The Thing is a 1982 American science fiction horror film directed by John Carpenter. Based on the 1938 John W. Campbell Jr. Novella Who Goes There?, it tells the story of a group of American researchers in Antarctica who encounter the eponymous “Thing”, a parasitic extraterrestrial life-form that assimilates, then imitates other organisms. The group is overcome by paranoia and conflict as they learn that they can no longer trust each other and that any one of them could be the Thing. The film stars Kurt Russell as the team’s helicopter pilot, R.J. MacReady.
Production began in the mid-1970s, but project went through several directors and writers, each with different ideas on how to approach the story. Of the film’s $15 million budget, $1.5 million was spent on Rob Bottin’s creature effects, a mixture of chemicals, food products, rubber, and mechanical parts turned by his large team into an alien capable of taking on any form.
The Thing was released in 1982 to very negative reviews, praising the special effects achievements but criticizing their visual repulsiveness. The film earned $19.6 million during its theatrical run. Many reasons have been cited for its failure to impress audiences: competition from films such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, which offered an optimistic take on alien visitation; a summer filled with successful science fiction and fantasy films; and an audience living through a recession, diametrically opposed to The Thing’s nihilistic tone.
The film found an audience when released on home video and television. In the subsequent years, it has been reappraised as one of the best science fiction and horror films ever made and has gained a cult following. Filmmakers have noted its influence on their work, and it has been referred to in other media such as television and video games.