- "That's a crock-a-shit."
- ― Childs' response to MacReady's hot needle test.
Childs was a mechanic stationed at the American Antarctic research station, U.S. Outpost 31. The main deuteragonist of the 1982 film The Thing, he was was portrayed by actor Keith David. The character's fate was also explored in the Dark Horse comic series The Thing from Another World, and the 2002 video-game The Thing.
The Thing (1982)
Childs is first seen during the establishing shots of Outpost 31, presumably repairing the facility's Bombardier Skidozer.
Childs and the rest of the station's crew spot two Norwegians chasing an Alaskan Malamute in a helicopter. After they landed, the passenger was killed when he accidentally dropped a grenade and the pilot was killed by Garry thinking that he was hostile. After this, the crew adopted the dog.
During the night, Childs was woken up by the fire alarm that was turned on by MacReady, as the adopted dog had transformed into a grotesque creature in the kennels. Childs was told to bring the flamethrower, and once he arrived, he saw the unknown creature and quickly incinerated it.
Later, Bennings was assimilated by the corpse of a strange creature that had been found out in the Arctic and brought back for study. When the Bennings imitation failed to escape, Childs and everyone else confronted it before MacReady burnt it to death with a flare and gasoline. Childs later helped subdue Blair who was suffering a mental breakdown, destroying the helicopters, tractor and radio with an axe, and killing the remaining sled dogs, containing further contamination.
Paranoia quickly sets in as the first attempt to develop a test using uncontaminated blood samples is sabotaged by an unknown party. After Garry decides to give command to somebody else, Childs is quite willing to take the place but he meets with the disagreement of the others, especially with Clark who even threatens him with a knife.
Childs and the others begin to suspect MacReady is infected with the Thing when a scrap of torn shirt containing his name tag is found at the camp, and locked him outside in a severe blizzard. If a human MacReady died outside in the storm, he only feels that he would just be wrong. Somehow finding his way back to camp without a guide line, a shivering MacReady breaks into a storage room and threatens the rest of the crew with dynamite. In the course of the standoff, Norris suffers a heart attack.
When Copper attempts to revive him by defibrillation, Norris' body transforms and bites off Copper's arms and he bleeds to death. Childs and the others retreat to another room while MacReady burns the creature with a flamethrower. Norris' head detaches from his body and the alien uses it in an attempt to escape as Childs and the others put out the fire, but the head is discovered and incinerated. MacReady proposed a test on everyone to tell who is human and who is a replica. Clark in an act of mutiny tries to stab MacReady with a scalpel, but is quickly shot in the head and killed by MacReady in self-defense.
The rest of the crew complies with the test; blood samples are drawn from each member of the team including Copper and Clark and jabbed with a hot wire to see whose blood will react defensively. Upon realizing that Clark was not infected, Childs denounces MacReady as a murderer. Palmer, the backup pilot, is unmasked as an imitation, and manages to kill Windows before being destroyed by MacReady with dynamite, who also torches Windows' body with a flamethrower as it begins to transform. After Childs' test proves that he is human, he was ordered to guard the main gate, but he inexplicably abandons his post for an unknown reason and disappears into the growing storm.
After the destruction of Outpost 31, Childs sees the explosion and returns, only to encounter MacReady, claiming to have seen Blair and gotten lost while chasing him in the snow. With the polar climate closing in around them, the two men acknowledge the futility of their distrust, sharing a drink as the camp burns and the cold returns.
The Thing (video game)
During the first level of the 2002 video-game The Thing, United States Arctic Marines' Captain Blake and his squad discovers the frozen body of Childs amid the rubble of Outpost 31. MacReady missing and the bottle of Scotch whisky (admittedly, with a different label) still alongside him. Aside from an unidentified Thing's remains in the station's medical laboratory, Childs is the only corpse to be discovered at the facility. Although he is not proven to be human in front of Blake himself, it is mostly implied he was human and died from exposure to the cold.
The Thing from Another World (comic)
Childs had a short temper and often got into arguments with other members of Outpost 31, especially MacReady. When relaxing he would smoke marijuana with his roommate, Palmer. He was shown to be very suspicious of everyone around him when the possibility that someone was The Thing came into account and even tried taking leadership responsibilities, but he was denied, much to his annoyance. He had a love-hate relationship with MacReady, which became especially heated when MacReady was suspected to be a Thing. It wasn't until MacReady proved himself as human and went as far as to destroy Outpost 31 (with the Thing inside) that Childs finally warmed up to MacReady (although he still called him a murderer after MacReady killed Clark in self defence), even remaining calm and sharing a drink with him as they prepared to freeze to death. Initially, he referred to everything revolving around the Thing as "voodoo bullshit" and was hesitant to believe anything he was told about the alien life form.
One of the most discussed fan theories pertaining to the 1982 film is that Childs may have been an imitation towards the very end of the movie. The debate stems from several observations about Childs in the closing scene and in other material. It is worth taking note that this theory would be cast aside by Childs' appearances in the comic spinoffs, but the comics conflict with the video game as well.
There is a possibility Childs could've been infected as the moment he leaves his post, the power goes out, meaning Blair had to be hiding in the generator room all along. It would've been impossible for Childs to see Blair out in the snow if the power cut out just seconds after abandoning his post. So, Blair could've snuck upstairs, attacked and infected Childs then had him leave camp to avoid the showdown between Blair-Thing and the remaining team members. If the Blair imitation was killed, the Childs imitation would've had itself frozen and waited for a rescue team. This is similar to what the Dog-Thing in the beginning of the film attempted. The script describes MacReady secretly having a torch under his blanket and Kurt Russel said so himself. He gives Childs a shot of Whiskey and his willingness to share a drink shows his lack of concern for infection, hinting that he's possibly infected himself and MacReady gives a gentle laugh to show this. It's likely that he torched Childs shortly afterwards if the game canon doesn't apply. Further proof is that the coats that are hanging around Childs' post were re-arranged in two separate shots, and that Childs' coat, while still being navy blue, could very well be the same coloured coat missing from its hanger. This is major evidence, since the characters in the film almost never changed their clothes, and when they did, it was often a sign they were infected. This is due to the fact that the Thing often rips off extra layers of clothes from a victim it is assimilating. If Blair did in-fact attack and assimilate Childs, he may have taken one of the fresh coats from the room to replace his torn one in order to help blend in. For many years, one of the biggest pieces of evidence to support this theory is that Childs' breath does not fog up during the ending, indicating that he might not have been breathing at all. A common counter-argument to this was that the lack of breath was actually an oversight in filming as the Bennings imitation has its breath fog when outside the station. Upon closer inspection, however, it becomes clear that Childs does in fact have breath, but the lack of light in this scene makes it appear as though there isn't to the average viewer, meaning the Thing does in fact breath when in human form, much like the species it is trying to imitate.
Not to mention that if Childs did see Blair in the snow, he wouldn't run out in the snow alone, he likely would've gone to the remaining team members and inform them of what he saw. His distrust of MacReady earlier in the film proves this as when MacReady is locked outside after Nauls cuts the cable loose to leave MacReady stranded in the snow, Childs opted to lock him outside and let him freeze to death despite Palmer wanting to blow MacReady away due to him being so close and outnumbering Mac. Childs made this choice when he had Palmer, Norris, Windows, and Nauls as back up.
Though this theory may be dismissed from the game's canon entirely since Childs body is found "frozen", it is still easily possible MacReady had noticed Childs' lack of breath, realized he was an imitation (this could be why MacReady let out a faint chuckle when Childs took a drink, because if Childs was human his breath would have certainly fogged when exhaling after taking a sip), and then told Childs to stay there while he left to search for rescue. MacReady then would have abandoned Childs, saving himself and then coincidentally stumbled across Kate. He could have located a helicopter and the game's ending would still make sense. The Childs imitation would have then simply stayed there anyway (since MacReady would have never came back), which would have been fine since his body would have then been found by the rescue team and taken away. His purpose as an imitation would have then still been served.
However, Childs still has his right earring at the end of the 1982 film. In the 2011 film, we are shown that the Thing cannot recreate inorganic matter. This is a major plot point of the film. Later in the film, Kate Lloyd finds out that Carter has been assimilated due to his missing left earring. It is entirely possible that The Thing, learning from this mistake, remembered to put Childs' earring back on.
John Carpenter states that the video game is a canon sequel to the original movie, so Childs indeed has never been assimilated and froze to death.
- In the unproduced miniseries, Return of the Thing, Russians would have discovered the frozen bodies of Childs and MacReady and both would have been human.
- In the scene when MacReady is discussing the theory about the nature of the alien, Childs seems to be the most skeptical member of the group.
- Childs and MacReady are rather ironically the only two survivors at the end of the original movie, with them having been in conflict for most of it.
- Keith David himself does not actually know whether Childs was an imitation or not, while John Carpenter and Kurt Russell appear to think so. Fans remain divided on who was who at the end of the film.
- In 2007, Universal Studios' famous Halloween event, Halloween Horror Nights, had a haunted house entitled 'The Thing: Assimilation.' This House offers another possibility on the fate of Childs, as well as that of Macready himself; In the first room of it, the two men are seen preserved in a hibernative state in cryogenic freezing chambers.