the thing is a true cult classic. A 1982 sci-fi horror film directed by John Carpenter and written by Bill Lancaster remains popular with fair-weather fans and cinephiles alike. Because of this, it will forever go down in history as one of the finest physical special effects demonstrations likely to ever exist.
Based on the 1938 novella by John W. Campbell Jr who goes there, the thing tells the story of a group of American explorers in Antarctica who encounter the eponymous “Thing”, a parasitic alien life form that adapts and then mimics other organisms. The film stars Kurt Russell as RJ MacReady and co-stars Wilford Brimley, TK Carter, David Clennon, Keith David, Richard Dysart, Charles Hallahan, Peter Maloney, Richard Masur, Donald Moffat, Joel Polis and Thomas Waites.
The film itself was produced as an adaptation of the novella based on the popular 1950s film The thing from another world. The project was an untamed beast, going through several directors and writers, each with different ideas on how to approach the story. That is, the main reason why we love everyone the thing derived from Rob Bottin and his incredible creature effects. Of the film’s $15 million budget, $1.5 million was spent on Rob Bottin’s work, a concoction of chemicals, food, rubber and mechanical parts transformed by his large team into an alien that could take any form can.
Bottin and Carpenter had previously worked together on the 1980 film The fog and so their relationship was already set by the time 21-year-old Bottin entered pre-production the thing a year later with a briefcase full of rubber, gasoline and glue. Bottin has concocted a huge array of wild ideas, from dead baby monsters to chest mouths and giant spider legs sprouting from heads. He later admitted that he had no idea how his designs would be put into practice, but Carpenter didn’t dismiss them. Carpenter said, “What I didn’t want to see in that movie was a guy in a suit … I grew up watching sci-fi monster movies as a kid, and it was always a guy in a suit.”
As already mentioned, create the thing was full of problems and during the filming these problems surfaced in several different scenarios. In fact, Bottin, 21, was hospitalized due to exhaustion due to his involvement with the project. Botton’s health would deteriorate and double pneumonia was confirmed along with a bleeding ulcer, problems doctors say were due to his intense stress and workload. The young creative admitted to “hoarding work” and was often found sleeping on set to save time commuting to work.
Things got out of hand for Bottin, the workload became unmanageable and to relieve the pressure he recruited special effects creator Stan Winston to help finish some designs and with that Winston became famous for his creation of the Dog-Thing and cemented its place in the annals of great cinematic moments.
Together they created some of the most remarkable physical special effects we’ve ever seen and landed the thing its status as a cult classic. It redefined what we thought could be done with materials you could probably find in your garden shed, and it shaped cinema in the process.
While the level of incredible creation Bottin delivers the film with makes the film a cult classic, that working relationship is the true winning factor in this film. With that in mind, let’s take a look behind the scenes of the thing.