But I had thought that there was nothing major left to be discovered. Nothing at all. How could there be, in a movie that I've bought no less than three times for my personal library (the latest being the gorgeous Blu-ray that I watch every time I get snowed-in during winter). Heck, it's a movie so near and dear to my heart that I had already put the Blu-ray version on my iPad long before good friend Lee Shelton alerted me to this story about The Thing and its classic ending. Specifically, how John Carpenter possibly answered the last big question about the story and it has been right in front of us the whole time.
If you haven't seen The Thing (shame on you!) and you don't care about spoilers, it's like this: in the final scene, the only survivors of the camp are helicopter pilot MacReady (Kurt Russell) and mechanic Childs (Keith David). With the entire outpost destroyed and the hard biting cold of the Antarctic night bearing down on them, it is only a matter of time before they freeze to death. The film ends with both men starting at each other, wondering if the other is fully human.
Here's the comment that started it all, from one KicksButtson on Reddit.com...
A friend of mine, back when he was an assistant, spent a great deal of time with John Carpenter doing interviews and the like for video games and comic projects. I was discussing my conversation with Larry Turman with this friend and he saidAs soon as I read that I whipped out the iPad and went to The Thing's last scene.
"You know, I asked John Carpenter about The Thing."
"Oh yeah? What did he say?" I asked.
"He said he never understood where all the confusion came from. The last frame of The Thing is Kurt Russell and Keith David staring each other down, harshly backlit. It's completely, glaringly obvious that Kurt Russell is breathing and Keith David is not."
I looked at my friend for a minute, soaking it in. Straight from the horse's mouth.
"That's a pretty subtle cue to expect the audience to absorb having seen severed heads grow spider legs and run around," I said.
"That's the genius of The Thing," my friend said, and we moved on to other subjects.
And son of a gun... it's true.
MacReady's breath is so visible, so unavoidably obvious, it can't be anything but an in-your-face indicator of something significant.
But there is no breath at all coming out of Childs. He comes out of the darkness, he talks to MacReady, and he's not breathing.
Well played, Mr. Carpenter. Well-played indeed. Looks like I'll have to be watching your movie at least another dozen or so more times, just so I can study where Childs goes and when.