Late summer 2002 saw developers, Computer Artworks release a computer game, ‘The Thing’. The game was released twenty years after John Carpenter’s magnificent movie, ‘The Thing’, which came out in 1982 (do the math…). Interestingly, Carpenter’s seminal sci-fi horror classic was not the genesis of the story. The root of the story goes back to the 1938 novella by John W. Campbell, ‘Who Goes There?’. The great Howard Hawks, director of movies such as’Scarface’ (1932), ‘The Big Sleep’ (1946) and the Monroe Vehicle, ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ (1953) wrote and directed a movie adaptation of Campbell’s novel in 1951. It proved to be a great success and thus started the ball rolling for the Thing franchise. Arguably, it was Carpenter’s remake which brought the grim monster into the modern era with his most impressive use of latex effects in a pre-CGI age of movie-making. While Hawks’s movie was bordering on family-friendly, Carpenter’s take on the story had more of a nasty, revolting face that made the film appealing to a more mature audience. Even though many horror films of the 1980’s seemed to spawn endless strings of sequels, ‘The Thing’ remained dormant for quite some time. It wasn’t until Computer Artworks’s PC game that this story was to rear it’s monstrous abomination of a head once more. The game arguably made Hollywood realise that in the CGI era of the 21st century, this story needed retelling. In the volatile world of games development, the Computer Artworks studio was to close down, as the development of a sequel game was in it’s embryonic stages. The concept artwork became a first step for what was to become the new Thing movie, which was finally released in 2011.
‘The Thing’ (2011), despite bearing the same name as the 1982 movie, is in fact a prequel to it. A wise decision, as Carpenter’s fantastic film did not need a literal remake. The new film does well to set up the groundwork for the 1982 film, as it introduces us to the Norwegian research team that Kurt Russell’s character group discover in later events. The film begins as the Norwegian scientist, Dr. Sander Halvorson recruits paleontologist, Kate Lloyd to a mysterious and confidential project based in Antarctica. Lloyd signs up for the trip on the conceit that she is given no details of the case and is prepared to abandon everything she is doing on a whim. The project turns out to be the investigation of a mysterious life-form found at the site of what appears to be a vast, subterranean UFO crash site. The said specimen is encased in a block of ice, and is extracted from the site to be taken to the team’s Antarctic research lab. The first moment of horror is excellently directed as one of the team drills into the ice-block in order to extract a tissue sample. The sound of the drill in combination with the anticipation of what might happen when the tip touches the beast within create a fantastically teeth-grating moment. The film has Lloyd (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead) playing a Ripley-style role, in that she is the cautious voice of reason, and holds her own within a small male-dominated team. There is a Kurt Russell styled character in the mix too, in the form of the American chopper pilot, Carter, portayed by Joel Edgerton. The most satisfying pay-off moment involves a classic moment of fantasy horror, as the creature nestles over a prone member of the team and begins to absorb the poor bloke’s terrified face. The effect reminded me of some of the nasty shenanigans going down in the comedy horror movie, Society (1989). The movie flows from set piece to set piece, without ever threatening the majesty of the original. Understandable, considering that Carpenter’s movie was possibly one of the greatest films of the 1980’s.