The Thing was first encountered by the Norwegian crew in Antarctica during the winter of 1982 after excavating its frozen remains, a simple lab test resulted it to be revived and caused havoc around the Norwegian Research Station. Two survivor from the research station began to hunt the Thing (that has assimilated into an Alaskan Malamute) down, the American Antarctic research station, U.S. Outpost 31 is alerted by gunfire and explosions caused by the survivors. Pursued by a Norwegian helicopter, the Alaskan Malamute makes its way into the camp as the science station's crew looks on in confusion. Through reckless use of a incendiary grenade, the helicopter is destroyed and its pilot killed shortly after landing. The surviving passenger fires at the dog with a rifle, grazing Bennings, one of the American researchers.
The passenger is subsequently shot and killed by Garry, the station commander. Not knowing what to make of the incident, the station crew adopts the dog. Unable to contact the outside world via radio, helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady and Dr. Copper risk a flight to the Norwegian camp to find it destroyed, its personnel missing or dead. Finding evidence that the Norwegians had dug something out of the ice, the pair return to the station with the partially-burned remains of a hideous creature which bears some human features. An autopsy of the cadaver by Dr. Blair is inconclusive, save to find that the creature had what appeared to be a normal set of internal organs.
At Bennings' request, the station's wrangler, Clark, kennels the stray with the rest of the station's sled dogs. Noises from the kennel cause Clark to return, finding almost the entire sled team in the process of being messily assimilated by the stray dog, which has transformed into a monster. MacReady summons the rest of the crew to the kennel with the fire alarm. It was reported that MacReady fired several shotgun shells into the creature to no avail. He soon after orders Childs to incinerate the creature with a flamethrower.
A subsequent autopsy by Blair reveals that the stray dog was an alien capable of absorbing and perfectly imitating other life-forms. Realizing the implications of this, Blair quickly becomes withdrawn and suspicious of the rest of the crew. A second helicopter expedition discovers an alien spacecraft unearthed by the Norwegian research team, revealing that the creature had awakened after being buried within the ice for many thousands of years.
Bennings and Windows quarantine the burnt remains of both the dog-creature and the Norwegian cadaver in the storage room, but in the process Bennings is left alone. Moments later, Windows discovers Bennings in the process of being replicated. The crew burns the Bennings replica before its transformation is complete. Determining that all life on Earth would be assimilated in just over three years if the creature were to reach another continent, Blair goes berserk, destroying the helicopter and radio equipment and killing the remaining sled dogs, thus containing further contamination. The team overpowers him and confines him in the tool shed.
With all contact to the outside world cut off, the crew wonders how to determine who is still human. Paranoia quickly sets in as the first attempt to develop a test using uncontaminated blood samples stored in a refrigerator. However, when the crew goes to the refrigerator, they find the blood samples have been destroyed by an unknown saboteur. Fuchs, attempting to continue Blair's research, goes missing shortly afterwards during a power failure. While searching for Fuchs' body, MacReady comes under suspicion and is locked outside in a severe blizzard. Somehow finding his way back to camp without a guide line, MacReady breaks into a storage room and threatens the rest of the crew with dynamite.
In the course of the standoff, Norris suffers a heart attack. When Dr. Copper attempts to revive him by defibrillation, Norris' body transforms and kills Copper. Norris' head detaches from his body, sprouts legs and attempts to escape as the others burn the body, leading MacReady to theorize that every piece of the alien is an individual animal with its own survival instinct. In an altercation that precedes a test proposed by MacReady, Clark tries to stab MacReady with a scalpel, who shoots and kills him in self-defense. The rest of the crew complies with the test; blood samples are drawn from each member of the team and jabbed with a hot wire to see whose blood will react defensively.
Palmer, the backup pilot, is soon unmasked as an imitation, and manages to kill Windows before being set alight and blown up with dynamite by MacReady. He then torches Windows' body with a flamethrower as it begins to transform. Confirming that MacReady, Childs, Garry, and Nauls are still human, the surviving crew set out to administer the test to Blair, only to find that he has escaped. After they discover that Blair had been constructing a small flying craft of alien design underneath the tool shed and witness Childs inexplicably abandoning his post at the main gate, the facility loses power. Realizing that the creature now wants to freeze again so a future rescue team will find it, the remaining crew acknowledge that they will not survive and set about destroying the facility with dynamite and Molotov cocktails in hopes of killing the creature.
While setting explosives in the underground generator room, Garry is killed by the infected Blair. Nauls follows the sounds of the creature and is never seen again. Alone, MacReady prepares to detonate the charges when the creature, larger then ever, emerges from beneath the floor. MacReady kills it with a stick of dynamite, which sets off the rest of the charges and destroys the entire facility. After some time, MacReady is shown wandering alone in the flaming rubble. He encounters Childs, who claims to have seen Blair and gotten lost while chasing him in the snow. With the polar climate closing in around them, they acknowledge the futility of their distrust, sharing a drink as the camp burns.
Set after the film's ending, when two United States military rescue teams, Alpha and Bravo, are dispatched to investigate the loss of contact with U.S. Outpost 31. Alpha Team, headed by the unit's second-in-command Captain Pierce, is dropped at the nearby Norwegian Outpost. Bravo Team, led by the unit's Commanding Officer Captain Blake, is then dropped at the American research station.
While the team investigates the ruins of the outpost they found the miniature UFO that was constructed by Blair and the body of Childs. The mission supervisor, Colonel Whitely, contacts Blake and gave him orders to plant C4 charges around the outpost. Upon securing the facility, Blake is airlifted to the Norwegian research station to locate and reinforce Alpha Team after Whitely informs him that they have lost contact with the team.
Blake ultimately uncovers a government conspiracy about a bio-weapon known as the Cloud virus being developed for the Military under Whitley's supervision. Blake was able to destroy the cargo planes containing the Thing and manage to defeat the mutated Whitley who intends to infect the entire world with the assistance of R.J. MacReady.
The Thing's biology is the same as the body it is replicated or is in the process of replicating. The Thing also has the ability to mix multiple characteristics together such as seen in the Thing Beasts. The Thing has the ability to heal itself from immense damage however they are vulnerable to fire. It is very tolerant of cold, allowing it to place itself in cryogenic stasis, much like yeast. When changing form, it bursts open and allows a variety of strange and terrifying forms and bits of previously assimilated anatomy to form, eventually re-arranging its cellular structure to mimic its desired shape. Kate Lloyd discovers the creature is unable to mimic inorganic materials, when she finds a small pool of blood with metal fillings; surmising the creature spat them out when it absorbed its victim.
If even a single cell of the Thing is introduced to a body, it begins a complete takeover of the host, eventually becoming the host. It also assimilates a body through the use of numerous tentacles, which supposedly wound the body, introducing the Thing cells by force. Alternatively, it also uses the method of digestion in order to assimilate and mimic other life forms.
After the Thing has assimilated a creature it is capable of imitating them exactly with all memories, characteristics, and habits. Even defects are replicated. For example, Norris has a weak heart, so when the Thing assimilated him, it copied his weak heart because someone would notice his symptoms disappearing. When a part of the Thing becomes cut in two, both of those pieces become their own creatures and operate separately. An example is when the Norris Thing's head grows legs and attempts to escape. Presumably, each cell acts as a module for transformation and as a neuron for data processing and memory (the station's computer likened the creature's cells to viruses, showing Dr. Blair a simulation of such), as the creature can develop parts of anatomy from any creature previously assimilated.
Thing cells has only assimilation and self-preservation in mind. As seen, the Thing will selfishly save itself or even attack other forms of itself in order to avert attention and suspicion. When the Thing is left alone with a suitable target, it will begin to split open and fire out tendrils, which grab the target and begin to assimilate it.
The Thing's level of intelligence is a function of its size. The larger the Thing, the more intelligent it is likely to be. The smaller the Thing, the less intelligent it will be. MacReady's blood test is directly dependent on this idea by proving that a smaller creature such as a petri dish of blood would defend itself violently for self preservation whereas a larger creature (like a human imitation) would be smart enough to stay hidden. The novel has Mac explaining his theory in greater detail than the film:
"When attacked, it looks like even a fragment of one of these things will try to survive as best it's able. Even a sample of its blood. Of course, there's no higher nervous system, no brain to suppress a natural instinct like that if it's in the best interests of the larger whole to do so. The cells have to act instinctively instead of intelligently. Protect themselves from freezing, say. Or from incineration. The kind that might be caused by a hot needle, for instance."
- Alan Dean Foster
This perhaps also accounts for why the Norris Spiderhead scurried from its hiding spot when it did. Maybe its body mass was not sufficiently large enough to form an intelligent brain center. Consequently, it didn't know enough not to blow its cover when the men still presented a danger.
On the other hand, a full-sized Thing is extremely intelligent. It is theorized that it has the combined intelligences of all the organisms it has ever assimilated. This is born out by the fact that Blair-Thing, having likely been a product of either the Norwegian dog directly or one of its descendants (Norris or Palmer), has the intelligence to build a non-terrestrial ship out of helicopter and tractor parts. Blair-Thing "inherited" the intelligences of its previous organisms, the knowledge being passed into the newest assimilant.
It is not known whether the Thing is a technological species, or whether the ship that it first reached Earth in was its own. It could be that the reason it crashed was because the original pilot was killed, and the creature was unable to manage the controls. However, the assimilated Blair was able to create a smaller version of the saucer, and recognized the threat posed by a detonator, it's also possible that the original UFO didn't belong to the Thing but if the thing assimilated the pilot then it would have its memories and knowledge, thus being able to build a UFO.
Some intelligence theories can be hindered in the game however wherein the larger creatures should be smart enough to stay hidden and not be noticed as to avoid harm or if they do reveal themselves, they should be in formidable and efficient form. Unfortunately, they are in a multitude of otherwise massive and useless forms which have no intention of hiding themselves from view and their chosen forms act primarily with little intelligence and their forms are usually non traveling meaning they are too large and useless to form transportation such as legs.
The Thing also shows learning and intelligence as displayed across both the 2011 prequel and John Carpenter's 1982 classic. In the 2011 prequel, the creature is shown to be incredibly hostile with no intention of hiding and openly attacks many people at once with monstrous forms. in the 1982 classic, it stays hidden most of the time, more so here than in the prequel which may show a growing intelligence as it has learned to stay hidden near humanity.
The Thing assimilates into other lifeforms in order to hide themselves among the lifeforms' own species and eventually flourish. There are two ways to identify imitations among the group, in the movie MacReady used hot wire and put it on the blood of the individual, if the blood bursts out to defend itself, the individual is infected, which turned out to be Palmer in the 1982 movie. In the game another way is through blood test since it contains a chemical that the Thing is not resistant to, if the blood test bursts out of the testing device, it means that the individual is infected. During the prequel, Kate Lloyd deduces that since the Thing cannot assimilate inorganic materials (such as metals): anyone with distinguishable dental fillings or earings is not an imitation.
The only way to kill the Thing completely is to incinerate it with fire or obliterate it completely with high explosives, although powerful electric shocks might also prove effective as well as the Norris Thing acted in self defense when Copper attempted to defibrillate it. These countermeasures are effective against the Thing as they have something that weapons like a gun don't have... a massive surface area of damage. A bullet wound could be healed quickly as it only creates minor damage such as a through and through hole. A flamethrower however causes massive area damage and kills of most of what it come into contact with so it causes massive disruption within the Things form making it disorientated and weak.
Rupture is a grotesque mass created by the Thing. The Thing cannot generate mass from nothing, so can only become forms allowed by the amount of material absorbed. The mass shows the method of the Thing trying to flourish in its currently assumed habitat as what the Dog-Thing did in the movie. Several body parts could be seen attached to the Rupture mass and the mass seems to have the ability to create tentacles to attack hostile intruders within the Thing's habitat. The Rupture also has the ability to form some of its parts into grotesque and monstrous forms as displayed in the video game. Like the Thing, the only way to destroy the Rupture is to incinerate it with fire.
Thing Beasts are forms of horrific monstrosities created as the result of further transformation of the Thing after assimilating another life form.
- Unique forms
- Norris-Thing / Spiderhead
- Hangar Rupture
- Furnace Rupture
- Laboratory Rupture
- Original Thing