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?