MacReady relies on the flamethrower to protect him for the majority of the film. Many scenes show him clinging to the weapon like Linus clings to his beloved blue blanket in the “Peanuts” cartoons. The weapon is used throughout many scenes in the movie, but one of the most iconic moments is when MacReady forces everyone to submit to a blood test in order to discern who among them is an imposter. Wielding both the flamethrower and a gun, MacReady nervously tests the blood samples only to reveal that Palmer is most definitely the Thing. Panic-stricken and in survival mode, MacReady torches Palmer like he’s sugar on a crème brûlée, and the men watch as his burning body stumbles out into the snow and dies. It’s a memorable scene for many reasons, one of which is the fact that it’s hard to wrap your head around how Russell didn’t absolutely burn down the entire set while swinging that flamethrower around.
In a 2016 interview for LA Weekly, director John Carpenter talked a bit about his concerns over the safety of the flamethrower on set. He said, “We […] held our breath every time the actors used [flamethrowers],” noting that “these things shoot gasoline and are on fire!” No duh, John! We know! Carpenter went on to say, “These are actors. You just don’t know. They might turn around to ask you a question and burn you up.” Which, honestly, sounds absolutely terrifying. But thankfully, no real actors or crew members were accidentally torched in the making of “The Thing,” so we can all enjoy watching flames get thrown in peace.