John Carpenter is known all around the world for films like Halloween, The Fog, and The Thing. The Thing was released in June 1982 and starred Kurt Russell as MacReady, a member of a research team that is hunted by an alien from outer space. The movie was based on John W. Campbell Jr.’s 1938 story “Who Goes There?” and is often considered a remake of the 1951 film The Thing from Another World (despite The Thing being closer to the source material).
The film is famous for creating stunning special effects, and for its creature that perfectly mimics and imitates its victims so that it can blend in. The movie released almost four decades ago, but there are some things that may still surprise even the biggest horror buffs. Here are some curious behind-the-scenes facts about its creation!
10 The Film Initially Received Awful Reviews
While The Thing is now one of John Carpenter’s most iconic films and one of the most ingenious films of the 80s, it initially received awful reviews. Roger Ebert criticized the film for focusing too much on special effects and not enough on character development, while The New York Times called the film “instant junk”.
The score of the film, composed by Ennio Morricone, was also nominated for the Razzie Award of Worst Original Score. Thankfully, the film lost to the Australian musical The Pirate Movie. To make matters worse, the film also flopped at the box office.
9 They Almost Used Stop-Motion Animation
The Thing takes many forms during the movie’s nearly-two-hour runtime, but one of the most frightening is known as the “Blair-Thing.” This is, of course, a combination of Dr. Blair and the alien, which MacReady then blows up with a stick of dynamite.
The sequence was originally created with stop-motion animation, but the majority of the sequence was cut out since Carpenter wasn’t pleased with the final result. Stop-motion animation can sometimes add an incredibly eerie effect, but Carpenter thought it looked too fake so the full scene didn’t make it into the final cut of the film.
8 Carpenter’s Ex-Wife Voiced MacReady’s Computer
John Carpenter’s The Thing is much closer to the source material, partly because the film doesn’t feature any women. The short story Who Goes There? also didn’t have any women, but The Thing does feature a cameo from Carpenter’s ex-wife.
While she doesn’t appear on screen, Adrienne Barbeau’s voice can be heard on the computer MacReady is using to play chess. The actress appeared in a few of Carpenter’s other films, including Escape from New York and The Fog, but the pair split in 1984. That being said, the actress has continued to act in several different projects each year.
7 Stan Winston Created The Dog-Thing
Stan Winston was a special effects legend who is remembered for his work on several hit franchises, including Aliens, The Terminator, and Jurassic Park. While Rob Bottin was the special effects guru behind most of the creatures in The Thing, Winston created the Dog-Thing. With the number of effects The Thing demanded, Bottin was hospitalized for exhaustion at the age of 21, due to a case of double pneumonia and a bleeding ulcer.
Bottin needed help to complete all of the creatures in the film, so Carpenter reached out to Winston to create the famous Dog-Thing. Being the gentleman that he was, Winston didn’t even want credit so that it didn’t take away from Bottin’s achievements, so they just gave him a mention in the Special Thanks section at the end of the film.
6 Keith David Wore Gloves To Cover Up A Cast
Today, Keith David is known for voicing Dr. Facilier in The Princess and the Frog, as well as his roles in They Live, Armageddon, and The Thing. The actor began acting in 1979, so The Thing was actually one of his earliest acting gigs. He plays Childs in the film, who wears gloves the majority of the time.
Most people don’t really think anything of it, since they are in Antarctica, but David actually wore those gloves for most of his scenes because he was wearing a cast. David had recently broken his hand in a car accident, so he had to wear gloves to cover the cast.
5 Making The Title Was A Complex Process
The Thing is remembered today for its remarkable special effects, but many people might not realize that the title was also a complex effect to pull off. To create the effect Special Optical Effects Supervisor Peter Kuran started by filling a small fish tank with smoke.
He then placed an animation cel with the title at the back of the tank and stretched a garbage bag behind that. After he shined a light through the letters, he would light the garbage bag on fire to simulate the effect of the letters appearing for the title.
4 So Was The Infamous "Chest Chomp" Scene
The most memorable moment in The Thing is arguably the “Chest Chomp” scene. This is when Dr. Cooper tries to help Vance Norris by using a defibrillator, only for Norris’ chest to open up and bite off Cooper’s arms. The effect is one of the most shocking of the entire film, but it was done by hiring a man who had previously had both his arms amputated as a stunt double.
The effects department attached two prosthetic forearms filled with Jell-o, rubber veins, and wax bones to the actor, and then used the hydraulic chest with teeth to chomp them off.
3 The Norris Dummy Exploded On Set
After Dr. Cooper’s arms are bitten off, the creature (in the form of Norris) proceeds to stretch itself until Norris’ head is ripped off. The crew microwaved bubblegum and melted plastic to create the illusion of Norris’ head... doing its thing on that table.
The set filled with fumes, but nobody realized how flammable the fumes were until after they ignited a fire bar underneath the camera. This made the dummy explode, resulting in the crew devoting another day of filming to getting the effect on camera. Thankfully, the final result was more than worth the hassle it took to create the effect.
2 They Used Real Dynamite
The explosions in The Thing look incredibly real, because they were real explosions. The film relied solely on practical effects and genuine dynamite to create scenes. Many fans will remember the scene where MacReady throws a stick of dynamite at the “Blair-Thing”.
Apparently, that was real dynamite and when Kurt Russell threw it, he didn’t get to cover in time and was flung backwards from the explosion. Russell wasn’t seriously injured, and would go on to work with Carpenter for a third time in 1986 for Big Trouble in Little China.
1 Fangoria Magazine Held A “Draw The Thing” Competition
Fangoria has been a top horror magazine among fans ever since the company was founded back in 1979. Prior to the film’s release, Fangoria ran a contest in 1981 to see who could guess what the alien creature in the film would look like.
Fans submitted their artwork to the magazine, with the chance to win a trip to Universal Studios on the line. David Mark Fey would be the winter of the competition, with John Carpenter himself picking his monster as his favorite entry submitted. Fey’s artwork can be seen in the center above.