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Why The Helicopter Scene From The Thing Means More Than You Think

Why The Helicopter Scene From The Thing Means More Than You Think

In the blood-spattered annals of horror history, director John Carpenter’s paranoid sci-fi thriller “The Thing” is one many fans would deem genuinely great. A remake of the 1951 film “The Thing from Another Planet,” Carpenter’s take transplants the action to the early ’80s, plays up the psychological horror elements, and goes all-in on shock value with some seriously gory special effects — all while more or less keeping the conceit of the story intact.

The film’s plot follows a group of Antarctic researchers and their crack pilot, MacReady (a never-better Kurt Russell), facing off against one another after a shape-shifting alien that can take the form of its host infiltrates their compound. From this clever pseudo-whodunit setup, Carpenter spins a testosterone-fueled chamber piece full of head-spinning surprises and stomach-churning sites to behold.

Carpenter ropes viewers in with an attention-grabbing opening scene that savvily sets the table for the carnage to come without betraying too many of the film’s secrets. At surface level, the opening scene of “The Thing” seems harmless enough in the grand scheme of the film. But, as it turns out, this first scene is far more important than you might think. In fact, if you happen to speak Norwegian, it actually spoils one of the film’s biggest plot twists.

The Thing's opening helicopter scene contains a huge clue

To set the stage a little, the opening moments of John Carpenter’s “The Thing” find the occupants of the research station going about their everyday business without much excitement (via YouTube). The calm is broken by the sight of a sled dog running through the frozen landscape. The sound of an approaching helicopter, whose occupants are tossing grenades at the canine, is heard. MacReady (Kurt Russell) and the rest of the research team are baffled, especially when the chopper touches down, and one of the Norwegian men promptly blows himself and the helicopter while fumbling with a grenade.

At this moment, the dog runs up to MacReady and his crew in search of safety. Another Norwegian from the helicopter crash approaches the dog and the team with an assault rifle and desperately shouts something in his native tongue. The Americans obviously don’t understand, and it’s this language barrier that ultimately proves fatal for the English-speaking crew.

As pointed out in a 2020 YouTube video posted by WatchMojo, those words translate into a dire warning along the lines of, “Get the hell away! That’s not a dog. It’s some sort of thing! It’s imitating a dog. It isn’t real! Get away, you idiots!” We later discover the deadly shape-shifting creature is, in fact, residing inside the dog when “The Thing” begins, which is why the Norwegians are keen to kill it. In the end, not knowing what is said by the helicopter crash survivor proves a savvy storytelling decision because it also helps keep one of the film’s most important secrets under wraps for as long as possible.

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