The plot of both stories, a group of scientists uncover an alien being which ends up wreaking havoc on their encampment.

In At the Mountains of Madness, we don't see the devastation caused by the alien yet in The Thing we see it first hand (or considering the other encampment, we don't). Finally, the Shoggoth who can take any form to fit their task, in a similar way to The Thing.

Either way, there seem to be a lot of similarities in setting, and theme. Did anyone who worked on John Carpenter's The Thing ever cite HP Lovecrafts for as inspiration?

5 Answers 5


No, John Carpenter's The Thing was not influenced by At the Mountains of Madness in any significant way. It is a very faithful adaptation of the novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, which is now available online at no cost. The most readable version I can find is this one, in PDF format.

The Carpenter film is so loyal to the original material that even the main characters' names are the same, although there are far more characters in the novella than the movie, and the movie character Childs does not appear in the novella.

John Carpenter has actually said that he saw the previous adaptation of Who Goes There?, the classic 1951 film The Thing From Another World, when he was young, and was disappointed by how much it deviated from Campbell's story. When, many years later, Carpenter decided to make his own adaptation of Campbell's novella, he was totally committed to making it as faithful as possible to the original source material, unlike The Thing From Another World, which bore little resemblance to the Campbell story.

If you watch the movie again, you'll notice that there isn't much room to insert influences from other sources - the film is incredibly claustrophobic, with a small number of characters, all of them men, in a very confined space. The story unfolds over the course of a few days, but as a viewer, we might be forgiven for thinking that it actually takes place over the course of a few hours. There is very little down time; something terrible happens every few minutes, and no one has time to stop and think about their situation. Once the action begins, it is a roller coaster ride to the finish line.

In short, introducing elements from other stories, including At the Mountains of Madness, would have been contrary to Carpenter's vision and mission in making the film, and even if he had wanted to introduce such outside influences, he had very little opportunity to do so. He really needed every last second of screen time to tell the story he set out to tell. Regardless of how much he enjoyed At the Mountains of Madness (and he clearly enjoyed it a great deal), he didn't want to muddy the waters by mixing his sources.


I have been doing a little reading, checking out a few articles about The Thing, and I just stumbled across something that would appear to be relevant here. While Carpenter has never suggested that At the Mountains of Madness had any influence on his film, it seems that At the Mountains of Madness was published about 2 years before the John W. Campbell novella Who Goes There?, the story upon which The Thing was based. Thus, it is possible that the similarities you have noticed between The Thing and Mountains of Madness were not inserted by Carpenter, but by Campbell. I don't know much about Campbell, but it is certainly plausible that he was inspired by Lovecraft's story.

  • 2
    HPL influence on JWC is unlikely. As I pointed out in my comment on M. A. Golding's answer, "Who Goes There?" is a rewrite of "The Brain Stealers of Mars", JWC's earlier (Dec. 1936) treatment of shapechanging imitators. If he based that on "At the Mountains of Madness" (which I'm sure he didn't), he had little time to waste.
    – user14111
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 6:35

John Carpenter's The Thing was fairly faithful to John W. Campbell Jr.'s Who Goes There?. While it's been much speculated that Lovecraft influenced the story, I am not aware of any statements one way or another from Campbell.

At the Mountains of Madness was published in 1936; Who Goes There? in 1938, so admitting such direct links at the time may have opened up significant risks for copyright lawsuits.

Conversely, mad science research and crazy alien monsters are par for the course for pulp literature at that time - it may just be accidental convergence given the themes that were popular in a writing community at the time.

John Carpenter has alluded to and openly admitted Lovecraft's (and that particular work's) influence on his entire body of work; for example Carpenter's spiritual sequel to The Thing, In the Mouth of Madness, has many references to Lovecraft.

  • 3
    There's nothing but Antarctica in common between Who Goes There and At the Mountains of Madness. Plot, problem, and resolution are wildly different.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 1:15
  • 2
    @Oldcat - The Thing has some similar to the shoggoths in At the Mountains of Madness, described as "Formless protoplasm able to mock and reflect all forms and organs and processes".
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 4:48
  • Shoggoths are huge things - the viewer in his panic compares them to a subway train - that can form eyes and stuff from their protoplasm. They can't imitate men, as the psychic Thing can and does.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 19:21

It is possible that Lovecraft and/or Campbell may have read an earlier antarctic horror story, "The Thing in Amundsen's Tent", about the ill-fated third group racing to the south pole, and tried to improve on it.


I think John Carpenters "The Thing", is more influenced by H.P Lovecraft rather than John Campbells "Who Goes There";as John Carpenter himself, has said on numerous occasions that he has been influenced by Lovecraft.

I would also like to direct you to another of John Carpenters movie "In The Mouth Of Madness",

which any discerning Lovecraftian would find hard not to draw parallels to Lovecraft.

  • 2
    Oooh, do you have a quote?
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 23:42
  • @Raj B: I've heard this before, too. Do you have a link to a quote?
    – Joe L.
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 23:50
  • Quotey quotes are always preferred over conjecture and hearsay.
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 0:03
  • Carpenter has repeatedly said The Thing was a fairly faithful adaptation of Who Goes There?
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 23:34

Both Lovecraft and John Campbell had published several tales in the magazine "Amazing Tales". Shoggoths could detach pieces of itself and combine with other bits of itself.. or other shoggoths.. as the needs arose. The Goat of 1000 Young is a reference to a lake-sized shoggoth that is constantly "giving birth" to numerous smaller shoggoths of various sizes, shapes, and imitative forms. I think it is very likely that the monster in Campbell's story is based on Lovecraft's shoggoths. At the time, authors often borrowed ideas or expanded on on them. There are a number of authors who borrowed heavily from Lovecraft. Just look at how many horror movies reference the Necronomicon (totally made up by Lovecraft) or make mention of the mad Arab, Al Hazred.(The Mummy) There are also several collections of tales based on the mythos of H.P. Lovecraft, by various authors.

  • I never heart of Amazing Tales. Do you mean Amazing Stories? Campbell had about a dozen stories in Amazing Stories and Amazing Stories Quarterly. Lovecraft had only one story in Amazing Stories, namely, "The Colour out of Space". I think it very unlikely that Campbell was influenced by Lovecraft.
    – user14111
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 6:24
  • No, the thousands young is Shub Niggurath. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shub-Niggurath. I'm aware that authors often shared elements of a story between them, but in really into interested in any link to the film.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 6:24

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