Could this be the official ending to John Carpenter's The Thing?

Illustration for article titled Could this be the official ending to John Carpenter's The Thing?

One great ambiguous ending is the last scene in John Carpenter's The Thing. Even short films have been made dissecting the last few minutes where Kurt Russell and Keith David drink to their impending doom. Earlier this week a completely unverified rumor popped up on Reddit claiming to know who was infected in the final moments of Carpenter's Thing. This all allegedly came straight from the horses mouth, but while we can't verify it, we still thought it was a fun story worth debating here.


From the Redditor, KicksButtson:

A friend of mine, back when he was an assistant, spent a great deal of time with John Carpenter doing interviews and the like for video games and comic projects. I was discussing my conversation with Larry Turman with this friend and he said

"You know, I asked John Carpenter about The Thing."

"Oh yeah? What did he say?" I asked.

"He said he never understood where all the confusion came from. The last frame of The Thing is Kurt Russell and Keith David staring each other down, harshly backlit. It's completely, glaringly obvious that Kurt Russell is breathing and Keith David is not."

I looked at my friend for a minute, soaking it in. Straight from the horse's mouth.

"That's a pretty subtle cue to expect the audience to absorb having seen severed heads grow spider legs and run around," I said.

"That's the genius of The Thing," my friend said, and we moved on to other subjects.

There's actually an entirely different story from the Redditor back at the link, if you want to read more Thing stories. But we want to tackle this reveal. Do you agree? Could this be true? We know the studios spent a lot of time fighting with Carpenter about his ending (and even made him shoot a happier ending where Russell is rescued and proven to be human). But did Carpenter truly know who was human by the end?



Has there ever been proof of a scene where Russell is "rescued and proven to be human"? The YouTube link ends with a sequence of a single sled dog running away from the smoking camp ruins the next morning, which is much more ominous — presumably MacCready and Childs both froze to death in the night and the Thing crawled out of the wreckage, or one of them was the Thing and transformed into a dog to protect itself from the cold (and find some more unwitting humans to take it in). But there's nothing with MacReady being saved.

I remember seeing a weird "extended" cut of the movie in syndication back in the '80s with the deleted scenes and the dog ending cut back into the film, plus narration (!). I'm pretty sure this was done without Carpenter's approval or supervision, since Universal did that a lot back then with TV broadcast versions of its films, like the "Alan Smithee" Dune and the "Love Conquers All" cut of Brazil.