actually see the show first.

Now, on with the good stuff.

The Thing Timeline (assimilation events in italics, theory events in underline)

  • Spacecraft containing extraterrestrial being/beings crashes into Antarctica after apparent trouble.  Frozen in tundra for 100,000 years +.  Had the alien not been discovered, the earth would eventually be doomed, albeit millions of years later.  Through plate tectonics, the Antarctic land mass would again migrate towards warmer climes and melt the ice.  Once freed, The Thing would begin rampaging the planet’s life forms.
  • Norwegians discover spaceship/creature, use thermite bombs to uncover craft and free creature from icepack and cart block back to camp.
  • Ice Block Creature of unknown form frees itself / melted by Norwegians at camp, infects good deal of camp and at least one dog, which escapes the camp.
  • Thing tries to assimilate at least one human and is burned (and put out quickly).
  • Two Norwegians survive, including a pilot, who pursue the dog to Outpost 31, an American research facility.  Norwegian camp destroyed.
  • In failed attempt to kill the Thing-Dog, one Norwegian dies as result of improper thermite bomb handling.
  • Norwegian gunman cannot communicate with American counterparts due to language barrier; shoots at dog, hits Bennings (meteorologist) in the leg.
  • Garry, outpost commander, kills last Norwegian human with pistol shot.  Dog survives and immediately befriends animal wrangler Clark.
  • Despite immediately gaining attention of Clark, the dog is NOT kenneled.
  • Autopsy reveals nothing out of the ordinary physiologically with Norwegian corpses.  Attributed to mental disease.  Need to visit camp to see if survivors there.  Radio communication is not available to report incident/ask for help.
  • MacReady (Army helicopter pilot) and Dr. Copper (medical doctor) fly helicopter to Norwegian camp despite poor weather.
  • Discover camp in shambles.  One crew member committed suicide.  Discover ice block in back room.
  • Twisted pile in front of camp revealed to have human characteristics, leading Dr. Copper to ask “Is that a man in there, or something?”  MacReady and Copper take pile along with papers and video tape back to Outpost 31.
  • Team assembled to view remains from Norwegian camp.  Autopsy ordered on pile.  Normal anatomy found inside the mass, as organs are where they ought to be despite the outward appearance of the discovery.  Blair’s first exposure to cellular matter from a Thing.  If a relatively equally sized organism attempts a takeover of another being, the assimilation is faster, but necessarily more brutal and gory.  More cells can take over more cells quickly.  If Blair ingested or somehow was exposed to Thing cells at a microscopic level, a slower, less violent assimilation could have begun.  This would be due to a vastly smaller quantity of one organism trying to take over a much larger animal…it would take time and not be outwardly violent.
  • Dog is still free to roam around camp.  Seen walking down a hallway and enters a crew member’s roomThe shadow on the wall would indicate it was Norris.  Assimilation takes place silently and unbeknownst to others.  Could be source of mystery ‘dirty drawers’ Nauls found in kitchen after return from spaceship.
  • Dog is discovered again in rec room brushing up against Bennings’ wounded leg.  Clark is instructed to put the dog into the kennel with the other sled dogs.
  • Clark puts dog into kennel and observes it lay down.  The other dogs do not pay any heed to it, and Clark re-enters the main camp.
  • Dog attempts to assimilate the rest of the pack.  The other dogs bark loudly and alert the rest of the crew members that something is wrong.  MacReady sounds the fire alarm after a sound emanates from the kennel.
  • Crew arrives at the kennel to find The Thing copying the dogs, apparently in the middle of the process.  They fire into the writhing mass of dogs, to little effect.  Childs sets the kennel on fire with flame thrower.  The flames are extinguished rather quickly to preserve the camp from the extreme Antarctic cold and may not have done much damage.
  • Corpse of new Dog-Thing taken to lab for autopsy by Blair.  Theory developed by Blair states that the organism they have witnessed is an alien creature that assimilates or copies the cells of other organisms and makes a perfect imitation.  The Dog-Thing was just a partial completion and was ‘destroyed’ before it could finish.  Blair’s second exposure to a Thing corpse.  Could have begun or amplified the slow assimilation process.
  • Blair takes samples from surviving dogs, queries Clark about anything strange with the Norwegian dog and how long he spent along with it.  Clark responds with 60 to 90 minutes, then gets defensive when he realizes Blair is suspicious.
  • Blair uses computer-aided simulation to determine 75% chance of one or more crew members infected by organism and if released out of remote and desolate Antarctica, the entire world animal population would be infected in 30,000 hours from initial contact (3.42 years).
  • MacReady, Norris, and Nauls (cook) make expedition via helicopter to a location where documentation recovered on first trip to Norwegian camp indicated where they had spent most of their time.  Ice block excavation location found.  Norris states that readings from this depth of ice would indicate the ice is at a minimum of 100,000 years old.  Metal scraps are returned to Outpost 31.
  • During the discussion where Childs does not buy into MacReady’s theory of an alien organism unearthed by the Norwegian team, Naul’s chastises the team about disposing of ‘dirty drawer in the kitchen trashcan’.  He throws the garments in MacReady’s direction.
  • Bennings and Windows (radio operator) store the burned remains of the Twisted Pile from Norwegian camp and the Dog-Thing in the store room, asking other crew members to take out their personal belongings.  MacReady is asked by Fuchs (research scientist) to a private chat outside away from the others.
  • Fuchs informs MacReady that Blair has shut himself off from the others, but managed to confiscate one of his lab notebooks.  In Blair’s notes, he indicates that not only could the organism take on “a million different organisms from a million different planets”, but also that there is still cellular activity in the burned remains;  they are not dead yet.
  • Windows enters store room to retrieve Bennings to find his body being assimilated by the Twisted Pile.  Windows runs outside to meet Fuchs and MacReady to tell them Bennings is being attacked.
  • Upon returning to the storage room, Bennings has fled and escaped through a window.  The trio of MacReady, Fuchs, and Windows follow a half-completed assimilation of Bennings to an open area outside.  MacReady kicks over a barrel of kerosene and ignites the fuel and Bennings with a flare.
  • Bennings’ corpse, along with the Dog-Thing and any remains from the store room are buried in a shallow snow grave and thoroughly burned.  The grave is covered over with snow with a tractor once the flames are extinguished.
  • After the others have retreated back inside the compound, MacReady spots Blair running away from the helicopter, axe in hand.  He inspects the chopper and sees that Blair has destroyed the avionics.  A shot is then heard from within, and MacReady sprints into the building.
  • Blair has overpowered Windows in the radio room and is in the process of destroying the equipment so no one can communicate with the outside world.  Blair is going on about how he knows what is going on and will not allow anyone to escape.  He claims The Thing knows it cannot be a dog and expect to reach the coast, which is 1,000 miles away:  “No!  It wanted to be us!!!”
  • Childs returns from the outside and informs the others that Blair has destroyed the choppers and the tractor, plus he killed the rest of the dogs.  This sends Clark to the kennel to witness the killings himself.
  • Blair himself is overpowered by MacReady and others and is injected with morphine and holed up on the tool shed, a lone shack outside the main camp.  Before MacReady leaves him, Blair asks him to be wary of Clark.  At this point, I do not believe Blair had been overtaken by either Norris or Palmer.  However, the slow assimilation process could be silently taking his systems over.
  • Copper thinks he can determine who is human by doing a ‘blood-serum’ test.  By mixing uncontaminated blood from storage with everyone else’s blood, they could know who is human if there is any reaction.  His theory probably would have worked.  The hot wire test entered a threat element, but Copper’s test would have presented a medium to assimilate in a controlled setting.
  • When Copper and Fuchs go to retrieve the blood, the refrigerator is found to have been broken into, but not forcibly, as the lock is undamaged.  The blood is seen pooling on the floor.  Copper admits to being the only one with access to the refrigerator, and Garry admits to having the only key.  Who got to the blood?  If not the key holder or the doctor, it would logically be a Thing.  That would leave Norris or Palmer as the only options.  And, the appearance of the blood rushing out of the refrigerator would suggest it had just recently been tampered with.
  • Windows has paranoia set in and runs for the armory, but Garry corners him with pistol in hand, making Windows place a shotgun on the floor.  Garry eventually surrenders command and MacReady takes over after Norris (appointed by Garry) and Childs (tries to forcibly take it) are denied.  Norris may not have wanted to be in command due to wanting to lurk in the shadows so to speak.
  • Blood is burned similarly as when they burned Bennings’ remains.  MacReady assures the team he is still human and rightly assumes that if all the rest of the crew were Things, they’d all just attack him, signaling that at least one other member is human.  He informs them as well that a major winter storm is about to set in 6 hours from now, and the real fireworks are about to start.
  • Copper, Garry, and Clark are quarantined from the rest of the crew members on suspicion over the blood incident or being too close to the intruding dog.  Fuchs objects to the doctor being tied up since he will need Copper’s help to develop a new test.
  • MacReady makes an audio recording of the events happening at Outpost 31 for future reference.  He admits to not being able to trust anyone and not being able to sleep.  He also theorizes that the Thing rips through your clothing when it takes a body over, leaving him to wonder about the dirty long johns cast aside by Nauls.  The tag has been ripped out of it, making any chance for identification troublesome.  What he does not reveal is the relative size of the garment.  If it were of a larger size, it would incriminate Norris or Blair, possibly even Clark, who represent the largest of the crew members.
  • Fuchs tells MacReady in the lab later on that he thinks if just a small part of this organism is enough to take over an individual, they should all prepare their own food, and going beyond that, they should only eat out of cans.  This would prevent Nauls primarily from infecting the lot, if he were in fact a Thing.
  • Moments after MacReady leaves the laboratory, the fuse is knocked out, making the whole room go dark.  Fuchs arms himself with a fuse and a flare and attempts to make his way out of the room.  As he works his way to the door, a shadowy figure quickly flashes in front of him.  Fuchs runs outside.  When outside, Fuchs comes across a shredded shirt that has ‘R.J. MacReady’ stamped on it. Watching the film in Blu Ray on an HDTV, it appears as though Norris is the culprit who flashed in front of the camera.  Previous media did not allow such clarity.
  • MacReady tells the others that the lights in the lab were out for over an hour, more than enough time for a crew member to have ‘gotten’ to him.  He goes out with Windows and Nauls to search outside, instructing Palmer to go with Windows at first, but Palmer wants to go with Childs.  Childs and MacReady could easily been deemed as having the most strength and sway over the other team members, and perhaps Palmer (if infected at this time) would want to assimilate into Childs rather than Windows, who could be viewed as the weakest of the lot.
  • MacReady, Nauls, and Windows discover the charred body of Fuchs in the snow, with a flare by him, dying by his own hand.  He probably lost all trust in his fellow man after finding the damaged shirt and knowing full well that MacReady was in charge, killed himself.  Windows is instructed to go back into the compound to inform the others they had found Fuchs.  Nauls and MacReady venture off to MacReady’s shack after finding the lights had been left on.  The blizzard is raging around them and must use guidelines and ropes to remain on the path and not get separated.
  • Nauls returns to the main entrance without MacReady after cutting him off the line up by MacReady’s shack.  Nauls presents an article of military clothing that is partially shredded with MacReady’s name stamped on it.  He explained he cut him off after finding it and left him there to die.  Childs wants to keep MacReady out, Palmer wants to let him in to kill him, and Windows believes MacReady is still human.  What is interesting here is that there is a second shredded bit of clothing found with MacReady’s name on it.  There are a couple of guesses as to how this came to be.  Working backwards, the jacket/shirt discovered by Nauls could have been the same one Fuchs found.  Fuchs could have went to MacReady’s shack to investigate, leaving the lights on and discarding the clothes in the oil furnace.  That leads us back to the first shirt found.  Where did it come from?  I believe it was planted by Palmer.  Why MacReady’s clothing?  Because Palmer, the aspiring backup pilot, may have had MacReady’s flight gear on in anticipation of going airborne the day the dog made its way to camp.  This was also the day Norris was infected.  It is not much stretch of the imagination to think Palmer was infected the same day.  They together would have an interest in turning the humans against MacReady, who is obviously in charge and has the leadership skills to bring the Things down.  When they got out to do all of this, I do not know.  Another point of contention here is that MacReady kept his knowledge of shredded clothing to himself and the audio tape he was making.  Why Nauls is terrified enough to cut MacReady loose in a blizzard is a big unknown.  How much did MacReady tell the others?  Fuchs and Nauls were in on it, or at the very least, arrived at the same conclusion as MacReady did:  The Thing rips through your clothing when it performs an assimilation.
  • MacReady breaks back into the building through the supply window.  He is armed with dynamite and a flare, which he uses to fight off assailants.  Prior to breaking in, Palmer and Norris appear to be in collusion to either not allow MacReady back into the complex or let him in to kill him.  I would rate these two and Windows as being the most passive crew members and would all probably would have wanted to verify that MacReady was really a Thing before killing him.  It turns out Windows is the only one who wants to wait and see, but Palmer and Norris agree with Childs to let him die.  This theory makes me wonder if the Things are capable of ESP or telepathy of some sort or can at the very least recognize a fellow Thing amongst real members of their target species.  More on this after blood test scene.
  • Norris and Nauls attempted to ambush him from behind, and when Norris falls, he suffers from a massive heart attack.  Perhaps Norris’ cardiovascular system was affected by the assimilation he underwent from the Norwegian dog.  It is plausible that any residents of scientific research stations in the Antarctic would need to pass some very vigorous medical tests, including of the CV system.  Norris may not have been allowed to be stationed at Outpost 31 if he had a bad heart.
  • Copper is untied and tries to resuscitate Norris through CPR.  A defibrillator is wheeled in by Windows and on the 2nd attempt, Norris’ chest opens up, revealing sharp teeth, and severs the arms of Copper.  Norris’ head escapes while the rest of his body turns into an alien form that is burned by MacReady.  The head tries to escape out of the room, is noticed by Palmer, and burned by MacReady.  Copper’s attempt at resuscitating Norris through defibrillation agitates the monster within, causing it to fight back without regard to being seen.  It knows the body it has occupied is now dead or dying and needs to escape.  This is somewhat of a contradictory theory, as the burned Twisted Pile and Dog-Thing still had cellular activity, indicating that Norris might well have been ‘alive’ from The Thing’s perspective.  And would not need to react if it thought it was able to ‘survive’ yet.  The actual physical harm it was receiving from Copper means another contradiction later.
  • Everyone is ordered into the rec room, where MacReady plans to test his new theory after witnessing the horror moments earlier with Norris’ attack on Copper.  He plans on tying everyone up, taking a sample of their blood, and using a wire heated with the flamethrower, determining who is human.  MacReady believes that every part of Norris was a whole, meaning that every part of that organism has will to survive.
  • Childs refuses to be tied up, MacReady threatens him with Garry’s pistol.  Clark, who had stolen a scalpel from the laboratory when Norris revealed himself, attempts to stab MacReady while distracted by Childs.  MacReady wheels around, and with an already cocked gun, shoots Clark point-blank in the forehead.  Clark is immediately killed.
  • Palmer ties down the bodies of Clark and Copper.  Having tied the others down already, Windows ties Palmer.  All have donated blood samples. MacReady, armed with a flamethrower, tests the blood in petri dishes.  First Windows, who tests negative.  Then himself, again negative.  He moves on to the dead bodies of Clark and Copper, who both test negative.  Childs accuses MacReady of murdering Clark, since he was proven to be human.  Garry repudiates the validity of the ‘hot needle test’, saying it proves nothing.
  • Palmer’s blood sample is tested next and there is a reaction.  Palmer begins to transform out of human shape and into something alien.  The others still tied down demand MacReady burn the monster, but he cannot get a flame from his weapon, presumably because it has been on too long heating the wire.  Windows is asked to set Palmer-Thing on fire, but is in a state of shock.  Palmer-Thing attacks Windows and infects him through his head.  Palmer-Thing set on fire by MacReady, using Windows’ flamethrower.
  • Palmer-Thing rushes outside by breaking through the rec room wall.  MacReady follows after with dynamite and destroys the Palmer-Thing.  Windows-Thing set on fire as well.  There is no doubt in my mind that Windows is not the Thing, but certainly will be.  I believe his assimilation is not at all complete, but is in a faster state of progression than the slow assimilation Blair may have undergone.
  • Nauls, Childs and Garry are all found to be human, much to the relief of MacReady.  Blair remains the last team member untested, and he continues to be holed up in the tool shed outside.  If telepathy exists between Things, the Blair-Thing could have been alerted to the Norris-Thing and the Palmer-Thing’s demise.  This could have been when he escaped the tool shed.  Or it could simply been after the big dynamite explosion it took to eliminate the Palmer-Thing.  Or just coincidence entirely.
  • Childs is left behind on guard at the main entrance as Garry, Nauls, and MacReady go to the tool shed to administer the test to Blair.  The door is found to be open and Blair is nowhere to be found.  MacReady finds the floor hollow under some boards and upon removal, sees a tunnel descending into the snow.
  • The trio go underground in the tunnel to discover a half-completed spaceship Blair has been working on.  At this point, Blair is confirmed as alien, using the parts from the helicopter and tractor for his craft.  This would indicate that he was free to move here and there from his supposed fortress, either by the front door or by using unseen tunnels to the machinery scattered around the camp.  Perhaps Palmer/Norris were in contact with Blair and helped him gather material (tools already at hand) for their collective escape from Antarctica.
  • Childs is spotted by Nauls running away from the camp entrance.  Immediately, the generator is blown, leaving only blue path lights for illumination.  Garry, Nauls, and MacReady decide no one will survive the sub-100 degree temperatures without heat except for the Thing.  They blow up the tool shed and the craft underneath it with dynamite.  Perhaps one of the most intriguing and mystifying moments of the plot.  Just moments after Childs ventures out into the storm, the generator is blown.  Presumably, Blair had gain entrance to the interior and disabled the generator.  There was no time for Childs to have spotted Blair AND to have the generator blow assuming that Blair was the culprit (which he logically is).
  • The plan is to destroy the camp.  The tractor is driven through the wall and its fuel tank is ruptured.  Garry, Nauls, and MacReady go room to room letting off Molotov cocktails and dynamite to eradicate the structure.  The last room is the generator room.
  • Garry realizes the generator is not only not operating, it is missing.  MacReady decides to dynamite the entire basement area, sending Nauls and Garry out into the dark reaches to place dynamite with fuses coming back to a plunger.  All are prepared to die here.
  • Blair sneaks up behind Garry and covers his mouth with his hand.  This begins a quite assimilation process.  Nauls goes to look for Garry when the silence becomes overwhelming and is not seen or heard from again.  MacReady realizes the absence of his fellow humans and sets the plunger to go off.
  • MacReady lights dynamite and begins to walk towards where Garry and Nauls were working.  The floorboards rise underneath him and a monster from below takes the plunger down.  An enormous creature emerges with signs of all the beings it has assimilated while on Earth.
  • MacReady throws stick of dynamite at enormous monster, which blows up and sets off a chain reaction of dynamite set up earlier.  Entire building goes up in flames.  MacReady escapes to the outside.
  • While resting outside in the shivering cold, MacReady is visited by Childs.  They discuss the chances each is the Thing and agree they are in no shape to do anything about it if either of them are.  MacReady suggests waiting around to see what happens.  If either of them is the Thing, then it would not wait around to assimilate.  Even if the Thing could sense it would have to hibernate again for an indefinite period of time, it would rather have two of itself rather than one.  I believe they were either both Things or neither of them were.  I am leaning towards neither since MacReady had no contact with another infected person.  This by default would indicate Childs was not the Thing and was simply seeing things or had stress-induced hallucinations when he left the camp entrance to pursue Blair.

The Thing Mysteries

  1. Can the organism be truly killed if individual cells can operate on their own accord, even when the greater individual is dead to medical science?
  2. Is burning the best method?
  3. Do Things have a method of communicating to each other or have the ability to recognize each other?
  4. When was Palmer infected?
  5. To whom did the ‘dirty drawers’ belong to?
  6. Who planted the MacReady garment(s) outside to be found by Fuchs and Nauls?
  7. What was Childs seeing when he left his post?
  8. How does Blair assemble the spacecraft so quickly and from such a dearth of quality parts and tools?
  9. Is there a slow assimilation process or did Blair become infected by Norris/Palmer?
  10. Why didn’t Palmer react similarly as his blood did when his blood was initially drawn?
  11. Why are there so many weapons (pistols, shotguns, flamethrowers, dynamite, etc.) at a joint military/research facility?
  12.  Why did Clark not put the dog away immediately upon it arriving at camp?
  13. Wouldn’t best action for Thing be to go off to a nearby place and freeze, waiting for the rescue team?
  14. Who left the lights on in MacReady’s shack?
  15. What really happened to MacReady and Childs after the scene fades?

~ by goetgre on October 20, 2011.

One Response to “The Thing”

  1. My best advice… is to not expect it to be as good as, or even close to, John Carpenter’s film. To do so would leave you disappointed. And you’d be a fool. Nice review.


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