Remakes are probably way too easy to make these days. When motion pictures have been on a virtual production line since 1914’s Birth of a Nation, there’s an interminable amount of features you could consider. Making a prequel, however, gives someone the opportunity to both take a few liberties but also satiate fanboys’ desires at the same time. When the film you’re leading up to is John Carpenter’s The Thing, you’ve got yourself quite a heavy load.
Having just rewatched the original merely days ago on Blu-ray, I couldn’t help but walk into director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.’s prequel with a long checklist of events that need to happen. To say that he, along with screenwriter Eric Heisserer (Final Destination 5, 2010’s Nightmare on Elm Street), succeeded is a bit of an understatement. There may be a few things that lend themselves to the territory of remake as well, but through and through, their Thing still finds plenty of new ways to cover old ground. Let’s also not forget that even Carpenter’s take was a remake as well. All three based on John W. Campbell Jr.’s short story, “Who Goes There?”
After the appropriately 1980s version of the Universal logo raises some serious goosebumps, and the 1982-version of font begins, expectations were immediately raised. It’s 1982 all over again as we’re swept away to the icy tundra of Antarctica. A group of Norwegian researchers, including Olav (Jan Gunnar Røise), are following a signal and it’s not long before they fall into a tight cavern uncovering a spacecraft that’s later mentioned to be 100,000 years old.
Turns out, there’s also a specimen on site so Dr. Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) recruits Columbia University paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to help him uncover the find. Now Kate is headed north along with Sander’s assistant Adam Goodman (Eric Christian Olsen), who explains to Kate that in the three years he’s worked with him he’s never seen Sander this excited. Along with a group of diggers and scientists, they all land at Thule Station with the news that a big storm’s headed their way. After the specimen is excavated, it’s only a matter of time before all hell breaks loose.
You may think you already know everything walking in, but Heijningen and Heisserer have conjured up a prequel with rare ambition. They never try to outdo Carpenter’s version, instead paying tribute in all the right ways. Everything from how the axe found its way into the wall to the man with the slit wrists in the chair to the man with the melting face is given its due. And, of course, it all organically leads into the beginning of the 1982 film. That is if you stick around for some of the end credits, FYI.
Thankfully, even with the use of some shaky cam, you always know what’s going on when the action and/or horror strikes thanks to some great cinematography courtesy Michel Abramowicz. And Marco Beltrami gives us the best creature feature score this side of Michael Giacchino’s Super 8. Some may balk at the use of today’s modernized CGI in the some of the creature effects, but Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr.’s practical effects are put to splendid use as well. As Kate repeatedly yells through the film, be sure to “run!” to this new version of The Thing. It just may wind up being the best horror film of the year.
Photos courtesy Universal Pictures