The Thing is a shapeshifting alien creature that first appeared in John W. Campbell Jr.'s short story Who Goes There? and acts as the titular creature in the films The Thing From Another World, John Carpenter's 1982 remake The Thing, and the 2011 prequel to the latter, also titled The Thing.
The Thing changes shape and takes on the appearance of creatures it assimilates, so it is hard to observe its true form. In the story Who Goes There?, the Thing is initially described as a semi-humanoid creature with black skin, multiple red eyes, and tentacles. In the movie The Thing From Another World, the Thing is a tall muscular humanoid with a rectangular head, white skin, and wears some sort of clothing. In John Carpenter's The Thing, whenever the Thing reveals itself it sprouts long spider-like legs and countless long thin tentacles that vary from red to green in color. In the 2011 prequel, the Thing's supposed true form is briefly visible, and it appears to be a dark-colored insectoid creature with spider-like legs reminiscent of those seen on the version of the creature from the 1982 film. This suggests that in at least the continuity of John Carpenter's version, the Thing is a spider-like creature in its true form.
The Thing's origin varies slightly in each interpretation, but in each it is an extraterrestrial lifeform that arrived on Earth in a spaceship only to be frozen in ice and subsequently discovered by an outpost team and taken to their base, where it thaws out and attempts to kill them one-by-one. In each interpretation, the Thing arrived on Earth with the intent to take over and repopulate it with its own kind.
The Thing From Another World
The Thing (1982)
The Thing (2011)
- Reproduction - In every incarnation, the Thing reproduces asexually. In The Thing From Another World, the Thing is a plant-like alien whose limbs can regrow into entire creatures. It can also produce seeds which grow and sprout into pods containing smaller Things. In the story Who Goes There?, John Carpenter's The Thing, and its prequel, The Thing reproduces on the cellular level and each individual cell is an entire creature. The Thing could reproduce by splitting itself apart infinitely, producing multiple Things.
- Assimilation - In the story Who Goes There?, John Carpenter's The Thing, and its prequel, The Thing is able to assimilate other lifeforms and convert itself into a perfect copy of them. This way, the Thing can hide among its prey and slowly overtake them one-by-one, with them completely unaware of who is being assimilated.
- Hibernation - The Thing can survive in sub-zero temperatures and has even been frozen alive for hundreds of thousands of years.
The Thing has an aversion to extreme temperatures, but only heat has proven to be fatal to it, while cold simply causes it to go dormant. Humans have found the use of flamethrowers and explosives to be extremely effective at killing the Thing at the cellular level. In The Thing From Another World, the Thing was vulnerable to electricity as well and was reduced to dust when hit by a strong electrical current. The Thing's assimilation of hosts takes time, and if the Thing is interrupted before it can fully replicate its victim, it will be incomplete and reveal itself. The fact that every cell of the Thing is an individual living creature has also betrayed it at times, because each cell will attempt to survive when threatened, which can reveal the entire creature when it is imitating a host.