Atom User Reviews for The Thing (1982)
Carpenter creates an atmosphere in Thing; it's a weird one, an odd landscape and clearly alien territory, but it's entertaining nonetheless. And for those who have not been to a creep show in the last couple of years, The Thing has some very nasty surprises. [25 June 1982, p.D1]
A paranoia-choked atmosphere is the primary reason why The Thing works as well as it does. The setup is standard stuff, establishing that the characters are isolated and can expect no help from the outside. The realization there could be an alien among them, and any one of them might not be human, is what launches The Thing into a spiral of escalating tension.
The Thing is basically just a geek show, a gross-out movie in which teenagers can dare one another to watch the screen. There's nothing wrong with that; I like being scared and I was scared by many scenes in The Thing. But it seems clear that Carpenter made his choice early on to concentrate on the special effects and the technology and to allow the story and people to become secondary.