John Carpenter Gets Honest About His Terrifying Masterpiece: “The film was an enormous failure”

John Carpenter
'In Search of Darkness Part II'

John Carpenter is known for making banger after banger. No matter where you look, his films are his perfect brand of fun, weird cosmic horror. But perhaps his magnum opus is the 1982 sci-fi horror classic The Thing, a masterclass

In case you need a reminder, The Thing follows a group of researchers living in an Arctic research base who encounter a shape-shifting alien that can make itself look like any living organism. What ensues is an unrelenting tale of suspense and body horror as human flesh is stretched and ripped into unimaginable forms.

Everything about this film is perfect, but its ending has garnered a lot of attention and tension with fans as they try to figure out who exactly is The Thing. Notably, John Carpenter kept the ending intentionally vague, leaving it up for audience interpretation. But, at the time, audiences weren’t so thrilled with that. Carpenter recently spoke to The Guardian about the making of the film, including the divisive ending that almost ruined his career.

Carpenter told The Guardian,

Audiences didn’t like the ending. They wanted to know who the Thing was – which was left up in the air. They hated that but I don’t care, that’s the way I wanted to end it. The film was about the end of the world. Its bleakness was the reason it wasn’t a success at the time, but I think also why it has endured. In fact the film was an enormous failure. I got fired because of it and was out of work for a while, but slowly its reputation changed. Not everybody’s convinced, though. There are still plenty of people who think it’s a piece of trash.

While Carpenter has his feelings about the ending, so do his stars, including Keith David, who plays the silent and steady Childs, a calming force next to Kurt Russell’s fiery MacReady.

David told The Guardian,

I hear lots of theories about the final sequence. We played it various ways; as if I was the Thing, as if it was MacReady, and as if it was neither of us. People wonder why there’s no breath coming out of my mouth in the cold after the station burns down, and say it had to be me. But I say that if I’m downstage of the fire you wouldn’t see steam coming from my mouth because there’s too much heat. That’s how I explain it, but it’s your movie, your experience. The Thing is whoever you think it is.

Do you buy that? What are your thoughts about the ending of The Thing? Let us know on Twitter and Instagram @DreadCentral!



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