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Characters / The Thing (1982)

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This page is for tropes related to characters appearing in John Carpenter's The Thing (1982).

Due to being a Character Sheet, spoilers are below.

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    R.J. MacReady 

R.J. MacReady
"Yeah, fuck you too!"

Played by: Kurt Russell

"Somebody in this camp ain't what he appears to be. Right now that may be one or two of us. By spring, it could be all of us."

The camp's helicopter pilot, and The Protagonist.

  • Badass Beard: Unlike some of the other team members (who presumably grow one out due to the frigid Antarctic weather), Mac's beard also serves to show him as a badass; he kills more Things than anyone else in the film.
  • Badass Normal: He manages to go toe-to-toe with the Thing and live to talk about it. Assuming he hadn't been assimilated...
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: All Mac wanted to do was go to his home shack and get drunk, but The Thing situation getting worse made him unable to have a single drink. To add insult to injury The Thing invades his shack to frame him. At the end after the big explosion Mac was carrying a bottle with him before he collapses into the snow prior to Childs finding him.
  • Determinator: As mentioned above.
  • Establishing Character Moment: He's introduced playing chess against a computer. When he loses, he destroys it by pouring his drink into the circuits — demonstrating both an unwillingness to concede defeat, and that what he lacks in pure intelligence he makes up for by playing dirty. Which also parallels The Thing, which by its nature could be said to be 'playing dirty', by taking the appearances of others as a disguise.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Choleric. He's the most determined to destroy The Thing and takes lead early on.
  • Good Is Not Nice: He's the ostensible protagonist and his desire to stop the titular alien is admirable, but he's also a rude, anti-social Jerkass. Arguably, his motivations are also less about saving the world and more about beating The Thing, as implied by the parallels with the computer chess game.
  • The Hero: Out of all the characters he's definitely the central focus of the film, and determined to stop the Thing from spreading.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Along with Garry and Nauls, he's willing to freeze to death if it means stopping The Thing.
  • Nice Hat: Wears one whenever he leaves the outpost.
  • Race Lift: Depending on how you interpret Who Goes There? 's description of him as "bronze", which Kurt Russell as Macready clearly isn't.
  • Sore Loser: At the beginning, playing chess on a computer, MacReady would rather destroy the game than lose it— which is what he does at the end of the movie, burning down the camp in order to deny the Thing victory. This was noted in an article in Script Magazine.
    • To be fair to MacReady, when the screen plus what the computer says it does are analyzed, the computer literally did cheat.
  • Taking You with Me: He grabs a bundle of dynamite and threatens to light if the others try to rush him. It also keeps them from burning him.

    Dr. Blair 

Dr. Blair
"You guys think I'm crazy! Well, that's fine! Most of you don't know what's going on around here, but I'm damn well sure some of you do!"

Played by: Wilford Brimley

The camp's Biologist.

  • Go Mad from the Revelation: When he discovers just how dangerous The Thing is, he goes completely bonkers. Before this he was calm, detached, and overall a reasonable fellow.
  • Properly Paranoid: His fear of the thing is completely justified.
  • Sanity Slippage: When he realizes the potential of a Thing outbreak on the mainland, he is determined that all outside contact should be broken and he and his team left to die for the good of mankind. He eventually becomes a raving lunatic who attacks Windows and shoots up the communications room.
  • Shoot the Dog: Literally. In addition to destroying all the vehicles and communication devices to keep the Thing from leaving the base and reaching the mainland, he kills the remaining dogs to prevent them from getting infected.
  • Smart People Wear Glasses: He and Fuchs are the only ones with glasses, and also the most intellectual ones.


"Maybe we at war with Norway."
Played by: TK Carter

The camp's cook.

  • Deadpan Snarker: At the beginning of the movie, he's carefree and jocular. As things get more serious, so does he.
    "Five minutes is enough to put a man over down here. I mean, look at Palmer. He been the way he is since the first day."
  • Establishing Character Moment: Enters the room with the dead Norwegian on rollerskates, quips that they might be at war with Norway, contradicts the leader of the camp, insults the only guy agreeing with him, and then leaves. This shows that he isn't prone to taking things too seriously.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Along with Macready and Garry, he's willing to freeze to death if it means stopping The Thing.
  • Pretty Boy: Somewhat younger and more effeminate than the rest.
  • Uncle Tomfoolery: '70s-80s style, with his skates, funk ghetto blaster and position as a Servile Snarker.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The last time we see him, he's walking down some stairs. The original script had him getting attacked by a jack-in-the-box like alien, only they cut the scene as the special effects didn't look real enough, and Carpenter liked leaving it ambiguous anyway. Another scene, which made it to storyboards but was never filmed, showed him being eaten alive from the inside out by a series of Thing-tentacles.


Played by: David Clennon

The camp's assistant mechanic.

  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Claims the aliens "taught the Incas everything they know", and is generally a bit out there.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Sanguine. He frequently makes wisecracks and can be seen smoking pot in a number of scenes.
  • Jerkass: Openly distrusts and antagonizes Windows. The thing is, Windows is human, but Palmer has been assimilated. He also mocks Garry for finally getting a chance to use his 'popgun' in the beginning. He says this while Garry is still clearly disturbed by the fact that he had to kill the Norwegian in an act of self-defense for the camp.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    "You've got to be fucking kidding..."
  • The Stoner: Openly smokes marijuana joints in front of the whole group, spouts off on how aliens are real and "taught the Incas everything they know." His generally non-threatening and comical personality might be why the alien assimilated him, because he didn't draw much suspicion.
  • You Have Got to Be Kidding Me!: When he sees the Norris-Head-Spider... Thing.


Played by: Keith David

The camp's chief mechanic.

  • Adaptational Heroism: A minor case, since he's still fairly heroic in the film anyway, but the novelization has him utterly racked with Survivor's Guilt for failing to save Bennings while out on the ice.
  • Bald, Black Leader Guy: Assumes this role briefly when Nauls comes back with MacReady's torn clothes. He also tried to take over when Garry stepped down, but Mac and Clark nixed that idea.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: A bit of this later in the movie. Despite Childs and Mac increasingly disagreeing and being on the verge of killing each other, out of mutual suspicion that the other is really the alien, the instant that they can prove that they're both human (using the blood test) Mac trusts Childs enough to unquestioningly give him a flamethrower.
  • Hypocrite: He has the nerve to call MacReady a murderer after he kills Clark in self-defense, while he willing to let Mac freeze to death out of paranoia regardless if he was human or not.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: At the end of the film, he calmly accepts his death and shares a drink with MacReady. That is, of course, assuming he's still human...
  • The Lancer: He becomes MacReady's second man once the team is whittled down to four people.
  • Scary Black Man: He's one of the more intimidating team members and one of only two black ones, the other being the more effeminate Nauls. Especially when Mac is suspected of being another thing, and he breaks through the door with an ax so he can kill him with his flamethrower.

    Dr. Copper 

Dr. Copper
Played by: Richard Dysart

The camp's physician.

  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Norris has had a heart attack, and Copper tries to resuscitate him with the defibrillator. Suddenly, Norris' chest opens up and bites Copper's forearms off, revealing Norris to be one of the Things. Copper presumably dies from shock and/or blood loss, because the next time we see him (after Norris-Thing has been taken care of), he's dead.
  • Death by Adaptation: In Who Goes There?, he is the one who remembers that Blair is still in the shack and hasn't been tested, after which point nobody dies.
  • Nice Guy: He is adamant to provide his patients with the proper care.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: There's next to no build up to his death scene. The Thing imitates so perfectly, it basically inherited a character's heart condition, and upon having a stress induced heart attack received medical treatment, then out of nowhere reveals its killer jaws and eats the Doc's arms. It's suggested that the defibrillator shocks were actually hurting it, hence it retaliated as the out in the open attack is rather out of character from the stealthy Thing.

    Vance Norris 

Vance Norris
Played by: Charles Hallahan

The camp's geologist.

  • Field Promotion: Defied. He gets offered one when Garry steps down, but turns it down for fear of not being capable of doing the job right. We later learned that Norris was assimiliated. This could also mean that he turned down the position as it would put a lot of attention and suspicion on him. The actor himself said he played the scene as if Norris could sense that something wasn't quite right with him.
    "I'm sorry fellas, but I'm not up to it."
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Phlegmatic.
  • Heart Trauma: He suffers a heart attack, and is hauled off for first aid. This turns out to be a mistake, because he was a Thing all along.
  • Nice Guy: He's a very meek, quiet guy. He also rejects an offer to lead the team because he worried that he's not up to the task.

    George Bennings 

George Bennings
Played by: Peter Maloney

The camp's Meteorologist.

  • Adaptational Badass: In the film, he has little agency over his ultimate fate, but in the novelization, he meets his end bravely venturing out onto the ice with Macready and Childs to prevent The Thing escaping.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Zig-zagged; his name in Who Goes There? is usually Benning, without the s, however he's occasionally called Bennings.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: He's more paranoid and nervous in the book (athough he dies before the The Thing's imitation properties are fully revealed in the film); his job also changes from aviation mechanic to meterologist. Considering that he survives the book and is victim #4 in the movie, he's certainly Properly Paranoid.
  • Creepy Long Fingers: When he is assimilated, The Thing is caught before it can wholly replicate him, leaving it with monstrous lower arms with stinted, malformed fingers.
  • Death by Adaptation: He survives Who Goes There?; although he isn't mentioned after wondering how many people are infected, he isn't listed among the dead by Copper.
  • Kill It with Fire: Is incinerated by the crew when he is infected.
  • Last-Name Basis: The only one of the men to avert it, and even then only once.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: He's shot in the leg, but he's walking less than a minute later. Justified, as the bullet barely grazed him.
  • Perpetual Frowner: Though he was shot at the beginning of the film.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: His assimilation and subsequent death is what clues the others in on The Thing's abilities and that, just because it looks dead, doesn't mean it is dead.


Played by: Richard Masur

The camp's dog handler.

  • Adaptational Heroism: Was one of the Things in the original story. Avoids getting infected in the film before dying.
  • Badass Beard
  • Berserk Button Harming or even killing the dogs is a fast way to get on Clark's bad side.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Tends to remain calm and diplomatic instead of arguing, and goes along with the group's decisions without protesting even when he has every right to be angered by them (notice how he doesn't hesitate when Mac tells him, Copper, and Garry — at the time the main suspects — to move away from the others). But when the group's safety is being threatened, he will not stand idly by. When Childs tries to take command, Clark pulls a knife on him. And when Mac wants to have everybody tied up, Clark tries to take him out.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Gets shot by MacReady while lunging against him with a scalpel.
  • Friend to All Living Things: His job is to take care of the sled dogs on the station, and he loves the animals. This devastates him when they're forced to kill all the infected dogs.
  • In the Back: Tries to stab Mac when he's looking the other way. Gets shot for his trouble.
  • It's Personal: Once all of his beloved dogs are killed and/or murdered, he, blinded by wrath, gets hellbent on making the Thing pay for it. Unfortunately, he gets outplayed and directed at the wrong target by it, resulting in his death.
  • The Mutiny: Attempts to overthrow MacReady by stabbing him in the back. Mac turns around and shoots him in the head.
  • Nice Guy: He's one of the calmest, most softspoken guys in the film and a Friend to All Living Things.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Despite being shot at point-blank range, his head still remains mostly intact with only a bullet hole to show for it.
  • Red Herring Mole: MacReady suspects him to be one of the Things, and shoots Clark when he makes a move on Mac. It later turns that out that he was still human, for which Childs calls MacReady a murderer. A scary example of It Can Think — the Thing was smart enough to realize that everyone knew that it was alone with Clark for a long time, so it was too obvious to bother infecting him.


Played by: Donald Moffat

"I know you gentlemen have been through a lot, but when you find the time, I'd rather not spend the rest of this winter TIED TO THIS FUCKING COUCH!"

The Leader of the camp.

  • Adaptational Heroism: Was one of the Things in the orignal story.
  • The Captain: He's the definite leader of the team at outpost #31. Palmer mockingly calls him "El Capitán" after Garry shoots the Norwegian gunman.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Has Blair-Thing's hand shoved into his mouth and morphed into him in close quarters away from everyone else.
  • Heroic BSoD: Appears to have a very short breakdown after having to shoot the Norwegian in the beginning. He steps out of the building he was in and just stares guiltily at the man's body before moving to help the others.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Along with Macready and Nauls, he's willing to freeze to death if it means stopping The Thing.
  • Moe Greene Special: He shoots the rifle-toting Norwegian through his eye.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: To his credit, there's no way Gary could've known what was going on, but his killing the Norwegian ensured the survival of the Dog-Thing.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Relinquishes his authority of his own accord when it becomes obvious the others do not trust him, apparently with no hard feelings.
  • Red Herring Mole: He's suspected of being a Thing during the blood testing scene. It turns out to be Palmer instead.
  • Suddenly SHOUTING!: Garry has just been proved to be human and not a Thing, just after a fight with a Thing he was tied to, and he is very annoyed.
    "I know you gentlemen have been through a lot, but when you find the time, I'd rather not spend the rest of this winter tied to this fucking couch!"


Played by: Joel Polis

Dr. Blair's Assistant.

  • Better to Die than Be Killed: MacReady and the others find his charred corpse in the snow outside. They speculate that he burned himself before the Thing could get to him.


Played by: Thomas G Waites

The camp's radio operator.

  • Adaptational Badass: In the novelization, he survives until the final battle alongside Nauls, Childs, Garry and Macready, and is similarly committed to their Heroic Sacrifice; he even pulls a Better to Die than Be Killed by taking a cyanide pill as The Thing grabs him.
  • Adaptational Name Change: In the novelization, he's called Saunders, and his name in an early draft of the script was Sanchez.
  • Canon Foreigner: No analogue in Who Goes There?, for obvious reasons.
  • Communications Officer: Serves this role in theory. However, at the beginning he states that he "[hasn't] been able to reach shit in two weeks". Later on, the radio equipment is destroyed by Blair, making the whole point moot.
    "I doubt if anybody's talked to anybody on this entire continent, and you want me to reach somebody!"
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Palmer-Thing grabs him and bites him in the head, flinging him around before throwing him into a corner to bleed to death and reanimate as a Thing. Thankfully, Mac incinerates him before this happens.
  • Deadpan Snarker: His quote above is an excellent illustration of his attitude.
  • Deer in the Headlights: Has a tendency to freeze up when confronted with danger. It's what gets him killed.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: "Friend" is probably an overstatement for any relationship in this movie, but he is severely disliked by his coworkers, who find him annoying at best. Naturally, they usually gang on him whenever there's a paranoia spike. It's quite sad, actually.
  • Heroic BSoD: When he sees the Palmer-Thing.
    • Has one after he sees Bennings being assimilated, another when he realizes the Thing must have gotten the keys to the blood storage after he dropped them, another when Blair loses it and starts trashing the radio room. Honestly, the guy is pretty much a walking nervous breakdown for the entire movie. This is what ultimately gets him killed.
  • Jerkass: Is quite abrasive towards the others and very grouchy.
  • Kill It with Fire: His final fate.
  • Kubrick Stare: Gives one to MacReady just before the latter tests his blood. It's a Red Herring — Windows is human, as is Mac.
  • Nervous Wreck: Windows prove time and time again that he's really no good when put under pressure, eventually resulting in him freeze up at the worst possible moment and getting killed for it.
  • Oh, Crap!: When he realizes that he dropped the keys that let the Thing get to the blood.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Never tells a single person that he dropped Gary's keyes when he came upon Bennings being assimilated. Not even when both Dr. Copper (the only one with access to the blood storage) and Gary (Who has the only key) are being accused of being Things.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: If he hadn't dropped the keys, who knows what might have happened? Granted, The Thing probably would have just broken in regardless, but it pinned the blame on two innocent men and thus left them incapacitated for the majority of the film.

    The Thing 

The Thing

The Antagonist, who tries to kill the heroes and make copies of them. An alien lifeform from another world that assimilates and breaks down biological mass and replicates it.

  • Adaptational Heroism: The Thing in Who Goes There? is portrayed as being inherently selfish, willing to betray other Things just to ensure its own survival, which of course leads to the downfall of them all. Here, the closest we get to such an implication is Palmer pointing out the Norris spider head, although Windows was about to notice it anyway so it made little difference.
  • Adaptational Intelligence: The most devious and clever iteration of the creature so far. The Thing is extremely careful and selective when it comes to who it infects, preferring to avoid the most obvious candidates such as the leader of the camp, and instead actively working behind the scenes to frame and increase paranoia towards the most intelligent and likely suspects.
  • Alien Blood: Every cell of the Thing will try to defend itself, as opposed to regular human blood, which is inert. This is part of the basic nature of the Thing; even when it's replaced multiple people, each individual will act independently. In essence, every cell of the Thing is the Thing as a whole.
  • Animalistic Abomination: It also spends most of the time disguised as a dog, and in the 2011 prequel it first surfaces as an insect/arachnid like thingie that may or may not be a distorted form of the alien pilot. In Campbell's novel, it is also implied it assimilated an albatross, and is now flying towards us.
  • The Assimilator: The entire modus operandi of the alien entity. Also, quite possibly, the most frightening example.
  • Asteroids Monster: Every cell of the Thing is an independent organism. At various times during the film, it gets parts chopped off it, which grow new appendages and scuttle off.
  • Antagonist Title: The Thing, that's all we can call it.
  • Big Bad: Its attempts to assimilate other organisms and spread, the dangers thereof and the paranoia its abilities cause serve as the main driving forces behind the story's plot.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: According to Carpenter himself, one of the easiest visual foreshadowers for being replicated is how the eyes are cast in shadow. For instance, in the blood test scene, Palmer is the only one whose eyes are in darkness, while everyone else reflects light off their eyes. The original script also describes the dog thing's eyes prior to eruption as "black orbs".
  • Body Horror: Dear LORD. Every single time the Thing appears in a non-human form, it looks absolutely repulsive, like something straight out of an H. P. Lovecraft story. "Horror" is probably too gentle a word.
  • Cannibalism Superpower: This seems to describe the Thing quite well.
  • Clipped-Wing Angel: With all the flamethrowers in the Antarctic base, any piece of the Thing which takes an easily recognizable form on-screen is immolated relatively quickly. The real problem is in finding who it is in the first place.
  • Decapitation Required: Subverted horribly. Decapitation does absolutely nothing to the Thing. When its head is removed it acts as an independent organism and tries to escape.
  • Eat Brain for Memories: When it consumes a human being and converts it into a Thing, the new Thing has all of the memories of the original person.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Downplayed. The Thing embodies Lovecraftian Superpower completely, with it's shape-shifting, tentacles, and being able to become any living creature down to the memories. It's functionally immortal, can assimilate any higher lifeform and completely warps the laws of biology just to exist. But it's more of a borderline case between Animalistic Abomination and a true eldritch monster. It's like a lesser Eldritch horror (such as a Shoggoth) - its "native" forms are imperfect and can be destroyed by something as simple as a flamethrower. It's abilities also only extend to itself and those it infects. It can't bend the laws of physics in seemingly impossible ways or use abilities that could be deemed magic by humans. Like any Eldritch Abomination, however, just being in the presence of a Thing is enough for most ordinary people to promptly BSOD, which the titular Thing takes full advantage of.
  • Evil Is Visceral: If there is any way to describe what the Thing is, it's this. The Thing may never have a set form, but it always manifests as a gruesome mass of blood, gore, and viscera.
  • Face Stealer: The Thing steals people's identities by absorbing them.
  • Fate Worse than Death: What its assimilation process is like. It requires its victims to be alive while it digests and absorbs their flesh, inducing unimaginable pain at best. Arguably, it doesn't even kill them if you subscribe to the idea that the assimilated don't know they're infected. That's not going into the implications of it letting out human/animal screeching, even when it's a different species. It's telling that the dog that got shot in the chest was the luckiest out of the bunch.
  • From a Single Cell: The characters speculate that all it takes is one Thing cell to infect someone. Alan Dean Foster, in the novelization, seemed to think this is implausible, and has Blair talk in detail on the subject. Of course, that depends on whether you think Blair was still trustworthy at that point. Ultimately it's left up to fans to decide what pseudoscience to believe. This turns out to be its Achilles' Heel of a sort, as it becomes the give-away for its otherwise perfect camouflage: tissue separated from its main body is capable of independent life, even a blood sample, and will try to crawl away from danger like a hot needle.
  • Generic Doomsday Villain: It's trying to spread itself as wide as possible, and if this is just base instinct or for some higher plan is unknown. It would likely be a lot less frightening if the viewer did understand what its motives were.
  • Grand Theft Me: Its MO. It's unclear if it directly robs the victim of their consciousness, or slowly subsumes it, bit by bit, to maintain a guise. Carpenter kept it ambiguous.
  • Harmless Freezing: The original Thing was frozen for around 100,000 years. When it's thawed out it's completely fine. Childs even points out how impossible this sounds, to which Mac points out that it's from outer space and different from us. After the Thing abandons its plan to escape, its new goal is to kill all the survivors and simply freeze itself again until new hosts wake it up.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: When exposed it doesn't just try to attack anyone near by, it roars and screams before transforming. Clark calls it "weird and pissed off" for a reason.
  • Hell Is That Noise: Just about every sound the Thing makes qualifies. It sounds as utterly alien as it looks.
  • Hiss Before Fleeing: The Thing hisses and moans when it's currently in an imperfect copy of its host. Even the blood finds a way to scream before it jumps from the petri dish.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The thing spends most of its time looking like a good ol' homo sapien. It's even clever enough to act like us perfectly. Until it has its preyyoualone. It'll even turn against other Things... which means if two Things meet and don't know the other is a Thing, it'll act as it expects a human would. Which is a problem when two men are stranded alone...
  • It Can Think: The station personnel realize their situation is From Bad to Worse when they discover that someone sabotaged their stock blood samples they were going to use to test who was infected (and not even by just ripping open the locker, but using a key). It isn't just a virus, it's at least as intelligent as the humans it absorbs and replicates. Ultimately they find out that it is smart enough to frame people who aren't infected, and even avoid infecting people who are too obvious. Later it turns out it was even trying to build an escape vehicle from scavenged parts.
  • Kill It with Fire: Fire is the only thing the characters have on hand that can kill a Thing. Since it's a shapeshifter, shooting it barely inconveniences it and it can survive for thousands of years frozen. Luckily, ice stations have handy flamethrowers.
  • Losing Your Head: Decapitating the monster doesn't work, in one instance it decapitates itself, then the head grows legs and scuttles away.
  • Manipulative Bastard: The Thing knows that paranoia only makes the situation worse for the humans and does what it can to spread that paranoia even more than it already does by nature alone.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: To destroy the Thing completely, not one single cell can be left alive, since even one cell is an independent organism with the power to assimilate an entire host body. The group burns them to ash, but realistically this would be unlikely to kill every single cell — which is why they haul the remains outside where they can freeze. During the scene where Blair is examining the dog-Thing, a deleted line had him mentioning that it was still alive. It's implied that this creature is the one that eventually got Blair. Unless he was infected during the autopsy.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: The Thing can infect Earth life just as easily as it did alien life. It's not clear how long this took or what the alien was like. Actually lampshaded in the original novel, where its potential to infect us (or carry some alien disease) was initially dismissed based on the otherwise logical assumption that all of Earth's life forms, including plants and fungi, are more closely related to us than the Thing is, and their diseases can't affect us.
  • Non-Malicious Monster: At the end of the day, its motivations, let alone whereas it is even a sapient being, are unclear, and may not go above basic instinct to survive. Averted in both the original book and some of the spin-off comics, however, where it is in fact malevolent (though in Eternal Vows some of the things just want to be left in peace). Notably, in both the 1982 film and the 2011 prequel, while the Thing is actively hostile, it is much less aggressive/industrious than you'd think, with only 2 or 3 characters actually getting infected until the climax of each film when the Thing is fully unmasked and forced to embark on a killing spree.
  • One-Winged Angel: Whenever a Thing is exposed, it busts out More Teeth than the Osmond Family and Combat Tentacles — the more, the merrier — and uses them to savagely attack anyone in the vicinity. Particularly noteworthy when it confronts MacReady at the end — all the remaining Things combined with the Blair-Thing into a mashup that looks like a cross between a Shoggoth and a T-Rex. If a Thing is caught before it can complete a transformation, it quickly becomes a Clipped-Wing Angel.
  • Paranoia Fuel: In-Universe. It's basically the physical embodiment. The Thing is all about creating this in the camp and turning everyone against each other, thus making it even easier to infect them all.
  • Partial Transformation: It is sometimes caught in partial transformation.
  • Shapeshifter Default Form: Only in the book, where its true form is apparently a blue-skinned humanoid with three red eyes. There were plans to depict this form somewhere in the movie, but it was ultimately scrapped for looking too silly, which is probably all to the good. In the movie version it doesn't seem to have a "true" form, beyond some kind of blob of undifferentiated cells.
  • Starfish Aliens: There really is not a word other than "The Thing" to call it, because no one even really knows what it is. It is capable of perfectly replicating anything it has ever come in contact with, and every single cell of its body is a separate, hostile organism. It's so utterly alien that people aren't even sure if it has a true form or not, even the huge, grotesque monstrosity it forms in the end.
  • Taking You with Me: When exposed and left without any options of escape, with its destruction as the only outcome, the Thing will always try and take at least one of its assailants down with it,regardless if it can assimilate them or not. Always.
  • They Look Like Us Now: Played for all the Paranoia Fuel it's worth. Especially at the end.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Discussed. As the survivors wonder, if the Thing perfectly mimics who it copies, does the assimilated person even know it's a fake? The novel claims it does, absorbing the memories and personality of the Thing, and Carpenter in the commentary agrees that if it did, it wouldn't matter — it'd use their personality to react accordingly. Given that the Thing-imitations take several actions to frame unassimilated humans, and one of them is secretly building a hovercraft, it seems probable that they know what they are. That said, the actor playing Norris mentions in the commentary that he played his character as being worried that he might be the Thing without knowing it. ( He's very much correct.) Note his reaction when offered Garry's gun — "I'm not up to it.".
  • The Virus: Possibly the ultimate example. It can consume and imitate any life. Someone infected, assimilated and replicated by the Thing is such a perfect imitation that they never break character until either an opportunity arises for it to kill a bunch of people or it gets exposed. Even if other people get exposed as a Thing, a still-in-disguise Thing will remain in-character and even attack the other of its own kind, just to keep up the act. Worse yet, the monster apparently retains the knowledge of everything it has eaten (a isolated one is trying to build an airship to escape) and can even mix-and-match parts from the various creatures it's assimilated.
  • Voice of the Legion: Word of God claims that when The Thing screams, it is screaming with the voices of all of its victims.
  • Worthy Opponent: Assuming the interpretation that Childs is a Thing himself at the end of the film is true, him sharing a bottle of whisky with Mc Ready as the both wait to freeze to death can be interpreted as a respectful gesture of "touché, brave and resourceful adversary; you win this round." Assuming Mac Ready isn't one as well, but what better opponent for such an alien than another one of itself?
  • You Are Who You Eat: The Thing absorbs other people so it can assume their identity, leading to paranoia as to who exactly is a Thing or not. The alien can either consume a person in one go, but its individual cells also have the ability to slowly do this to an infectee, literally eating them from the inside out.
  • You Cannot Grasp the True Form: Nobody knows what the original Thing is or even what it looks like. Even John Carpenter notes that one could go crazy even thinking about it.


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