Tag Archives: 1982

1. The Thing: A Study of Paranoia

The premise in The Thing (from 1982, not to be confused with the prequel from 2011) seems simple enough: An alien spacecraft crashed in Antarctica millions of years ago. Present time, an Arctic expedition. The alien creature thaws from the ice after his long hibernation, and starts attacking. The humans need to defend themselves, led by the alpha male himself: Kurt Rusell.

What makes the premise more interesting is one crucial aspect:

Paranoia

The Thing starts off with a dog in the snow fields, being chased by two Arctic scientists, one of them shooting with a rifle. Already in the first five minutes, the sense of panic and urgency is apparent. The “dog” arrives in a neighboring science station, where the scientists shelter it, before things starts to go haywire. Soon, it is discovered that the dog actually is the alien creature, who is is able to copy any life form, to perfection, in a matter of hours. Except for a blood sample, there is no possible way whatsoever to recognize the “copy.”

Therein lies the horror. The copies are exact copies. Every single expression, every single sentence, every single behavior – everything corresponds exactly to the “original.” It’s not just that the creature lies and tries to act like someone else. It literally becomes the original. The only method in the movie

In many works of fiction, there are certain phrases that always carries a certain sense of security. Phrases that a viewer is supposed to rely upon:

  • “Look into my eyes. Have I ever lied to you?”
  • “We’ve known each other for years. Would I ever put you in danger?”
  •  “I promise. I give you my word.”

The Thing just spits on such phrases. The copy is just as convincing and reliable as the original. Just as eager to help to solve the situation. Paranoia poisons and creates uncertainties. In a hostile, isolated, dark environment, those feeling becomes intolerable. And blessings such as reliability, trust and friendship becomes something meaningless.

And let’s not forget the creature, “The Thing”, itself. Does it deserve paranoia? Well, there are scenes where we see part of the transformation process, and where it tries to defend itself, so the actual monster is not “out of view.” However, when it does show up, the effect of the parasitic creature of staggering. There are more than enough reasons to be afraid that your best friend standing right beside you actually looks like this on the inside…

So what happens when the paranoia poisons people in The Thing?

Well, I’m not particular fond of spoilers. So unfortunately I will not present you with anymore revealing details.

Let’s just say that even though the ending is a pretty final one, the paranoia lingers still…