Nightmare Fuel / The Thing (1982)

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/rsz_palmerthing.png
The beginning of the Palmer Thing's emergence...with much, much worse to come.

"I don't know what the hell's in there, but it's weird and pissed-off, whatever it is!"
Clark

The Thing is often described as one of the scariest, most Gorn filled and downright terrifying films of all time, chock full of some of the highest-octane Nightmare Fuel there is. There is a very good reason for this.


  • Let's start with the Dog-Thing. The moment it is alone with the other dogs, it peels the face off the skull of the dog it was disguised as, discards the skull, grows a huge batch of Combat Tentacles, and goes right to work. The absolutely horrifying noises that start coming from the kennel attract Clark's attention, and cause MacReady to hit the fire alarm to bring everyone running. What they find in there is something straight out of H.P. Lovecraft, momentarily paralyzing them until MacReady takes charge and orders someone to fetch the flamethrower.
    • And it gets worse: They starts pumping shotgun shells into it, which of course does absolutely nothing. When Childs finally shows up with the flamethrower, the Dog-Thing grows another tentacle - with a mouth - out of a mass of skinned flesh, and attempts to attack him with it. He snaps out of it just in time and hastily immolates the Dog-Thing. That doesn't mean that it was dead, though...
      • It's worth noting that the tentacle's "mouth" is actually radially arranged dog tongues with teeth lining them.
    • If the charred remains of the merged-heads Thing didn't clue you in, the Dog-Thing really hammers home just how alien the Thing is. This is not only due to the appearance of the monster itself, but the sound effects as well (see below). The Norwegians had the right idea, but bad execution: slow it down with bullets and use thermite grenades to finish the job. Kill It with Fire is the only way.
  • The part where after eating a man's arms with a mouth in its chest, one of the monsters pulls its own head away from its flaming body, after which it (the head) then sprouts legs and eye-stalks and tries to scuttle out the door. Not to mention how before that its organs jumped from its body, grew a head, neck and legs and clung to a vent to try an escape.
    • And let's not forget to mention the horrific, inhuman wailing the creature's making the entire time. It's pretty much the icing on the nightmare/nausea cake.
  • The blood test is one of the greatest jump scares of all time. Especially great is how we're made to expect one of two characters is a Thing. MacReady, easily the smartest and most competent of them, is still haranguing them about who he thinks the Thing is - Garry - and casually puts the hot wire to the blood of someone he expects to be human. IT FUCKING EXPLODES. The blood screeches, and it's the most hideous sound, then dashes off while its owner begins another horrifying transformation...
    • The FX men made a little inflatable monster head and neck, which jumps up out of a petri dish held by a false arm the actor wore for that shot. Freeze-frame it. The editing and performance-matching quality here is frankly amazing.
  • The scene where a guy begins to go into convulsions as he transforms into a Thing, with two other guys flailing and screaming bloody murder because they've been tied together with him.
    • It was Palmer; in detail Palmer begins to convulse violently before he starts bleeding from the eyes while the new Palmer-Thing lets out an ungodly scream. His head swells in gross, bleeding bumps which push the liquefied eyeballs out of the sockets (the pic at the top is merely the start of this), busts out of the rope, then splits down the middle to reveal a giant, tooth-filled maw. Once transformed, it wraps a long tongue around Windows' neck, pulls his head into the maw, and proceeds to give him an absolutely brutal mauling while MacReady is fumbling with the flamethrower...
    • It gets even worse when the Palmer-Thing is set on fire . Normally fire quickly kills an outed Thing, but with the Palmer-Thing, it wails angrily and attempts to attack MacReady, chomping its mouth at him as if it wasn't even fazed by the flames. That moment alone is one of most frightening images in the entire film; the image of a Thing coming right at you, trying to bite your face off while on FIRE!
  • Blair's freakout and sudden destruction of the crew's equipment. It gets very intense, and is followed up with two implications that fit under Fridge Horror: 1. Blair realizing that if anything were intact one of the imitations could use the vehicles or radio for outside help to escape and spread. 2. The reveal at some point in the film that Blair was assimilated himself, which would shed a different light on the situation. Perhaps, it wanted to stay and either escape on its replicated spaceship to leave everyone to freeze to death or let everyone die out and be rediscovered by a future search team. Either way, it is a very disturbing scene in hindsight.
    • Or a third alternative: If it's possible to realize you're being assimilated, Blair is probably one of the few characters who would realize this (since he knows about its biology). And he made that noose in the shack... Did he realize he had been contaminated earlier, and made the noose, but lost control before he could kill himself?
  • The burned split-faced corpse at the Norwegian camp was Nightmare Fuel even before it started moving. Two heads, melted together in a frozen rictus of agony...
  • Hell, even before the Dog-Thing outed itself, the dog it was disguised as was off-the-scale creepy. It's no spoiler to point out that something's Just Not Right about that dog from the first time you see it. It stands perfectly still, and stares, and never wags its tail. You can see it coolly calculating and planning, waiting for the right moment. And that music...
    • According to the commentary track featuring John Carpenter, the dog was not prompted for any of the behavior that's so damn creepy (pausing as if to listen for anyone who might discover it, the slow and deliberate walk, and as mentioned above, the intent look on its face). They only trained it to hit its marks on set — the creepiness is all-natural. That's because the dog is actually half-wolf. That standing still and staring is it getting spooked by something; while it was well-trained, the actors were genuinely scared of it.
    • What really made the kennel scene stand out was that when the dog started to transform, the dogs in the kennel went from aggressive to frantic attempts to escape. Seeing one of them desperately trying to claw and bite through at the metal fence to escape the other dogs' fate just added to the horror.
  • Although the Body Horror elements are still incredibly creepy, as well as the paranoia, the sound effects are also pretty nightmare-inducing:
    • Take for example the scene right before the kennel, when MacReady grabs a beer in the fridge... in the background you hear weird rumbling monster sounds, and then you hear that awful high-pitched dog yelping/barking/squealing. MacReady slams on the fire alarm (which puts you into panic mode).
    • THEN the scene switches to Clark waiting nervously in the hall, and you hear one of THE MOST god-awfully nightmarish sounds ever, a strangely distorted male voice screaming in agony... it makes you wonder what the hell kind of transformation is taking place in the kennel, especially since none of the humans are inside of it.
    • When the men shine their light on the dog-Thing, it lets out an unnerving sound that sounds like a big cat's roar run through an electronic filter. And in the wide shot of the creature, it makes a sound like the electronically processed squeals of a pig.
    • During the rest of the scene, you continue hearing these weird hybrid sounds of humans wailing/screaming, dogs barking/yelping, and weird growling and hissing sounds. One could simply LISTEN to this scene and get completely unsettled.
    • A little detail to think about: perhaps all those sounds the Thing makes are from all its prior victims keening together.
  • After the blood test we notice something that might hit you subconsciously. The blood that was tested to be from a Thing, after screaming and being dropped to the ground, quickly scurries away. Nobody mentions it again, though it's possible that it became part of the Blair-Thing later.
  • The jump scare when Fuchs's light goes out. He takes a flare and walks to his door and trips something and all of a sudden we see a shadow shoot by with one of the most horrific sounds ever put on screen. This jump scare mixed psychological horror and paranoia as we don't know who it is and the sound that it makes is so alien and inhuman that it will ALWAYS crawl under your skin.
  • The same sound is heard when the Blair-Thing shows up to kill Garry by MORPHING HIS HAND INTO HIS MOUTH, the scene afterwards we're shown his body being dragged by the hand melded mouth.
  • The Bennings scene.Absolutely everything about this scene is horrific in every sense. The first slow pan from a chair, covered in blood, with a shredded uniform in it. Then you - and Windows - hear the noise. He slowly turns his head to the source of the noise - Bennings being consumed by the VERY MUCH ALIVE Split-Face-Thing, tentacles pouring out of every orifice. It ends with him just softly whispering "holy shit", dropping the keys - and running for his life.
  • The way that the Bennings-Thing looks up when they catch up to it, with seemingly huge eyes, as it opens its mouth to give off an unearthly wail. After they burn it, the momentary relief is followed by the realisation by the team: Blair is not with them and nobody knows where he is.
  • The frozen Norwegian corpse who slit his wrists and throat. A deleted scene in the 2011 remake shows he did that to himself rather than be taken over.
  • The main theme itself: dun dun.... dun dun... dun dun... dun dun...
  • The plans for the never-produced Sci-Fi Channel series: The Thing figures out how to get around the blood test. Even further, it played with the idea of The Thing and showed just how unstoppable it would be if it ever got to a place that wasn't mostly devoid of life. We really would not stand a chance.
  • The ending. Even if Macready and Childs aren't Things, they're still trapped in the middle of the frozen Antarctic, with little real hope for survival. The ruins of Outpost 31 are burning around them, and they have no food or shelter...and there's that little, teeny, tiny chance that one of them is infected.
  • Fuchs' death. A combination of Better to Die than Be Killed and Nothing Is Scarier. We don't actually see it happen, but the other group members speculate that he realized he was about to be consumed so instead he burned himself alive with a flare!
  • While it is a distant runner-up to all the Gorn and terror that the Thing itself brings, thereís the scene in which the men were pretty much about to lynch MacReady in a paranoid frenzy on some pretty flimsy evidence. The situation certainly called for caution, but seeing how quickly the men turned on each other was pretty damn scary, especially since it is shown the men are so terrified they donít really care all that much if MacReady is innocent or not.
    Childs: Well then, we're wrong!
    • And the realization that if MacReady hadn't found a (drastic) way to make them back off, he'd likely only have been the first one to get lynched.
    • Or that even if none of them had been Things at that point, it wouldn't have made any difference: paranoia would never let them believe it.
  • The deleted scene showing Nauls' death was gruesome even by this movie's standards. The scene is shown in storyboard and takes place in the final act; after the Blair-Thing assimilates Garry, Mac and Nauls split up. Nauls goes down a narrow hallway and eventually stops in front of a large cabinet. He find Garry's body then looks up and is grabbed by Blair, looming above him in a tentacled, blob-like form with a malformed arm. The next scene would've been Nauls' death scene occurring just before the final form of the Blair-Thing appeared in front of Mac. After the floor burst open, Nauls' head emerged from the hole, rolling and crying out "Help me!" Then the rest of Nauls' body would rise out, skin and flesh melting off the bones and missing a hand. While Mac stared horrified, small tentacles would pop out all over Nauls' body while a large one moved up his throat then out his mouth, silencing his cries. Nauls' head rolled around as the large tentacle ballooned before it burst Nauls' jaw and ribcage open, killing him.

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