An alien entity that can take any living form invades an isolated scientific research station in the Antarctic. John Carpenter's "The Thing "is best known for some of the most startling visual effects--surreal, lurid, shocking perversions of the human body --ever committed to celluloid. At London's National Film Theatre in 1995, Quentin Tarantino named "The Thing" as one of his favorite films. Yet when it was released in 1982, it fared badly against another alien encounter movie, "E.T.," and critics panned it. But "The Thing "has aged well, and its influence can now be detected in everything from "Seven" to "Red Dwarf "and "The X Files." In her elegant and trenchant study, Anne Billson argues that "The Thing" has never been given its due. For Billson, it's a landmark movie that brilliantly refines the conventions of classic horror and science fiction, combining them with humor, Lewis Carroll logic, strong characterizations and prescient insight. The idea of an alien species mutating and inhabiting humans resonates all too chillingly with the mad cow disease crisis and today's new and ever more powerful genetic technology.