The Thing is one of my favourite horror films. It stars Kurt Russell and is directed by John Carpenter.
It deals with a group of men at an antarctic outpost who one day witness norwegians in a helicopter attempting to shoot a dog running away. The Norwegians crash and the dog is taken inside. Little did they know that it was infected with Alien genetic material.

The alien(s, because each cell is its own "being") gradually take over more and more people, and the film escalates into some very memorable moments such as the blood test scene.

Worth watching who ever you are...and the DVD just plain rules!

Memorable Scene:.

It involves identifying who of the remaining people are human, and who are now "Things". Kurt Russell achieves this by taking blood samples from everyone, and heating a piece of wire with a flamethrower. He then puts the red hot wire into the blood to see what happens. This is on the premise that all parts of the "thing" are in fact entities in their own right, with a desire to carry on living.

Also sports Donald Moffat speaking one of the best lines in cinema, "If it's ok with you gentlemen...I'd rather not spend the rest of this Winter, TIED TO THIS FUCKING COUCH!".

A Classic.

The Thing is a piece of roadside America and is located off Interstate 10 in Arizona. A gas station, gift shop, Dairy Queen stand in front of an old shed. The stuff in the shed ranges from a Rolls Royce once used by Adolf Hitler to "The Thing" itself, a mummified corpse whose identity has not yet been revealed. (Hours vary, admission is 75 cents)

John Carpenter's The Thing is a remake of the 1951 Howard Hawks-produced film The Thing From Another World, which starred an uncredited James Arness as a bloodthirsty vegetable being from space, with the requisite mad scientist and hokey ending, directed by Christian Nyby. (Carpenter's connection to this film goes way back. It is the movie within the movie playing on TV in Halloween.)

The Carpenter version is actually much closer to the roots of the tale. Both are based on Who Goes There?, by John W. Campbell, but Hawkes threw away most of the tightly plotted, paranoid, cramped story of a group of Antarctic explorers menaced by a polymorphic alien. The ending of Carpenter's film, with the last two survivors freezing to death, unable to trust that the other one is human, is the ending the story should have had.


I would like to thank Sid for informing me of the date, diector, and real name of the elder film. Thanks, Sid!
Songwriter Charles R. Grean adapted a traditional song, "The Tailor's Boy," to make a pop hit that featured three drum beats (boom bah-boom) as the hook instead of a vocal catch phrase. Arthur Godfrey recorded it, as did the Ames brothers, and it charted for both of them, but it was Phil Harris of the Jack Benny Show who had the #1 hit with "The Thing" for 5 weeks in 1950.

(The asterisks below represent the drum beats)

    While I was walking down the beach one bright and sunny day,
    I saw a great big wooden box a-floating in the bay.
    I pulled it in and opened it up and much to my surprise,
    Ooh, I discovered a * * * right before my eyes.
    Ooh, I discovered a * * * right before my eyes.

    I picked it up and ran to town as happy as a king.
    I took it to a guy I knew who'd buy 'most anything.
    But this is what he hollered at me as I walked in his shop:
    "Ooh, get out of here with that * * * before I call a cop!
    Ooh, get out of here with that * * * before I call a cop!"

Looking for complete lyrics? Try: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/PhilHarris/

It's Clobbering Time!

A superhero created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and published by Marvel Comics. The Thing first appeared in Fantastic Four #1 in 1961.

Benjamin Jacob Grimm grew up on the lower east side of New York on Yancy Street. His older brother was the leader of the local gang called the Yancy Street Gang and the family survived off of the money that the gang stole, because Grimm's father was an out of work alcoholic. When Grimm was eight, his brother was killed in a gang fight, but Grimm replaced him as leader of the gang two years later.

Grimm's parents both died over the next few years and Grimm was taken in by his aunt and uncle. His uncle was a successful doctor and the family made a loving environment for young Ben. Ben excelled at sports particularly football, eventually earning a scholarship to Empire State University.

At ESU, Grimm roomed with brilliant science student Reed Richards. The two became fast friends and Richards eventually confided in his new friend his intention to create a space craft capable of interstellar flight. Grimm laughed at his friend's dream, making Richards promise that if he ever built the craft that Grimm would fly it. Grimm's joke would eventually change his life.

After college, Grimm joined the airforce where he became a top fighter pilot. Grimm's natural confidence and strength served him well in his new role and he served with distinction. Grimm served his tour with the military and on the day he got out, he was contacted by his old roommate, Reed Richards.

Richards had successfully constructed his spaceship and wanted Grimm to fly it. Grimm examined the ship, warning Richards that the radiation shielding would not withstand an intense radiation storm, but Richards disregarded Grimm's comments. Stealing onto the base where the ship was housed, Richards and Grimm along with Richards' fiance, Susan Storm, and Storm's teenage brother , Johnny, launched the ship.

The flight performed well, until it was caught in an intense cosmic storm. The crew was exposed to cosmic rays and the ship crashed back on Earth. The cosmic rays affected each of the crew in a unique way. Grimm's exposure created one of the most radical effects. His skin became thick an lumpy with an orange color. His hands and feet transformed causing him to have four toes and four fingers. Most significantly, Grimm's strength increased greatly. Horrified by what he had become, Grimm began to refer to himself as a thing and that became his new moniker. Richards proposed that the four use their new abilities to help others and they became known as the Fantastic Four.

Over the years, Grimm's appearance has changed. The lumpy texture of his skin has given way to skin that appears to be a series of interlocking rocks. Grimm has experienced difficulty in adjusting to his appearance and only through the love of blind artist Alicia Masters did Grimm come to accept his new appearance. Grimm has occasionally transformed back into his original appearance but with no seeming control. Reed Richards has conjectured that Grimm actually has control of the transformations, but believed that Masters only loved him as the Thing and therefore, would not allow himself to change.

When the Beyonder transported a group of heroes and villains to a created world, Grimm gained some measure of control over his transformations. He elected to stay on this new world after the crisis was over, believing that the world itself allowed this ability. He adventured there for a while, eventually returning to Earth.

When Grimm returned to Earth, he found that Masters and his teammate Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, had fallen in love. That along with the betrayal he felt when he learned that Richards knew that he could tranform at will, caused him to quit the Fantastic Four. He traveled the country for a time, participating in the Unlimited Wrestling circuit, which was professional wrestling for the super strong. He also teamed with the West Coast Avengers for at time.

He eventually returned to the Fantastic Four and even lead the team for a time. His abilites have swung the gambit over time, from having no powers at all to having incredible strength above his normal abilities for a time, when he was exposed to cosmic rays for a second time.

No One Survives Alone

The John Carpenter movie has been the inspiration for a computer game (available for PS2 and XBox as well as the PC). The early stages are lovely, but I found it to get worse the further I got. It's not a bad game, but it's not a great masterpeice either. It would be a fine purchase if it was on a budget release, but as a full price game I think it misses the mark in a few places.

Synopsis

The game takes up after the movie, and has a US army squad getting dropped at the research station from the movie to investigate. Your four man team gets dropped at the US station while the rest get taken to the Norweigan camp. You scour the camp and then C-4 the place, and the main character, Blake, decides in true gung-ho style he will rescue the other team who have run into trouble on his own....

The early levels are very good, presumably trying to catch the feeling of the movie, having you suspect people of being aliens, get jumped frequently by monsters (it's a game, so there has to be a lot of action) and try to survive. The game lets you roam around with up to four companions, and you have to earn their trust, usually by giving them guns or proving you're not an alien with a blood test. This stuff is all good, but it falls to bits later as you can just give a big gun to someone and all your spare ammo and they do whatever you want happily - it's just a game of get the engineer to the power box. It's surprisingly easy to keep the NPCs happy with you, so you can go a whole game and not have anyone try to shoot you in the head for acting suspiciously.

Non-Player Characters

The NPCs are the highlight of the game - they get scared, they get distrustful, they puke if they have to hang around a corpse, they turn into horrible monstrosities at random.... You can tell them to follow or stay, you can give them weapons and they will fight with you (or try to kill you if they think you're a thing), but watch out because if they freak out too much they'll start firing into the walls and floor and then commit suicide....

The downside is the NPCs are TOO essential. There's three kinds, the medic, who dishes out health to people all the time, the soldier, who shoots things, and the engineer, who can fix advanced junction boxes. This is the central problem - instead of finding the red key you just have to get an engineer to a junction box. Seems like a good compromise, right? Well, no. Even with a medic you will have to stand right on top of the engineer and feed him medkits in a fight, since if the only engineer on the level dies you have to reload a save game.

The other downside is that you don't keep NPCs for very long. There's one very tricky part of the game that you can keep your allies alive through only to have them commit suicide on the next level when they see a dead body - having just stalwartly fought through an endless wave of monsters. Another piece sees you beat off a whole horde of aliens just to have the lone NPC on the level fix a junction box. You then walk him through to the next room and, well, he turns into a monster as you go down a hall. It's easier to just take his head off with a rifle. If the NPCs stayed with you and stayed human for longer the impact of them flipping out or transforming would be that much scarier.

Things

The Things are pretty boring after you see them for the first time. In a perfect world I'd have never seen any images from Resident Evil and then I'd have been surprised. One real problem is there's a bunch of monsters that don't have much that's identifiably human on them. There's some heads with legs, and NPCs who get exposed are suitably bizarre, but most of the generic monsters are just walking piles of viscera. As target dummies they suffice but on the whole it's just not as cool when you realise there are only four kinds of big monster and five small ones. The boss monsters have human components, and look truer to the horrors from the 1982 movie in style, but they are boss monsters, they are scary because they are boss monsters, not because some bizarre thing has popped up.

In fact the whole presence of boss monsters seems silly. Why are they there? Why are they glued to the floor? Why does out hero insist on staying in a tiny room to fight a twelve foot tall thing with a human torso attached to one arm and a dog head attached to the other? Why not back out the door and blast it from outside? Why not just lob a sackful of grenades at it and then set them off? Why in God's name does one part of the game consist of having to find an engineer so you can get a key so you can shoot two humans guarding a door to a boss monster? It makes no sense at all and seems to have been included purely so that there could be a boss fight....

Plot - Now with added spoilers!

Given that it's following on the end of the movie it should have a good plot. According the the walkthrough I used (I got lost. The game does not tell you where to find anything or give you a compass) lots of the first two levels are lifted from the movie, with references everywhere. The first level is just all exposition and no shooting, and is good. (Apart from the medic puking when he sees a corpse. I don't want him operating on me, he'll throw his lunch up into my wounds!). The plot moves on all fine and dandy but starts to show holes as people "burst out" at preset points.

Prior to the first boss fight the game is good, a mix of character tension as people freak out, creepy settings and the occasional battle against horrible monsters, but after that it starts to get very derivative and also bloody outlandish. The map on the load screens shows that you're in a nice inland spot in Antarctica, yet somehow there's a submerged laboratory. There is also a gigantic underground base and secret tests being done on people with the alien things and.... oh my god it's like Resident Evil with snow!

But wait, there's more!

Not only is your evil commander trying to smuggle alien things back to civilization he seems to think injecting himself with thing cells is a good idea. As you confront him at the end he says "I control every man on this continent" so presumably the thing lets him control other things. This is a plot element I recognise from Deus Ex (infect everyone with nanotechnology so you control everyone), and frankly it's even more stupid here. I get the impression they just wanted some kind of human villain rather than an inscrutable alien

Did I mention you get the standard "knocked out and locked up" routine? That's right, all your stuff gets taken and you have to escape. This has been done frequently in games, and in this case you're in a laboratory and there's things and soldiers to take on. It's a hodge-podge of enemies from here on, which is ridiculous for a game that's based on a horror movie.

This is the biggest hole in the plot - there's parts of the game where you fight a bunch of humans, then some things, then some more humans, and seldom do you see the bad guy soldiers freak out - There was one scene where they fought the monsters, but other than that you can find things like planes in hangars guarded by creepy monsters and guys with guns. There's also the "guard the boss monster" moment, which seems like the silliest ocurrence ever. Some more thought could have been put into the plotting of the second half of the game, as the battles and levels seem poorly thought out (the warehouse is just a maze for the maze's sake, it does not look like a real building) and the objectives become the usual jump-through-hoops stuff of games.

Combat

Surprisingly easy on the easy setting, as the difficulty determines the auto-aim arc. That's right, it aims for you. Combat comes down to a few things:

  1. Keep NPCs alive and not too close to the monsters (or they freak out)
  2. Shotgun the small things (it's like skeet shooting when they jump, teehee)
  3. Machinegun the big things into the red
  4. Burn them
  5. Kill the small things that come out of the big things corpse
It seems okay, but every encounter is a variation on a set strategy, unlike other games where you can have a stack of weapons and you get to try out different tricks and strategies. Combat in The Thing gets repetitive because there is little room to improvise or have fun (though you will get grim satisfaction out of setting things on fire).

The Really Dissapointing Bits

Perspective
It's a third person perspective game, not a first person game. The console market demands that horror games should be done in this way, but that doesn't mean it's the right way or the only way. In the developer discussion for Undying the team who made it mention they were told things like "But you can't do a horror game in first person!" and they proved it wrong (by panning to a third person view when the player dies you get to see the gore, but there's a good argument for not knowing what killed you too). The Thing would have benefitted from the tension the first person view creates. You can drop to first person to fire, but it's really hard to aim without being able to move....

Save Stations
The gamer's nightmare (after the one where the only game in the world is The Sims). There's one area where you have to backtrack through a level to the save station before running to the exit because in the next level you don't get to a save station until the end of the level. This is ridiculous and didn't add to tension, it just means you have to repeat long sections of the game until you get sick of it.

Linear Gameplay
The box claims you can "Choose multiple paths to solve levels and accomplish goals" and this is a lie. What you can do is go and get a gun from somewhere before opening a door, or give people different weapons. In most cases where there is an obstacle you will be finding the key to open it or someone to fix the power box. there is no way for you to, say, move a barrel of fuel to a door and blast the door open, or find a back way into a room.

Research
A minor one, but you punch up a log on a computer that says something like "I think some animal has gotten in the ducts." Now, this is inland Antarctica. There are no animals. The person who typed this is aware of the weird monsters, so what's up with this? It's just a shonky bit of flavouring. Game companies take note: Read up on the location you're setting your games in.

Length
The game is short compared to lengthy epics like Deus Ex. However the plot got really convoluted in Deus Ex, and since the plot went weird in this game if it was longer it would get weirder.... You also get the feeling that it was rushed to release (if a games levels and missions get shorter or worse nearer the end of the game then this may be the case).

Extras That Aren't
"Featuring the hit song After Me by Saliva" yes, it plays during the credits, but why can't it be on the CD as a music track? Argh! Well I can fix this one for you: Break out WinZip, open mainui.pak and there's a file called creditsmusic.ogg for you to extract (make sure you leave the original in there).

The Cool Things

Art
The cover art is great, suggesting a group of men struggling for their lives and running in fear. It sets you in the right mood for playing the game. Check out the official site for some wallpaper that looks great too.

Humour
A quote from John Carpenter on the packaging:

"This is one intense action/horror game. It is faithful to my 1982 movie and includes an incredibly cool and handsome character in Dr. Faraday. You gotta play this one, man - it'll blast you against the wall" - John Carpenter

Sounds like standard promotional rubbish, but then as I re-read it I realised Faraday was only in one small part of the game and didn't do much. So I loaded up imdb and checked the photos and yes, Faraday is meant to look like John Carpenter (who is in a lot of his own movies). This is pretty funny.

References
People who have played Alien vs Predator will notice some similar sounds. Well, the same company owns both games, and the movie, Saliva's music, and probably John Carpener so hey.... I don't know whether the alien sound effects detract from the mood or not, but it's always fun to spot something like this. There's also a bit of sightseeing to do for fans of the movie, and some sampling of Kurt Russel. You also find out what happened to the last two survivors....

Toys
Security cameras to look through, gun turrets to fire, computers to hack into, exploding barrels to shoot, crates to smash - great stuff to fiddle with. See the bottom for a list of the weapons and items you can get if you want to know more.

Notes

  • There are no female characters, just a female voice telling you you need an access card for an elevator (the film only featured a female voice in a chess computer).
  • A lot of the names of the NPCs in the game are the names of characters in the movie. This may be confusing if you've seen the film.
  • Uses .ogg for sound, .png for textures (with .dds and .3df as well), and a variety of files I've never heard of for the rest of the game.

Developer: Computer Artworks - http://www.artworks.co.uk/index2.htm
They have a good page, better than the official page.

Publisher: Black Label Games - erm, can't find a proper site - msg if you know

Game Website: http://www.thethinggames.com/splash.html

Patches: Yes, two so far. Google Search for "The Thing" and "Patch" and pick a download site. The first is all bug fixes, the second adds a new feature. Maybe we will get a first-person view patch....

Walkthrough: http://members.brabant.chello.nl/~h.vangompel/t/thing.htm

Cheats (PC): http://www.cheatportal.dk/cheats/files/2017.phtml
ATTENTION! REGISTRY EDITING REQUIRED! DO NOT MESS IT UP!

Minimum Requirements

  • 64MB RAM
  • 400 MHz P2 CPU
  • DirectX 8 compatible video card
  • 8MB video memory
  • DirectSound8 compatible audio card
  • 600MB disc space (about 300 used in storing it, presumably the rest is swap file)
  • 4x+ CD-ROM
Recommended Requirments
  • 64MB RAM
  • 600 MHz P3 CPU
  • DirectX 8 compatible video card
  • 8MB Video Memory
  • DirectSound 8 compatible audio card
  • 600MB disc space (there really is no option on the type of install)
  • 4x+ CD-ROM
The Guns
  • Tazer - Great for disarming humans
  • Pistol - Very accurate but not that powerful
  • Machine Gun - Good close up, and you feel safer for having one
  • Shotgun - You can't fight evil without one.
  • Flamethrower - The only way to kill the big ones. Burn, sucker!
  • Blowtorch - Like a mini-flamer. Better than it sounds
  • Grenade Launcher - Things that make you go "boom," in four flavours: Normal, Napalm, Stun or High Explosive
  • Sniper Rifle - pretty crap but it takes humans heads clean off
The Items
  • Flares - The light giving kind, not the pants
  • Flashlight - It never runs out of power
  • Fire Extinguisher - You'll be playing with fire, so keep one handy
  • Adrenaline - Helps you calm people down (eh?)
  • Blood Test - More high tech than in the movie, but the same basic idea. Aliens attack when discovered though....
  • Medkits - For when you have no medic on hand
References

There's really only one site I referenced, and that was a fansite for the movie. It's really thorough, covering all aspects of the movie (the special effects section is fascinating), the soundtrack, the original film gets a mention, the story Who Goes There? is on the site, the Dark Horse comics get looked at, and there's even samples from the movie. So for all things Thing (I just wanted to say that) have a look at:

http://homepage.powerup.com.au/~vampire/thing/thing.htm

Martin Heidegger's philosophy seeks to humanize scientific concepts. His main goal is to make us see things not as objects defined in terms of science, but as tools that are fundamentally embedded into our lifestyles. In the essay, the Thing, he writes about how man-made things lose their meaning when one sees them on television. He rather wants them to only be understood in terms of their physical presence and the functions that they offer. Such true understanding of the physicality and presence of things would also serve to remind one of nature's intrinsic participation in the human process of making things. Heeding this knowledge, the human mind would be encouraged consider the benevolence of nature and perhaps even its divinity.

In his essay entitled The Thing, Martin Heidegger shows how a man created "thing" is defined by its nearness and its offering of gifts to its potential user. According to him, the most important quality of a human-created object is its ability to offer human beings the opportunity to use that very thing in order to perform a function that would not be possible without it. Thus what defines a jug as a "thing" is its offering of the gift of serving as a container that holds and a liquid such as wine and dispenses it at will to those who want to drink it.

The possibility of a function is what defines a "thing" according to Heidegger instead of merely its representation. The representation of a jug on television is not a "thing" for the viewer since the television jug does is not close enough to offer its services as a tool for liquid containing and pouring.

It is thus that nearness becomes an important criterion for determing whether something is a thing or not for a given person. This idea negates the commonly held view that television brings us closer to distant things. Heidegger believes that although the objects we see on television do really exist, they are not "things" for us but only for the people who are located close enough to them to be able to use them.

Television hides the true nature of man-created objects by disclosing only their visual nature. Rather than merely viewing the visual properties of a man-made object like a television screen, beholding a thing up close would make one aware of its tangible physical material. Seeing representations of things can often distract us from thinking about how these things were made. The focus on the raw material rather than the form of a thing may serve to remind that human-made things bear the traces of both human and non-human creation. This is because while man has shaped the materials i.e clay with his own hands to transform them into a thing. i.e jug, the materials themselves were not his creation.

"When and in what way do things appear as things? They do not appear only by means of human making. .." writes Heidegger and then gives several examples of how a thing, jug or otherwise, unites human and natural factors. "The dark slumber of the earth receives the rain and dew of the sky," he writes, showing that the earthly material that contributes to the creation of a jug is shaped by the forces of nature.

By realizing that the thing that offers him its function is not only of his own making, its beholder would feel indebted to the forces of nature that have given him the raw material to fashion his creation. To illustrate this thought, Heidegger returns again to the example of the jug. Heidegger says that the use of the jug is a ritual that expresses gratitude to the non-human forces that made its creation possible.

According to Heidegger, a primitive man who believed nature to be a divine force would thank the divinity for her assistance in creating the thing of a jug. To express his thank you, he would pour out the drink contained in the jug to offer it as a sacrifice to the divinity. Heidegger describes this offering in the following sentence: "In the gift of the outpouring that is a libation, the divinities... receive back the gift of giving as the gift of donation."

The process of the sacrifice demonstrates the primitive man's respect for the role of nature in the creation of the "thing." Thus, the creation and the use of thing symbolically "gathered" (*see note below) or brought together man and the divinities of nature. Heidegger writes that "in the gift of outpouring ... divinities and mortals dwell together all at once" because "they are betrothed and entrusted to one another" in the process.

Heidegger is not encouraging the reader to believe that nature is divine. He is rather reminding him that a "thing" like a jug or any "thing" for that matter should serve as a testament to the benevolence of forces that provided for its creation, regardless of whether these forces be divine or merely biological.

Note: It is rather interesting that Heidegger uses etymology to support his arguments. Heidegger believes that the German for thing, "ding", originally meant a gathering of god and men. Not being a linguist, I can neither validate or reject this supposition.

The essay "The Thing" can be found in the "Poetry, Language, and Thought" anthology of Heidegger's essays.

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