The Thing's Classic Chest Chomp Was More Real Than You Think

2011's "The Thing," a prequel to John Carpenter's 1982 flop turned cult classic sci-fi horror film of the same name, is a perfectly decent thriller that committed the cardinal sin of not being as good as its predecessor. Really, there's a lot to like about the former, from Mary Elizabeth Winstead getting her action hero strut on (complete with a flamethrower) as the movie's protagonist to the way it recaptures the chilly atmosphere and paranoid mood of Carpenter's original. That said, there is one area where 1982's "The Thing" has the clear advantage: the non-CG effects used to bring the titular, shape-shifting alien creature to life.

To be fair, "The Thing" prequel director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. and his production team (including creature effects co-designer and co-creator Alec Gillis) made extensive use of practical monster effects during filming, only to have most of them replaced with CGI during post-production, as noted by Sci-Fi Now. While digital effects aren't inherently inferior to practical ones and vice versa, in this case, the end result fell well short of the bar set by Carpenter's "Thing" — a movie that had some truly gross monster imagery, including a particularly nasty jump scare that was much more "real" than many people realize on their first watch (or later re-watches for that matter).

You Gotta Be F***in' Kidding...

The scene in question finds the film's lead, helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell), in a standoff with the other surviving workers at a research station in the Antarctic, all of them questioning whether the other is secretly The Thing in disguise. The tension then causes one of the men, Norris (Charles Hallahan), to seemingly suffer a heart attack. Except, when the station's on-hand medic, Dr. Copper (Richard Dysart), tries to defibrillate him, Norris' chest suddenly bursts open and turns into a giant mouth, sinking its pointed "teeth" into Copper's forearms and ripping off his hands.

In order to ensure this grotesque "chest chomp" was as convincing as possible, according to Film School Rejects, Carpenter and his crew used a hydraulic mechanism to make Norris' fake body cavity snap open and shut like a cartoon Venus flytrap. They also created two realistic brace-supported replica arms — utilizing dental wax for the bones and Jell-O and gelatin blood tubes for everything else — and attached them to Joe Carone, a double-amputee who served as Dysart's stand-in for the close-up of Copper's arms being bitten and torn off. Carone can also be seen wearing a mask modeled after Dysart in a wider shot that quickly follows, showing Copper screaming in agony and flailing his bloody stumps.

Again, practical effects can be just as sloppy as bad CGI. In this case, though, some useful tools and a healthy dose of inventiveness came together to give Carpenter's "Thing" one of its most memorably sickening scares.