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The Thing Almost Had James Cameron Creating Its Opening Title Sequence

Few movies in the blood-spattered annals of horror cinema are quite as revered as John Carpenter's sci-fi horror opus, "The Thing," which continues to delight and terrorize viewers in equal measure more than four decades after its release. Of course, the legendary fright fest first made its way to theaters in the summer of 1982, with Carpenter's high-brow blend of psychological horror and groundbreakingly twisted special effects work all but reinventing the horror genre for '80s audiences.

As it stands, the film's jaw-dropping practical effects remain the stuff of genre legend. So it's only fitting that when Syfy set out to celebrate the 40th anniversary of "The Thing" with a deep dive into its making, the outlet spent considerable time exploring how the effects work came together. That includes the making of the film's iconic opening title sequence, in which "The Thing" seems to burn and tear its way right through the screen.

That unforgettable image — itself an homage to the 1951 film that inspired Carpenter's work — was created by effects wizard Peter Kuran, who landed the gig by quoting "The Thing" producers a price that apparently undercut the competition considerably. That competition was B movie master Roger Corman's New World Pictures, which at the time, employed an up-and-coming filmmaker by the name of James Cameron. And if Syfy is to be believed, Cameron was likely in line to work on the opening title for "The Thing" had New World Pictures been contracted.

Effects guru Peter Kuran conjured some serious magic for The Thing's iconic opening title

Syfy rightfully spoke to Peter Kuran in touching on the creation of the opening title of "The Thing," during which the effects wizard joked, "I [can] actually say that I beat him [James Cameron] out on a job." To be certain, Kuran is one of few in Hollywood who can make such a claim, with Cameron going on to become one of the most celebrated and successful filmmakers of the modern era.

But back in the early 1980s, Cameron and the New World Pictures crew failed to lock in the credit on "The Thing," with Kuran securing the job via a $20,000 bid. Doing the math, he likely pocketed much of that sum, creating the film's stunning opening title sequence with little more than garbage bags, matches, a fish tank, and a really bright light.

"I eventually [landed on] a setup that had a huge fish tank, which I used to put smoke into," he told Syfy. "Behind that, I had a frame that I stretched garbage bag plastic over. And behind that, there [was] a 1,000-watt light being held back by the garbage bag plastic because [it] was opaque black."

Kuran fixed the title cel to the back of the tank, set the garbage bags ablaze with his matches, and let the fire burn holes into them so that the light would shine through. It's almost too simple a method to fathom, but it nonetheless proved profoundly effective, so much so that we can't help but imagine Cameron himself was impressed with the finished product.