Let me start by saying this, I love John Carpenter’s The Thing.
In my mind, not only is Carpenter one of the greatest horror directors alive (or undead) but The Thing is one of his many masterpieces. And it is also the best remake of all time being that it is based on Howard Hawks 1951 movie The Thing from Another World.
So when I heard that Universal was making a prequel I screamed sacrilege along with the rest of the fans, berating the idea as a gratuitous money making scheme, attempting to rewrite the perfect past Carpenter had already created.
Luckily for all of us the film was made by Matthijs Van Heijningen, a self confessed Carpenter fan, who saw the original when he was 17 years old and loved that there was “no happy ending and everything is dark and unresolved and that’s cool and so non-Hollywood.”
Instead of try and top that ending or the film itself, Van Heijningen went back to the beginning to give the audiences an insight on what went on before the fateful events at the American Antarctic Outpost #31.
When a Norwegian research team discover a U.F.O in the Antarctic ice they bring in American palaeontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) to help piece together what the thing they have found actually is.
After some brief tests which lead them to believe the extra terrestrial to be the find of the century the Norwegian and American teams celebrate unaware that the visitor from another world is still very much alive.
Not only that but once it is out of its ice prison it has the perfect escape plan. As the original tag line said – man is the warmest place to hide – and very soon no one knows who they can trust.
Flamethrowers ignite the ice as tempers rage amongst the testosterone fuelled fellers with only Kate to keep calm and carry on working out who the thing is hiding in as paranoia and panic overtake them all and the thing keeps killing.
Made in 1982 the original was a primal fear fest that not only exposed human nature’s raw dread of the alien and the unknown but contained some spleen splatteringly spectacular special effects which still shock even today.
Taking a radically different approach to other recent prequels such as Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street which reboot and rewrite Van Heijningen’s The Thing is an altogether much more innovative and interesting take which remains respectful throughout while still giving us something new.
Treating the original like a crime scene the film reconstructs what happened before Carpenter’s classic letting us see the untold story unfold and even if you already know the ending this is still a thoroughly enthralling process.
If you love the original it is even better as the picture painstakingly attempts to put in everything and more found by MacReady’s crew when they search the Norwegian base, bloody axe and all.
The very thing which makes The Thing great however is also its only weakness as the plot is far too similar to the original as it has to be and the innovations made such as swapping Kurt Russell for Winstead’s Ripley-Lite Kate and the jaunt near the end onto the U.F.O don’t offer enough to truly take us away from the deep tracks Carpenter’s movie already laid down in the spooky snow.
As in the original characters are key and tension is kept wound tight throughout until we see both tempers and body parts tear apart with some amazing special effects which combine CG and puppets with awesome effect pushing the gore limit to the edge in the same way the original did.
In making a prequel to a legendary horror movie it will be criticised if it abandons everything from the original or if it simply copies too closely and due to this fact Van Heijningen was dammed either way however in The Thing he has managed to triumph crafting a perfect companion piece to Carpenter’s Sci-Fi frightener and for this he should be praised.
If only all modern prequels treated there fear filled forefathers with such reverence making new movies which enriched the original, fans would be a whole lot happier.
Let us hope Hollywood is reading this before they get there hands on another horror classic.
Read our interview with the man behind the prequel, Matthijs Van Heijningen, right Here.