This week I watched John Carpenter’s The Thing and its 2011 companion for the first time. The Thing is a sci-fi horror flick from the 1980s, critically acclaimed, it is seen as one of the genre’s all-time greats.
In 2011, it received an update. Given that the title remained the same in the modern instalment, it is generally seen as a remake. However, it is actually a prequel, avoiding the reboot fatigue of modern day cinema.
The writers of the prequel bridge the gap to the classic masterpiece in really interesting ways and it stands up on its own merits. Here are a few words on how the prequel compares to its source material and how the original holds up in 2018.
Watching the 1982 version was a bit of a revelation for me. I had always heard about it but never got round to watching it. What an absolute masterpiece. Practical effects are utilised by John Carpenter to make abominable creations. They are genuinely uncomfortable to look at. Today’s directors struggle to make you look away even with state-of-the-art CGI technology.
The dialogue is just as poetic as the narrative beats. That is not to say that the film is all surface level. Carpenter leaves a ton up to the imagination and part of the joy of the viewing experience is reading between the lines, filling in the gaps of what is left unsaid.
This is the kind of movie that is trying hard to make every moment look artistic, it is unashamed of this and it works. The tracking shots down the corridors while the crew are all sleeping, brings a tremendous feeling of menace. This also helps to draw you into its world.
The amazing shots make a barren, desolate landscape into another world. As the amazing shots continue, you find yourself being immersed into the story more and more.
There is so much to analyse in The Thing. Could it be an allegory for mental health? It literally grabs them, snares them in and takes over their mind. The real story is that people are trying to keep from going stir crazy in a lonely place.
In one scene, McReady walks into a room and turns on a light after a visually dark scene. He brings light as the hero. Although, by the third act, even he almost loses his mind. The biggest strength of the 2011 version is that it builds upon the universe of the first movie. It adds an extension onto the already built house.
I love that we get to see the events that occurred off-camera before the first movie. There are some really good scares and they played with fluid, symbiotic nature of the alien really well. There is a very unnerving moment in the third act when we see the creature absorbing somebody after bursting out of the last host. The face of the last victim presses against the face of the next. A brutal horror moment.
Where the prequel failed was in its attempt to emulate its predecessor too closely. They were never going to capture that Carpenter magic. It also failed when it came to pacing. One of the things Carpenter did so well was absorbing you into his world from start to finish. It didn’t feel like it dragged at any point. The prequel did feel like it went on for too long after a while. By the third act it was meandering along to the conclusion, killing off the cast to get to the conclusion.
John Carpenter’s The Thing is an absolute gem I will return to again and again. The 2011 version is a decent companion piece that adds to the already fascinating world.