‘The Thing’ to be loosed on New Ulm

NEW ULM — This October, instead of watching the skies for otherworldly horrors, come to the New Ulm Public Library to watch “The Thing.”

The screening starts at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9, in the Library basement. This is the next screening in the New Ulm Film Society’s ’80s Movie Series.”

“The Thing” was released on unprepared movie goers in 1982. The film is directed by horror legend John Carpenter. Carpenter is famous for a series of horror films that include “Halloween” and “The Fog”, but “The Thing” is his most ambitious work.

The film is often called a remake of the 1951 sci-fi classic “The Thing from Another World,” but it only borrows the title. The film is actually an adaptation of the 1938 novella “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell Jr.

In the film, a group of men stationed at an American research base in Antarctica discover evidence of extraterrestrial life. Unfortunately, this alien life form has the ability to perfectly mimic any living organism it touches, and replace it. By the time the men realize this alien presents a threat to all life on earth, it is clear at least one of them has already been replaced by the alien. The question is, who among them is still human and who is the thing?

“The Thing” is one of the greatest monster movies. The film goes all out with its special effects, delivering creature designs that are the thing of nightmares. The film was made in the early ’80s before computer-generated special effects were widespread, meaning the entire film was made with practical effects that still hold up over 34 years later.

The special effects help sell the science-fiction angle of the film, but the real horror of “The Thing” is rooted in old-fashioned paranoia. The heroes know there is an evil alien walking amongst them, but they can’t be sure who is good and who is a monster until the monster attacks and kills someone. No one dares turn their back on a friend for fear they might be concealing a slimy tentacle under their parka.

Despite being based on a story written in the ’30s “The Thing” was able to imbue the script with modern references. The alien is able to take over and replicate life forms by infecting a host. In the film McCready (Kurt Russel) theorizes that a simple blood test could confirm who is infected. For audiences in the ’80s, the idea of a deadly infection only identified by a blood test was a very real world concern. The blood test scene has become one of the iconic moments from the film.

When first released in 1982, “The Thing” was a bomb. It was released a week after “E.T.” which depicted a more optimistic human-alien relationship that was appropriate for children. In contrast, “The Thing” was pessimistic, terrifying and extremely graphic. It would be several years before “The Thing” was given the credit it deserves.

“The Thing” is now considered one of the greatest horror films of the ’80s and has influenced dozens of other films and T.V. shows. Several prominent ’90s TV shows would reference it. One of the first X-File episodes dealt with an alien threat in the Arctic that could take over minds. The main antagonists of “Star Trek: Deep Space 9” were a race of shapeshifting aliens that could only be identified through a blood test. Even an episode of “South Park” paid homage to the blood test scene.

“The Thing” is an impressive standard in terms of sci-fi horror. It is a must-see for horror fans and anyone who loves ’80s films.

The Film Society screening starts at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9. Members of the film society will facilitate discussion on the film before and after the screening.