While John Carpenter is known for such great horror films like Halloween and such sci-fi thrillers as They Live, one of his most renowned classics is undoubtedly The Thing. When it debuted in 1982, it was considered one of the goriest films of its genre, which was a perfect blend of Carpenter's strengths. While critics and audiences didn't universally praise it at the time, it's now considered a cult classic.
The film features the isolated members of an American research facility in Antarctica, where the sudden appearance of a strange dog begins a mystery that threatens the lives of every man on Outpost 31. The dog isn't what it appears to be, and soon the cohorts must survive an enemy that can assume the shape of its victims. Grab your flamethrowers and read on for 10 hidden details you missed about The Thing.
10 KEITH DAVID'S GLOVES
To distinguish between all the different characters — many of whom had similar features or hair color — props or costume elements were used to help audiences differentiate them. For instance, "Windows" is so named because he's almost always seen wearing sunglasses.
After the first quarter of the film, Childs (Keith David) is always seen wearing gloves, whether he's inside or outdoors. Even when he's tied to the couch during the blood sample scene, he's shot from the torso up. This is because he was wearing a cast on one broken hand that needed to be concealed.
9 THE HELICOPTER WOBBLE
About fifteen minutes into the film, you can detect a strange dip in the helicopter's trajectory when MacReady heads off to the Norwegian camp. This was because the Norwegian pilot actually handed the controls off to Kurt Russell mid-flight, which translated to the in-flight wobble you can see on screen.
John Carpenter and Kurt Russell had discussed MacReady being a Vietnam veteran who suffered from alcoholism, which could have accounted for the unsteady flight pattern. Ultimately, this backstory was never included in the film, but MacReady does drink a lot of J&B.
8 REAL ANIMAL ORGANS WERE USED
The autopsy involving the "man" recovered from the Norwegian camp was considered particularly gruesome to audiences due to the highly graphic detail of the organs included in the scene. One of the reasons it looked so realistic was because real animal organs were used.
To make the blood and gore really pop, John Carpenter maintained a drab set and costumes. Actor Wilford Brimley (Blair) apparently had no problem filming the scene, as he'd grown up near ranches and seen his fair share of farm animals being slaughtered when he was a child.
7 THE DOG'S VICTIM AT THE BEGINNING
In the first half hour of the film, the inhabitants of Outpost 31 are made aware that the Thing could be any one of them. It assimilates its victim and perfectly replicates them, resulting in no one knowing if the people in their presence are really who they appear to be.
When the dog that escaped the Norwegian camp is wandering around Outpost 31, viewers can see the shadow of a man's head down one corridor. It's left up to interpretation who it is, but it is implied that this individual is the Dog-Thing's first human victim/host.
6 THE MUSIC
A hallmark of any John Carpenter film is its music. A composer himself, Carpenter understands the way the musical score of a film can augment the tension experienced onscreen, especially in a horror film. In this film, the music is composed by the great Ennio Morricone, who, after decades of composing film scores, finally won an Academy Award for Best Score for The Hateful Eight.
Unused music for The Thing even wound up in The Hateful Eight because director Quentin Tarantino is such a fan. Notice that in The Thing, a distinct "heartbeat" chord is heard often when the the Thing is present. It's audible when the Dog first enters the camp, then can be heard preceding each human host of the alien.
5 THE COMPUTER PROJECTION
When Blair begins to run some preliminary computations about the potential spread of the Thing from Outpost 31, he uses a computer to give him a projection. It declares that in 27,000 hours from initial contact it will spread over the entire world.
While biologists have maintained this sort of computational analysis wouldn't be possible given the sort of computation Blair was doing, it's similar to what Alien's Lieutenant Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) uses to determine how fast the xenomorph infestation will spread over Earth. Is the Thing an alien, or was the occupant of the flying saucer it emerged from simply its host?
4 WHEN PALMER HAD TURNED
Part of the fun of watching The Thing is wondering when exactly each member of Outpost 31 turns. Palmer has turned by the time of the blood test, but when did it first happen? He is the first to point out the spider-head of Norris, but is that to deflect suspicion from himself as a Thing, or because he's still human?
When Windows runs to retrieve the shotgun, Palmer doesn't show any agitation. He also isn't flummoxed when the blood test is being administered, indicating that the Things are capable of some level of subterfuge until they're discovered.
3 THE BLOOD SUPPLY MYSTERY
One of the biggest mysteries in The Thing is who unlocked the blood supply fridge and destroyed all of the old samples. It's stated that there would be no way to do this without a key that's only ever on the doctor's person or Gary, which arouses suspicion as to their intentions.
However, if viewers look closely, the rubber seal isn't fully sealed, which implies that a portion of the Thing, which can be made as thin as blood if necessary, slid past the seal. It destroyed the contents of the blood bags without ever having to open the fridge from the outside.
2 THE EXPLOSIONS
If you thought that the explosions in the film looked surprisingly real, that's because more often than not, they were made by acutal dynamite. There were several instances when Kurt Russel had to hold real TNT, which resulted in him rapidly delivering his lines so he could say them before the fuse was spent.
In the final climactic scene when he blows up the Thing's means of escape and the majority of the outpost, Kurt Russell was really running away and diving from a dynamite explosion. The detonation added to the realism of the danger — as if the movie needed any more.
1 A DRINK TO YOUR HEALTH
In the beginning of the film, MacReady is seen playing chess on a computer. When it appears he's going to lose the game, he uses his drink to short-circuit the computer. It's a foreshadowing of his commitment to destroying the entire outpost if the Thing appears to be "winning."
John Carpenter states in the DVD commentary when MacReady offers Childs a drink at the end of the film, it can be interpreted as he doesn't believe he's human, and is giving him a drink before he kills him or that he's giving it to him as a sign of good faith. It's intentionally left open to interpretation.