John Carpenter’s The Thing is a classic of sci-fi/horror, but an early bit of dialogue gives the whole plot away, provided one speaks Norwegian. The first film in Carpenter’s informal “apocalypse trilogy” – followed by 1987’s Prince of Darkness and 1995’s In the Mouth of Madness – The Thing served as a remake of 1951’s The Thing from Another World, and a re-adaptation of the 1938 novella Who Goes There?, by author John W. Campbell Jr. While most remakes tend to be inferior to the original, Carpenter’s film arguably bests the first Thing movie in every way.
The Thing is famous for several things, most notably it’s amazing practical monster and gore effects that are still enough to drop viewers’ jaws today, nearly 40 years later. The film also boasts an excellent score by Ennio Morricone, and thrives on an atmosphere of paranoia, as neither the audience or the characters onscreen can ever really be sure who’s really human and who’s been quietly assimilated by the titular alien creature.
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A claustrophobic tale of terror, The Thing focuses on the crew of a remote American research outpost in Antarctica, and how they react to the threat posed by a shape-shifting alien that could well constitute an existential danger to humanity as a whole. However, a clever Easter egg reveals that the whole scenario could’ve been avoided.
The Thing’s Opening Scenes Spoil the Monster’s Entire Plot (If You Speak Norwegian)
The Thing kicks off with a helicopter from a neighboring Norwegian research base in pursuit of a sled dog. Both the pilot and another man are trying desperately to kill the animal, which eventually reaches the American station. Naturally, the American crew assumes the Norwegians have lost their minds, since hunting down a dog with intent to kill isn’t really something most people would ever do. Neither side speaks the other’s language, and the Norwegian pilot won’t stop attempting to shoot the dog, so he ends up shot by the American base commander out of concern for the safety of his crew.
The dog is of course taken in by the Americans, and it’s revealed the dog isn’t really a dog, and is in fact The Thing in disguise. The Americans discover this when they catch the invasive dog attempting to assimilate their own canines. However, it turns out the whole thing, pun intended, could’ve been avoided if someone on the American side spoke Norwegian. While the Norwegian pilot’s dialogue in the opening scenes isn’t subtitled, it roughly translates to “Get the hell away! It’s not a dog! It’s imitating a dog! It’s not real! Get away, idiots!” If those few sentences could’ve been understood, the Americans may have been able to stop The Thing before it spread. Then again, MacReady, Childs, and the others may have not believed the Norwegian, leading the events of the film to happen anyway.
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