The Thing is a movie all about the slow accumulation of dread and suspicion. By the time it comes to an end, all of that tension has released into full-blown terror and violence. Kurt Russell does a fantastic job portraying R.J. MacReady, a character who deals with the film’s escalating paranoia and body horror with determination, but, as a commentary track featuring him and director John Carpenter shows, this is not how the man behind the role processes The Thing’s terrors.
Consider a compilation of moments from Russell and Carpenter’s commentary track, graciously cut together by @JFrankensteiner. Throughout, Russell seems to be losing his goddamned mind laughing over a series of bits from the film that don’t scan to the rest of us as humor, but he regards as the purest, most effective comedy of all time.
The hollowed-out chest cavity of an autopsied body growing teeth and clamping down on some hands? That’s funny! A deranged Wilford Brimley attacking his fellow Antarctic team or sitting down in quarantine, resigned to die alone? Hilarious! Russell continues to cackle as various monsters are shown scuttling around the set, the cast fights for their lives, and his own character is beaten up and ultimately left stranded in an inhospitable climate with no chance of rescue. Though he fades into the background by comparison, Carpenter, too, laughs along at his work, chuckling at some of the same stuff as Russell between cracking jokes and either pouring a drink or having one poured for him.
Take the pair’s spirit with you as you encounter your own trials in life. If Russell and Carpenter can laugh like crazy over the story of a group of people being killed off, one-by-one, by a shape-shifting predator, surely we can all deal with our own, more mundane problems with the same good humor.
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