What can I say about 1982's 'The Thing' that hasn't been said before? Probably not much. It lands in my "Screening Suggestions" category with very good reason. My opinion aside, however, this is a title that tends to end up on a lot of All Time Best Horror Movie lists - usually somewhere near the top. But is an alien invasion movie worth all that? What makes this one so special? Why was it criticized to pieces upon its initial release, but has grown to become a cult phenomenon among horror fans?
The basic plot involves a group of American researchers in Antarctica who, after a strange circumstance, investigate a Norwegian station, only to find some remains of a malformed body. The body is brought back to be researched, but nothing unusual is found. However, when a sled dog that was recently being pursued by the Norwegians is kenneled, and in a very grotesque way consumes the other dogs, we learn very quickly that there's something terrifying going on.
Eventually, it is discovered that a shape-shifting being of sorts is alone with the crew in this dark and desolate location. The scariest problem it carries with it, is the fact that it can turn into anything or anyone it wants. And that right there is what makes this movie such a great film for horror buffs. The film's scares are pretty abundant, but it's less about grossing us out, getting violent, or making us jump. The real horror lies in the overall seclusion of the group, and the idea that not one member of the crew can actually be trusted anymore. All of the on-the-surface scares still hold up quite well, but the intensity of the situation is what really sells the film.
Going back to this being released to negative reviews at the time, it's hard to say exactly what caused it. Some believe it was released too close to 'E.T.: The Extraterrestrial'; a much more family-friendly look at aliens. Others just see it as just bad timing due to the early 80's recession, and audiences didn't go for the more negative tones that this had to offer.
If you look at the film by today's standards, however, it holds up in a big way with its general themes of antitrust, and practical effects that SOMEHOW still hold up better than the 2011 prequel film of the same name, relying on bad CGI. Add to that a cast consisting of people like Kurt Russel, Wilford Brimley, and Kieth David, and you've got yourself a pretty solid flick.
If you happen to be reading this right now, haven't seen this movie, and you consider yourself a fan of horror, there's nothing you should be waiting for. Watch this movie. It may be a bit dated here and there, but the overall execution of it is great, and some of the imagery is bound to haunt your dreams.