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Commentary: Why The Thing sequel/prequel/remake isn’t necessary

thing

Official word has come down that there is, indeed, going to be another Thing flick. Early reports are that it will focus on what happened at the Norwegian base camp which McReady and Copper investigated the aftermath of in Carpenter’s remake.

I feel like I have to repeat myself all the time, but since we have new listeners and readers, you should know that I am not on an anti-remake crusade. I am not one of these zealots on the internet who go bat shit crazy every time a remake is announced or decry the lack of creativity of that evil Hollywood conglomerate on the west coast trying to destroy the best films of our genre. The people who do that have no knowledge of film history and have extreme selective memories of remakes that turned out to be amazing and/or above average. Carpenter’s remake of The Thing (from the outstanding Christian Nyby/Howard Hawks 1951 production The Thing From Another World) is one of those amazing examples.

But I digress. I was originally planning on writing this a couple weeks ago, before the storyline focus was revealed. One possibility was that they would do a straight up sequel. There was a Dark Horse comic series in the 90’s that showed exactly what happened after McReady and Childs decided to wait and “see what happens”. The entire motivation of the alien is to get to a populated area and if Hollywood did do a straight up sequel, you can bet that it would up the ante with some urban terror (such as they did by taking the Predator out of the isolated jungle and sticking it in downtown L.A. By the way, L.A. is pretty much like that right now). That got me thinking, “Well then that would just be Invasion of the Body Snatchers with gore”. In both films, the motivation of the aliens is to assimilate all of humanity. The Thing sequel would obviously employ lots of blood and guts because of Bottin’s now classic makeup becoming such an inconic, ahem, thing, but really, there would be no difference between the basic storylines of the films. And really, we’ve already had Invasion of the Body Snatchers told on numerous awesome occasions (the original, Kaufman ’78, and Ferrara ’93…more great remakes, by the way), why water down The Thing in that way? Invasion works because the pod people are already here. The Thing works because it isn’t here yet. Transposing the alien into an Invasion type storyline would cause what makes The Thing great to be gone: that sense of fear, tension, and suspense that something really bad is trying to get out but can’t. But apparently they aren’t doing that, which leads me to possibility #2: the prequel…

I think a lot of horror fans are pretty divided on this. This is one of those things that I’ve chatted with my friends about over the years; talking about what happened at that camp and “wouldn’t it be cool if they made a movie about that?!” Now that I’ve gotten older and gained a greater appreciation and perspective on film, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Norwegian base camp story is like the John Wayne Gacy of ideas. At first it seems okay. It seems like a good, logical, perfectly reasonable thing to do. Then you start to think a little bit and realize that there seems to be something off about it. Then you get sucked in and decide “eh, what the hell?”. Then, after seeing it for what it truly is, you’re anally raped and murdered in a disgusting basement. It’s at this point that you realize nothing good can come from attempting to show a story that was already explained in the first movie. Think about it, we know everything that happened. We know the Norwegians find the spaceship. We know they find The Thing. We know they thaw it out. We know it gets loose. We know it kills all but 2 of them. We know it imitates their dog and runs away. We know that Norwegians can’t throw grenades. We know all of this. What the hell new are we going to find out? That the Thing lived with a couple white trash parents, ran away, and then decided to go psychotic when some humans said its mom was a whore?

A possible defense would be “Yeah, but we didn’t get to see it! I want to see them explore the spaceship and I want to watch The Thing do the same shit it did in Carpenter’s version with computer graphics this time!”. My response would be “Then you don’t understand what is so great about Carpenter’s version”. The reason is this: part of the power of the original Norwegian camp storyline is precisely that you don’t get to see “everything”. Some things are best left unseen, especially in the horror genre.  Put it like this, If Carpenter had shown what happened in gory detail in a flashback for example, there would be no satisfying discussions with my friends over the years. I would never have used my imagination to recreate my own version of what happened, what the spaceship looked like, etc. Because no matter what Hollywood puts up on the screen, it’s not going to live up to each of our own individual thoughts and feelings about how everything went down minute by minute. By not explicitly showing what happened at the Norwegian base camp, but rather hinting and showing brief glimpses, Carpenter added immeasurably to his version of the film. It makes it feel like there is a real world, a backstory that invites the viewer to participate in the filmmaking process so to speak. In other words, Carpenter gives viewers this chance to use their own imaginations in tandem with his and Rob Bottin’s and that dynamic interplay between viewer and filmmaker creates a unique experience that just can’t be replicated by some Pepsi commercial director splashing 20 million dollars to hold our hands through what happened. It’s just not necessary. The best films allow the viewer to engage, think, and participate. When they don’t do that, it only leads to anger, bitterness, disappointment, and people like Rob Zombie.

So there you have it. The Thing isn’t a film that I see working as a prequel or sequel. It exists in that cold, chilly air of horror reserved for unique films that are their own type of awesomeness. Maybe I’ll be wrong. Hopefully I am. Who know, maybe this next flick will blow the door off its hinges. In that case, I’ll totally give it its props. But right now I can’t see any reason as to why the film should be made. It’s not like a film that has huge open canvasses of backstory to explore such as what Rob Zombie attempted, and miserably failed to do, in the Halloween remake. You can’t really focus on the alien as the backstory because the alien is just a force. The real power of The Thing is the characters and the breakdown of friendship and trust. But we’ve already seen that. So what can this prequel possibly do?

Thoughts?

12 Comments

  • Posted January 30, 2009 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    I agree with a lot of your points. Hmmmm. Maybe if they put some Ewoks in it? How about that? I think they should do some focus groups about that.

  • MaT
    Posted January 30, 2009 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    I like your website, Dark!

  • Posted January 30, 2009 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    I agree. As I said on the forum thread, we already know pretty much exactly what happened at the other base, so who cares? Also: Are these characters going to be speaking English?

    One of the interesting angles of the Norwegian base was that it was a separate group of people, the dynamic that even on the most remote part of the planet we have humans separated into distinct camps. American-izing the cast to any degree would do a disservice.

    Or maybe I’m ignorant and Norwegians typically speak English anyway – I don’t know much about them, to be honest :)

    And on the sequel side, the ending of Carpenter’s film is beautiful, “Let’s wait and see what happens.” I don’t see any sequel living up to that.

  • Posted January 30, 2009 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Some audio drama group made a radio version of this last year but apparently they can’t put it up for download. It also has the same plot like what happened to the other base.

    Frankly I’m just glad Sci-Fi Channel didn’t get there hands on this and do that remake of the 1st film like they wanted.

  • Teen*Idol
    Posted January 30, 2009 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Yeah this is yet another terrible idea. Just as bad as that Predator reboot in the works. Robert Rodriguez is set to produce (I LOVE everything Rodriguez is involved with), but this is just another unnecessary reboot/remake/reimagination-ugh whatever. He’s also planning to make it with more than one Predator in the jungle, and obviously no Arnold. NO THANKS!

  • Metal Mikey
    Posted January 30, 2009 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    Prequel- We already know what happened to the Norwegians. Unless the “Thing” turns into some massively crazy shit, the story has no real surprises, so the project is pointless.

    Sequel- As much as I love John Carpenter’s film… which is an annual Christmas tradition for me, by the by… I would not wish to see a film continuation. Most likely because I would not want to see a CGI “Thing” movie. (And you KNOW that a sequel would just carry that effects curse along with it.)

    Remake- A SECOND remaking of “The Thing from Outer Space”?!? Absurdity in motion, folks.

  • Posted February 1, 2009 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Thanks! I’ve added your site to my links.

  • Dan
    Posted March 24, 2009 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Great commentary. I agree a prequel is unnecessary.
    A better sort of prequel might be done with Ridley Scott’s “Alien” in which we find out the origins of the distress signal and the dead fossilized creature on the alien spacecraft.
    However, I think they could bring back “the Thing” with an original storyline, perhaps in outer space. There’s no need to prequel or sequel anything. Just come up with a NEW story involving a new human encounter with this strange life form. Every time they pre-se-quel movies, they tend to screw it up. Witness the AvP movies that just seem to get worse with each re-telling.
    Also, if they do a new movie around “the Thing” I would hope for two things: first, get a really quality director to do it, and keep the cgi to a minimum. And second, DON’T try to explain everything or deconstruct the mystery around the creature. The reason Carpenter’s movie is so great is because of the endless debates I’ve had with friends about the origins of the creature, it’s biology, who was infected first, and the beautiful ambiguity of the ending where McCready and Child’s might be things. The movie lasts because new generations of film buffs can ponder these mysteries.
    Love your site. Dan.

  • Posted March 24, 2009 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Dan!

    I completely agree about the ending. It’s both satisfying and open-ended.

  • Posted March 30, 2009 at 12:49 am | Permalink

    the mysteriusness is the suggestion of “what” about everything,the norge camp,spaceship,origins,intentions,distrust,survival,the ending,etc.carpenter used this effectively to such a degree you would have to see the movie 5 times to comprehend all the nuances of the angles.bingzank.also,the prequel sequel idea has many directions that can be followed,they should let carpenter make one let the other wannabees make one,should draw attention and attract interest since its never been done before in movie making.blunky.

  • Posted March 30, 2009 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    due to b brand budget constraints this funky blunky prequel thing is a nonstop express train to the pawn shop on bzink st. 2 weeks after release.thats because a chinaman couldnt hock a double counterfeit contraband copy on the 7 train for 50 cents.bizank!

  • Patrick
    Posted November 29, 2009 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    U see what u have here is Hollywood suits listening to people lament the old days of great Hollywood film making, and their mindless, bland, brain-numbed and dull response is to think, wait a minute, why dont we try rebooting those old movies and everyone will love us again, except the fact is, theres no one with any real artisitic integrity whose willing to try and take that job on, in order to do the resulting movies justice. What made the thing so great was the whole atmosphere of paranoia among the guys in the camp. Whats so hilariouly funny about this whole remake matter is that yes, the Carpenter movie was a remake but back in those days when he made The Thing, Hollywood was still making great remakes. Today, what have we got-shiiiiiittttt, thats what!!!!! Take out that masterful direction, take out that masterfully created paranoia, insert cgi thing.Insert ice cube bad ass nigga with attitude, insert one liner and capgun and hey presto youve got a brand spanking new Thing headed straight to DVD at a shop near you complete with pg rating. The idea of making this movie a prequel sucks for every god damn reason everyone on here has already commented upon, and then some. A sequel would have been the correct way to go but of course that would have made far too much sense to be feasible. In my opinion this Thing sequel/prequel is guarenteed to blow, and its not even out the door yet. Itll be complete and utterly shiteticious! Now theres a new word for a new level of crapness yet to be surpassed!!!Im so fed up with Hollywood remakes and seeing em screw up almost every adaptation that I started this post hoping to give an inteligent thought out citique opinion on this new Thing movie but because everytime I think about the topic it makes me want to hurl chunks so much, Im afraid this will have to do.

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