Review Summary: Maestro's unprecedented facet
In 1982, after its release, the film “The Thing” had such a negative reception with most critics categorizing it as “instant trash” and fiasco, even sci-fi fans hated it. Although the film was nominated for some Saturn awards, it was also nominated at the Razzie Awards for the worst soundtrack (huh !?). As a result of such a disappointing performance, John Carpenter lost confidence in some opportunities to make other horror films. Also known as “the most hated movie of all time”, “The Thing” has become one of the best works of horror and science fiction, and today it is definitely a cult classic, praised for its chilling moments, visual and creative effects , nihilistic tone and, of course, for his music.
"The Thing" is one of the few Carpenter films whose soundtrack is not composed by himself. So he left the honors to conductor Ennio Morricone, wanting a European musical approach. His decision proved to be a wise move, as what Morricone composed is undeniably a unique work in the history of horror composition. However, the musician produced approximately one hour of material that remained largely unused. The reason for this was that Carpenter felt that some pieces did not fit into the tension scenes, and as a result, the director ended up recording some sound effects for those scenes.
As for music, Morricone wrote for both orchestra and synthesizer, and in some cases for both. Very distant from the usual sound of the Italian composer, the music in “The Thing” is very intense and scary. In addition, there is almost no melody, the emphasis is on creating an exciting atmosphere, elevating the qualities of psychological terror.
In the orchestral part, it starts with Humanity (Part 1), a slow seven-minute piece that introduces the main theme of the film and sets the mood for the rest of the album. Not only does it focus on a dark atmosphere, but it also creates a sense of confusion with Contamination, which resembles the aesthetics of modern music, and creates a sense of emotional intensity with Bestiality, clearly influenced by Bernard Herrmann.
In the synthesizer part, Morricone mixes a minimalist approach with a baroque organ sound. When side A is about to end, there is the first electronic track Eternity, which starts with a single note that determines the rhythm and some electronic noises, then growing in a sea of organs, creating a somewhat surreal aesthetic.
On the B side, there's Sterilization, which features a bleak progression of organ chords, along with a unique synth work that continues to add layers after layers of minimalist melodies. Then there is Humanity (Part 2), an electronic version reprise, but the Italian composer does not leave his organ out: an even darker view of the first track. That said, the use of synthesizers and some elements that resemble Iannis Xenakis or Karlheinz Stockhausen, make the whole sound very interesting and captivating.
In short, the soundtrack for “The Thing” is not only a good combination with the alien special effects, but the most important thing is that it skillfully puts the film's deeper meaning into music. Listening to music alone without the images can be a different thing, especially for those who believe that it works best in conjunction with the visual component, but not this time. Maestro Ennio Morricone intensified his game and ended up creating a minimalist soundtrack, with suspense, for one of John Carpenter's best films. Furthermore, it does not lose its effectiveness, as it perfectly captures the despair present in the work. One of the maestro's best works, for sure.