The Thing: Childs and MacReady

If you’ve not seen John Carpenter’s fantastic sci-horror film THE THING, then beware. SPOILERS BELOW!

I commonly cite The Thing as one of my favorite films and one of the most formative films I saw as a youth. Thanks to John Carpenter (and Ridley Scott), I became enamored with quality dark SF and sci-horror. I’ve seen the movie at least five times. Writing this blog post makes me want to see it again.

We were discussing famous denouements of horror films last night in my writing horror short fiction workshop, and I brought up The Thing. The movie ends with MacReady (Kurt Russell) and Childs (Keith David) resting in the snow, the camp burning around them. They agree that there is no point in killing each other. Cue dramatic music. Movie ends and you’ve just watched one of the best endings in film.

Because this is a great example of an ambiguous ending, I bring up the question “Which guy was the thing–Childs or MacReady?”

The internet has debated this question at length and passionately for years with no solid conclusion. It is generally agreed that MacReady was not a thing monster. But Childs…

One of the students pointed out an interview where John Carpenter says that it is obvious that Childs is the thing monster because in the final scene Childs’ breath can’t be seen but MacReady’s can. I rushed out to YouTube to watch this scene…and well..you can obviously see Childs’ breath many times.

It seems the question remains: is Childs a thing?

What do you think? I have an opinion on the matter, but I want to hear from others first. 🙂

4 comments

  1. First off I had a big crush on Kurt Russell when I was a kid and this movie was on of my faves. However, I always felt like it was MacReady that had the thing in him. It just seemed too obvious to be Childs. Everyone wants Macready to be the hero but the hero isn’t always the hero!

  2. Childs is obviously the thing… MacReady offers him a drink of whiskey and he takes it. The REAL Childs would not have done that without fear of infection. The entire movie he doesn’t trust MacReady so why would he take the chance then… Also MacReady breath was very distinct.. Every exhale was shown.. Childs it is hard to notice it. Obviously you could not remove breath via CGI back then but with so much exhaling coming from MacReady it does prove to be a valid point

  3. No, its MacReady. When he offers his scotch to Childs and Childs, exhausted, drinks from it, MacReady (the thing) smiles. Because he knows he just infected the last survivor.

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