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The Thing That Came Before The Thing

October means a few things to me: Less light and time to intentionally seek out the sun when it is out in an attempt to stave off those winter blahs; A celebration of all things pumpkin, including my favorite pumpkin ales; Horror films, my favorite genre; and Fall break from classes and a chance to review a new release.

The film I chose to see is the prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing, titled… The Thing. This The Thing tells the events that lead to John Carpenter’s The Thing (I considered calling them Thing 1 and Thing 2, but thought better of it), going into the details of the events at the Norwegian station.

Near the beginning of the film, Dr. Halvorson, played by Ulrich Thomsen, along with assistant Adam Goodman, played by Eric Christian Olsen, recruit paleontologist Kate Lloyd, played by the lovely Mary Elizabeth (it’s hard not to sing “Ramona”) Winstead to accompany his crew to Antarctica for what promises to be one of the biggest finds in recent history. Upon arrival, Lloyd is immediately taken to the site and shown what appear to be a crashed alien spacecraft and a possible pilot for said craft, frozen beneath the ice.

When Dr. Halvorson orders the extraction of a tissue sample against the protests of Lloyd, things don’t go as expected, unless you know that the alien is The Thing and you know what The Thing does, in which case it may be somewhat expected. This Thing relies more on brute force than Carpenter’s version, which preferred to remain hidden. If you watch both films close in time to each other, you will notice the contrast in effects, since this version is heavy on CGI.

Winstead is great in her role as a paleontologist thrust into this horrific, cold and dark world where anyone you see might launch a tentacle through your chest. She holds it together even during the most disturbing events. I can’t help but make a comparison to Ripley in the Alien films. First time feature director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. does a good job at making an endless expanse of snow seem claustrophobic and hopeless, though I believe this was done better in the original. Unfortunately, no one else stood out in this one. Joel Edgerton (young Uncle Owen) was okay, but the part could have been filled by anyone.

One thing that I must mention is that great care was taken to make sure that all of the details regarding the Norwegian station from John Carpenter’s The Thing were taken into account. The end of the film dovetails perfectly into the beginning of the 1982 release.

Die-hard fans of practical effects will need to look elsewhere for their fix, but if CG monsters/aliens don’t bother you, you like a fair amount of gore, or you’re just curious about what happened immediately prior to meeting Kurt Russell’s MacReady, check this one out.

How much would I pay to see this one again?

Out of $10, I’d pay $6. It was a good horror release, but I don’t believe it will be as fondly remembered as the original.

Jay Fralick is the co-host of The Wanna Watch a Movie? Podcast

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  1. sue says:

    The prequel wasn’t bad , it was annoying in the places it diverges from the storyline (as mentioned before with the spaceship) but I can let that go. I did feel myself thinking in parts “oh hey they changed the…” because for a fraction of a second it felt like I was watching a remake rather than a completely new film… guess theres only so much you can do with an alien in an icebound base.

  2. It’s a common misconception, often bandied about, that Carpenter’s 80’s movie was a “remake” of the 50’s movie. Carpenter may even have said so himself at some point, in order to show respect for a seminal horror film… but it ain’t true.

    The 80’s “The Thing” was based directly on Campbell’s novella “Who Goes There”, which also inspired the ’50’s “Thing”, and “Alien” as well. But Carpenter’s movie is the most faithful adaptation of the novella in terms of the alien’s capabilities and the rampant paranoia aspect.

    The 50’s movie is about a plant-based frankenstein’s monster that falls to the “modern miracle” of electricity. No mimicry, no shapeshifting, no paranoia.

    All due respect to the ’50s piece, it was just another schlock rubberfaced monster man movie. What made it stand out was the moviemaking techniques used, which were good for the time. But for me, calling the ’80s movie “The Original” is not inaccurate, as it was the first recognisable adaptation of Campbell’s original book.

  3. Fancycwabs says:

    Its been hinted at in previous comments, but Carpenter’s “The Thing” is hardly the “original,” since it’s a remake.

  4. Danny says:

    I seen both of the movies the frist The Thing made in 1982 and The Thing in 2011. I saw the 1982 the thing about 6 months ago and the thing of today on sunday I tell everyone I know and don;t know to go and see the movie its really good. But if what to under stand it frist see the first one the this on or see this thing and buy the 1982 the thing on dvd somewhere.

  5. Joe says:

    What about “The Thing From Another World”? Based upon the original novel “Who Goes There?”, this movie is well worth seeing for anyone interested in Carpenter’s “The Thing”.

    Personally, I would have loved for Carpenter to have made this prequel, cheesy by today’s standards I suppose, the practical effects of the Carpenter film still manage to raise hairs on the back of my neck.

  6. david says:

    They did get a bunch of the details of the Norwegian camp right but the big issue I have with THE THING ’11 is what happens with the alien spaceship. SPOILERS!!! In THE THING ’82 the Americans find a video recorder (there is a video recorder in ’11) at the Norwegian camp. They get back to base and watch the video – it shows the Norwegians finding the crash site and using Thermite charges to melt/detonate the ice (thermite + ice = explosion, see mythbusters) to uncover the spaceship. However, in THE THING ’11 they did NOT use Thermite. Instead the ship remains lodged in ice, buried, until the night before the beginning of THE THING ’82. And then the titular “Thing” makes its way back to the ship, and uses the apparently still functioning engines to melt the ice above it in what seems to be preparation for take-off. Don’t get me started on the girl and guy exploring in the ship. I rather hated that last bit. Anyway, for all the attention they payed to getting so many other details right, I can’t fathom why in hell they would not bother to get the detail about the ship recovery right. But I suspect the “tissue sample” the take earlier in the film and the fact that the girl doesn’t die (at least not on camera) and that the ship is still functional (apparently) were all threads for sequels should it do anything at the box-office.