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Please Let the New The Thing, Prequel to the Old The Thing, Be Better than the Trailer

July 19, 2011

Maybe I’m still recovering from the crushing disappointment that was Terminator Salvation.  Maybe I’m disturbed after hearing about the Diablo Cody-infused revision of the remake of The Evil Dead.  Whatever it is, I recently saw the trailer for the new The Thing, prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 horror cult-classic The Thing, and I’m worried.

The doctor prescribed fire.

(We’ll call Carpenter’s “old” The Thing OTT and Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.’s new The Thing NTT.)

I don’t think the trailer is bad, really.  It’s just that 1982’s The Thing worked because focused on the hopeless isolation, the sanity-shredding paranoia, the crumbling of social structures and creation of new—and far from universally accepted—ad hoc authority hierarchies (sorry for copying that phrase from my earlier blurb).  For example, one of the scariest and genuinely unexpected scenes occurs when MacReady (Kurt Russell) is testing everyone’s blood and openly suspects Garry as the alien.  However, while accusing Garry, Palmer’s blood reacts and he begins to transform—with Windows and Garry tied to the chairs next to him.  They yell hysterically and attempt to hop away while immobilized.  When Windows is attacked, MacReady fries him without a second thought.  That’s horror, and it doesn’t necessary involve “jump out and go ‘boo’” moments, as my wife calls them.  To be fair, OTT has a couple of those moments, but the movie in its entirety is as much a mind-fuck psychological thriller as a straight-up horror movie.  The trailer for the new The Thing, by contrast, relies mostly on people falling into holes and getting yanked by the alien into dark places.  We’ve seen those bits a hundred times, and they’re not getting scarier.  At least it’s rated R.

The trailer also offers things the movie will need to explain, like why the Norwegian camp invites a presumably American graduate student to examine the most important scientific find ever and not, say, representatives from the Norwegian government or military or other science academies.  And why on Earth do a bunch of researchers who actually realize they just discovered an honest-to-goodness extra-terrestrial just let it thaw out unattended in what looks like a freaking unguarded storage room?  We may actually get some answers, since Heijningen indicated his desire to stray true to the original.  Whether the studio allowed him to do that, especially with “re-shoots” pushing the film’s opening from April 2011 to October 2011, remains to be seen.

Admittedly, NTT has big shoes to fill.  Zealous (and perhaps unreasonable) fans like me will demand that the creature effects compare to OTT and not suck like the computer-rendered alopecians in I Am Legend.  That alone will be a feat.  Can the direction, sound and set design, and acting capture a new sense of foreboding and dread for a movie that, plot-wise, will essentially mirror the original?  (That’s not a criticism, mind you: in OTT we find that what happened at the Norwegian camp basically reoccurs at the American camp, and the same horrors will probably befall the next group of researchers.)  I know that I’m probably setting myself up for disappointment, but I simply can’t help it.  John Carpenter’s The Thing was a genre-defining film for me, and I want its successor-prequel to honor it in a way that is probably impossible.  A fan can hope, can’t he?

  1. PBreezy permalink
    September 21, 2011 2:13 am

    I hope to god that no matter what the visual effects and scares have in the NTT movie, It atleast provides the following…

    1. An accurate hand-off from the old movie with the two Norwegians surviving and chasing the Husky with the same looking helicopter, the same type HK-93 rifle, and the box of grenades that the one bumbling idiot blew himself up with in OTT. (I only say this because the trailers for NTT look like it might not end that way.)
    2. That Ennio Morricone has some part in duplicating in recreating the eerie and spine tingling soundtrack that made OTT.
    3.That we might me blessed at the end with cameo appearances by the still living (OR similar looking) members of the old movie, namely Kurt Russel. (Since the beginning of the OTT was filmed outside, mostly everybody was wearing Balaclavas, so characters can be substituted… especially for Charles Hallahan: R.I.P.)

    • Matt Shorr permalink*
      September 21, 2011 8:45 am

      From what I read quite some time back, the idea was to have NTT end with the dog running into the American camp. That gives me chills. #2 (especially) and #3 would be treats as well. However, I think I’ll have to be satisfied with NTT simply not sucking.

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