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John Carpenter knows who is human at the end of The Thing, but he's not going to tell you

Why ruin a perfect ending by explaining it?

Kurt Russell in The Thing
Image credit: Universal Pictures

Few films nail the ambiguous ending quite as well as John Carpenter’s The Thing. The horror classic thrives on uncertainty. Is the person you’re talking to a person or are they being imitated by the titular creature? Who can you really trust? It is all highlighted by the final scene, where Kurt Russell’s R.J. MacReady and Keith David’s Childs resign themselves to freezing to death to prevent the alien lifeform from reaching the rest of humanity. It seems a noble sacrifice, but are both men still human? The answer is unclear.

Of course, director John Carpenter knows the answer, but he is keeping that information to himself. The revelation came as Carpenter was asked about comments made by Dean Cundey, who served as cinematographer on The Thing. Cundey said that there was a specific lighting in the eyes of human characters. Using this logic, it would appear that MacReady is still human but Childs isn’t.

Is there truth to this theory? “He has no clue,” Carpenter said, seemingly laying to rest the lighting theory. The director did confirm that he had a definitive answer for who is who at the end of The Thing, but he is keeping that information to himself.

We’re honestly grateful that Carpenter isn’t confirming who is or isn’t The Thing at the end of the movie. The ambiguity of the closing moments is what makes it such a classic horror movie and taking that away from us all, even 40 years after the film was released, would just cheapen the entire experience. Sometimes, not knowing makes the experience better.


As the nights get longer, it is more tempting than ever to curl up at night with a good movie. To help you decide what to watch, we’ve got all the films coming to theaters and streaming services over the next few months laid out for you in one handy guide.

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Trent Cannon avatar

Trent Cannon

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Trent is a freelance writer who has been covering anime, video games, and pop culture for a decade. (He/Him)
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