Surviving The Thing

So I’ve been considering my favourite survival stories and I was thinking that, as it’s Friday 13th, maybe it’s time for a survival horror story? After all, I do have something of a soft spot for a good horror story, and there’s one that really stands out for me.

The Thing is based on a short story by John W Campbell, entitled ‘Who Goes There?’ and was first filmed as The Thing From Another World (1951) but was adapted once more in 1982 by John Carpenter. The 1982 film was adapted into a novel by Alan Dean Foster – which I read many years ago. The idea of the film being adapted into a novel is interesting to me because I have recently adapted a screenplay into a novel, so maybe it’s time for me to go back and re-read the novelisation of The Thing . . .

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Anyway, I’ve seen the film more times than I can remember and it has undoubtedly been an influence on my own story telling. Those of you who know my writing will know that I’m drawn to distant and isolated settings, and that’s where we find ourselves in The Thing. Outpost 31 is a small research base in the Antarctic where the researchers come under threat from a shape-shifting alien that assumes the guise of the people it kills. Realising their predicament, one of the researchers even takes measures to isolate them further. All communications are cut-off, and all means of escaping the base are destroyed, leaving them totally alone as their paranoia increases and they struggle to identify which of them is the threat.

Kurt Russel, as R J MacReady proves to be a resourceful and resilient protagonist – the kind of protagonist I love to root for. He doesn’t have any specialist training, unique abilities or powers. In fact, he’s fallible and afraid. He feels like a real person, not a pumped up Hollywood Hero, but he’s smart and he doesn’t give up – he keeps on pushing and he keeps on fighting despite the odds. Ultimately his only goal is to prevent the horror from escaping the base and finding its way to civilisation, but this is a survival story in which, perhaps, it is best if no one survives.

Oh, and on top of all that, there are some amazing squishy (pre-CGI days) effects by Rob Bottin, a perfectly stark soundtrack by Ennio Morricone and John Carpenter, a brilliant and under-stated performance from Kurt Russell, miles and miles of icy wastes, an overwhelming sense of isolation, and a long, hard fight to survive.

It’s not for the faint-hearted.

The Thing . . . Man is the warmest place to hide . . .

That’s all.

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