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This thing doesn't want to show itself; it wants to hide inside an imitation. It'll fight if it has to, but it's vulnerable out in the open. If it takes us over, then it has no more enemies. Nobody left to kill it. And then it's won.
~ R.J. MacReady explaining The Thing's vicious prowess in The Thing (1982 film).
It attacks its prey, copies it perfectly and then hides inside it.
~ Kate Lloyd explaining The Thing's life cycle in The Thing (2011 film prequel).

The Thing is the titular main antagonist and the alias given to the hostile alien creature featured in the 1938 short story Who Goes There? by the late John W. Campbell, that (compared to the deviated story of the 1951 film The Thing from Another World) was made into a 1982 live-action film by John Carpenter, followed by a prequel released in 2011.

Initially appearing as a single being, every cell in The Thing's body is autonomous and independent, capable of creating more of said monsters through assimilation, parasitism, and infection. In addition, every spawned monster looks radically different and none of them have a definite shape that can be called a "true form". Ultimately, the Thing's true body and form are a mystery as it most appears as whomever it impersonates.

In the 1951 film, it was played by the late James Arness. In the 1982 film, it was played by the late wolfdog actor Jed and its vocal sound effects were provided by Alan Howarth.

Description and Traits

In nature, the Thing is basically an ambush predator, isolating a potential victim or threat to consume and assume its form. In certain cases, usually when exposed or the person it assimilated is fatally inflicted, the Thing will discard all caution and defend itself by manifesting features that may be of its natural form, including tendrils, claws, and mouths. However, the Thing's most dangerous aspect is its cells, each a functional life form that can become independent from the main body when severed by force or separate to facilitate assimilation and self-preservation. For this reason, it is necessary to destroy the body down to the cellular level, with incineration being an effective method.

Behavior and Intelligence

The Thing has only assimilation and self-preservation in mind, as it will selfishly save itself or even attack other forms of its manifestation/progeny in order to avert attention and suspicion. When The Thing is left alone with a suitable target, it will begin to split open and fire out tendrils, which grab the target and begin to assimilate it. In certain cases after discovery or high chance of discovery, The Thing will sometimes perform "divide and conquer" tactics, as in the case of the assimilated Edward which split up into three separate forms: One on his hand quickly detached and animated itself before engaging and assimilating Jonas, another limb scuttled away soon after detaching for potential assimilation in a safer location, and the main body of the Edvard thing killed Derek and successfully assimilated Adam Finch, resulting in a form of The Thing named Split-Face. This is also performed, albeit much less successfully, by the Norris-Thing. When exposed, Things will react depending on how big they are compared to the threat. Smaller Things will generally attempt to escape and ambush prey when the individual is more vulnerable. However, a larger Thing will usually attack prey head-on and attempt to overwhelm any hostiles instead of escaping, although if it has not completely lost its cover, it will attempt to flee.

The Thing's intelligence depends on the size of their manifestations: Smaller ones are quite stupid, dimwitted, nonsensical, and reckless while the larger ones (especially those that imitate a human) are quite cunning, manipulative, and formidably calculating. For example, Norris's mutated head foolishly let itself seen by MacReady and his friends while scuttering away from them, resulting in its incineration. Because The Thing can acquire the memories and knowledge of those who it previously assimilated, they can use said memories and knowledge for their advantage, though only larger manifestations of The Thing are more capable of doing so: the Thing Beast who had assimilated Sander was capable of taking control of the UFO which brought it to Earth while the assimilated Blair, on the other hand, built a makeshift UFO and was aware of how dynamite works as when ambushing Macready; it disposed of the detonator before revealing itself to confront him. However, this does not always apply to all larger manifestations of Thing Beasts: Rapture-type Thing Beasts (see below) have no intention of hiding themselves from view, as well as not manifesting useful appendages that supposedly give them advantage in battle like legs, and their chosen forms act primarily with little intelligence. A plausible explanation of this is likely that Rapture-type Thing Beasts' own overconfidence against their foes is so great that they believe mobility to evade their foes' attacks is unnecessary due to their formidable but stationary form.

When exposed, The Thing would attack anyone on sight to save itself. This somewhat serves as their psychological weakness due to their aggressive mood blinding them from serious threats that their foes unexpectedly posed on them: The Thing who manifested from assimilated Juliette recklessly attempted to kill Kate and the others as soon as it unveiled its true form which ironically led to its incineration. Should it survive the ordeal from its foes/preys and manage to hide, The Thing would regain its composure in order to use their original intelligence once again: When Split-Face Thing confronted Sam, it hesitated upon noticing his flamethrower.

The Thing's ability to interact with plant-based life-forms is largely unknown. Its only interaction with plant-based life was in the form of wood/clothing fibers. It cannot absorb these as noted by MacReady, which could suggest an inability to absorb plant cells or dead cells. The Things themselves are also remarkable Master Manipulators to a certain degree, not only because they incite paranoia among their foes and victims alike but are also not shown eating or drinking beyond living humans or dogs, and it also leaves the bodies of killed humans or dogs untouched even though there is usable biomass, implies that it understands that potential hosts will react strangely to the presence of someone they know to be deceased. Possible other reasons why it is never seen assimilating fresh corpses are either that it is only able to assimilate living victims or is aware that missing dead bodies would arouse suspicion.

In another feat of reasoning, a Thing destroyed a test that would have lead to its exposure, demonstrating awareness of biology and medical practices that would have exposed it. Interestingly, the second time this same method was proposed as a test, the Thing had seemingly preempted the idea, despite the fact that the Thing that had arrived at the second base was spawned long before the first test was thought of and was in a non-human form. This led to the theory of shared consciousness between Things, especially as the second sabotage was far harder to pull off covertly while sowing seeds of misdirection that exposed its presence.

Biography

The Thing (1982) and The Thing (2011)

Get the hell away! That's not a dog, it's some sort of thing! It's imitating a dog, it isn't real! GET AWAY YOU IDIOTS!
~ Lars frantically warning in the Norweigian language to R.J. MacReady's crew before his death.
The depiction of The Thing from these two modern movies is a lot more faithful to the original novella description than the 1951 counterpart.

Its origin is a mystery, the Thing itself crash-landed in a spacecraft within the icy fields of Antarctica 100,000 years ago and was frozen attempting to escape. However, in 1982, the spacecraft and the Thing were found by a team of American and Norwegian explorers/researchers under Dr. Sander Halvorson from Thules station, who hired Columbia University paleontologist Kate Lloyd to take a sample of the creature's blood as it was brought to the base in a block of ice. But later that evening, the Thing bursts from the ice and kills Lars' Alaskan Malamute, Jed while ingesting Henrik before it was burned alive. However, an autopsy of the scorched alien corpse reveals that its cells are still alive and in the process of assimilating Henrik.

When Kate realizes the Thing already might have had assimilated others, she places the base on quarantine to weed out the Thing based on those who still have metal fillings in their teeth and such, after her initial plan of weeding out the monster through blood sample tests had been sabotaged by The Thing. Due to The Thing's ability to imitate, emulate, mimic and appear exactly like any of the research members, paranoia began to set in. Eventually, the majority of the research team were infected and incinerated before Sander, having been infected, made a run for the spaceship. Kate and Sam Carter, the only two surviving crew members, chased Sanders to the alien UFO where Kate and Carter got separated. Kate eventually managed to pursue and kill the monster and heavily damage the ship beyond any repair. After reuniting with Carter, Kate resolved herself to catch him off guard and incinerated him when she discovered that the earring he previously wore was missing and pointed to the wrong ear when confronted. When Carter was set aflame he emitted an inhuman scream, another evidence that Carter was The Thing. After this, Kate was left all alone, leaving her fate unknown.

Meanwhile, back at the Thules station, Lars' dog (having been infected and lying low until the time was right) made its way to an American Antarctic research station with Lars attempting to kill it before he was shot by Lt. Garry, the station commander. Helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady and Dr. Copper fly to the Norwegian's camp, finding the charred remains of the various Things included the burnt yet preserved corpse that was the station's commander Edvard Wolner after it assimilated Sander's assistant Adam Finch.

After the two-faced corpse was brought to the base, the Americans realize the Thing's presence too late when Lar's dog was placed in a kennel with the station's sled dogs and attempted to assimilate them all. After Childs incinerated the creature, with the team finding the ruins of the spacecraft; the autopsy done by Blair confirmed the Thing's nature as he later proceeded to trap everyone on the base and kill the remaining dogs so no one could leave until the Thing was truly dead before being locked in a tool shed by the others as they devised a way to weed out the Thing by using its autonomous cells to weed out the assimilated. By the time that McReady and the other normal humans remained, they learned that Blair got assimilated and was building a small escape craft. Realizing that the Thing might also intentionally freeze itself to wait for a rescue team in the spring, MacReady resolved to kill it with dynamite around the complex. After the Blair-Thing was killed, with Garry and Nauls killed off prior, MacReady found Childs with both thinking that the other got assimilated before seeing no point in distrusting each other as they would die of frost within hours.

In Videogames

In the 2002 videogame "The Thing", which serves as a sequel for the 1982 film and set 3 months after the events of the film, it is revealed that The Thing is still alive and waiting for more victims to absorb and kill. This time, there are more numerous manifestations of this alien lifeform at once and worse, everything becomes more complicated as most of them have been captured as a means of being repurposed into bioweapons by Gen Inc. Things went wrong, however, following their escape: Whitley, the mastermind behind the experiment to modify The Thing into bioweapons, has injected himself with Cloud virus, a viral agent based on the Thing's cells with which he plans to infect the whole planet. Fortunately, Blake (the protagonist of the game) foils his plan and destroys him with the help of MacReady, the sole survivor of the 1982 film, before he has a chance to infect the rescue team.

In the videogame, The Thing was regarded more like a viral organism that has the ability to replicate the original biological entity, including their clothing. This is likely due to the fact that in said game, The Thing had further developed its ability which intrigued Gen Inc. enough to begin experimenting on it.

Variants In-Game

Scuttlers

A form of Thing that has assimilated and formed from mutilated body parts (often from those whom are already assimilated by the Thing's cells). These autonomous small Things' primary transformation involves manifesting teeth, arachnid-like limbs, and also a pair of strong hind legs that enable them to leap toward the non-assimilated lifeforms. Aside from leaping, they could either attack by biting or spitting digestive fluid as a projectile. They could be crippled easily with a few shots from guns before being finished by a single blast from a flamethrower. They were inspired by a mutated form of Norris's head after he was mutated by the Thing's cells.

Scuttler Pods

A form of Thing that is basically a fleshy, blob-like biomass that is immobile but dangerous due to manifesting Scuttlers as means of defense. Their prime weakness is the inability of moving combined with having no alternate means of defense. They can be destroyed by blasts from flamethrowers and a variety of firearms.

Walkers

Form of Thing that manifests as a humanoid monster with a deformed torso, deformed claw hands, and insectoid legs that were formerly humanoid ones. Their early forms were brutish, muscular monsters with a huge, transparent hole in their torso. 

Imitations

Imitations are a form of Thing that was previously introduced in the films. They perfectly assumed their victim's appearance and were able to transform to their mutated form when their potential victims lowered their guard. For the game incarnations, they tend to retain some elements of their hosts' appearance like clothes that are still intact though their limbs are a in mutated state, similar to the mutated Palmer in the 1982 film.

Dog Beasts

Thing beast that is similar to the mutated form of Lar's dog as both formerly had assimilated dogs. Unlike the latter, Dog Beasts still retain their limbs (though said bodyparts also mutated to the point where they could support their weight as well as enable them to run at tremendous speed).

Ruptures

They are a form of huge Thing that takes up an entire room or even be part of the room integrated into the architecture. Typically, they have human forms embedded in them and attack with tentacles, teeth and fluids. They are immobile and confined to the location in which they are met, which made them vulnerable due to the inability of avoiding their enemies' attacks.

Weakness and Countermeasures

Though their deadly capacities in assimilation and other abilities made The Thing a villainous, threatening force to deal with, there are a number of methods that can be done to expose them:

  • The Thing cannot assimilate non-organic components (for example, tooth fillings or prosthetics) on the victims. So, when one notices one of their friends not wearing any earrings/tooth fillings/prosthetics/other non-organic components that are embedded/put on their body, they likely have been previously assimilated into a manifestation of The Thing. This method is the least effective in exposing a Thing's manifestation.
  • Blood Tests: There are three types of blood test that can be done to differentiate regular lifeforms and the assimilated ones which actually are a Thing in disguise:
    • Blood serum test: A suspected imitation's blood is mixed with uncontaminated blood; which will hypothetically react if the creature is an impostor. This has yet to be proven effective, as The Thing quickly destroyed stored sacks of uncontaminated blood to avoid suspicion.
    • Hot needle test: When a sample of disguised Thing's blood is burned with a hot needle, the blood would jump away from the needle. If the blood sample was taken from an unassimilated person, the blood would simply burn.
    • Blood Test Hypo tool: More advanced version of the previous method, where this device extracted a suspected person's blood and it mixed the said blood with a stored chemical agent. As before, the blood would animate and make an attempt to escape, but failed as the chemical agent killed it.

Aside from the means of exposing a disguised Thing listed above, the methods to killing them are:

  • Electrocution: Electrocution works against The Thing as the method would fry it's cells as seen in Who Goes There?, as well as implied by a Thing's manifestation from Norris's body which suddenly reacts by chomping on Chopper's hands when the latter tries to electrocute him.
  • Explosives: Explosives can obliterate a Thing completely, blowing it to pieces and effectively weakening the larger Thing beasts before their remains are incinerated.
  • Incineration: Incineration can kill a Thing manifestation as fire would destroy it on a cellular level, but this is mostly effective on medium- to smaller-sized Thing manifestations, as larger ones had a chance to survive albeit incapacitated, as proved when part of the Split-Face Thing survived in spite of being heavily injured by Kate's flamethrower.

The last two known weaknesses that The Thing possessed are:

  • As previously mentioned before, upon being exposed, a Thing manifestation would angrily attack and assimilate anyone on sight which gives their foes an opening.
  • The Thing had a limit in maximum size expansion during the assimilation process; if they grew too large during the assimilation process, it would transform them into a boiling mass of flesh and random body parts. In this state, they were hindered by their immobility, which made them vulnerable.

Gallery

Images

Videos

Trivia

  • It is a basis for The Abnormal from the Doug episode "Nightmare on Jumbo Street".
  • There is a fan theory that at the conclusion of the 1982 film, that Childs is actually the Thing. This is backed up by Childs' different attire, and lack of visible breath. The theory also suggests that MacReady filled the scotch bottle with gasoline to test this possibility, and that the Thing inadvertently gave himself away by drinking it (hence MacReady's demoralized laugh). However, the prequel reveals it cannot copy non-biological material, like an earring. Since Childs still has his, that means that he is human.
  • John Carpenter has stated that his interpretation of the creature was inspired by the Shoggoth from the works of author H.P. Lovecraft.
  • The Thing was featured along with other horror icons in the Halloween sale promotion for Vivziepop's Hazbin Hotel.
  • Mimi assumes a form that is similar to what the Thing does in its spider form.
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