John Carpenter’s 1982 ‘The Thing‘ is revered as one of the best horror movies of all time. For those who hold the film with such high esteem, rest assured that the remake (also titled ‘The Thing’) does not blaspheme nor tarnish the image of the original. Instead, it builds upon the first film, enhances what you know, and perfectly fills in some blanks along the way. It’s not necessary to know the ’82 version in order to enjoy the new one, but it sure makes the new one a whole lot more fun if you do.
Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ opens with a team of Norwegians frantically entering an American camp in Antarctica while trying to kill a dog. The American team defends themselves from the crazy Norwegians and keeps the dog for a pet – which ends up being an alien that can physically change into whomever/whatever it kills. While the old ‘Thing’ follows the Americans fighting the alien, the new ‘Thing’ takes us back in time and tells the Norwegians’ story – how they found the alien, what happened at their base, and how they ended up in the American camp.
Prequels all suffer from the same problem: You already know how they end. Because of that, there’s rarely any weight or surprise to the story. But ‘The Thing’ is a rare exception. Sure, you know the end, but only the end for two characters. How they get from Point A to Point B is still a mystery. Little facts about the Norwegians’ story are revealed in the ’82 movie, so seeing how each of those facts comes to pass is awesome. There’s a big checklist of things that must happen to set up the ’82 version before the closing credits can roll on the new one. Fanboys will be giddy with excitement to see each of those things checked off – and the movie doesn’t miss a single one.
Technically, ‘The Thing’ is a prequel, but the movie itself plays out like a remake, following the exact same formula as the original. Handy flamethrowers are stashed all over the station. Nobody knows whom they can or can’t trust. There’s even an administered “test.” ‘The Thing’ is a prequel that plays out like an homage-filled remake, but with a fresh and fun story. It’s a remake for audiences who don’t know the ’82 version, and a prequel for those who do know the story and want more.
For some odd reason, there are only two horror movies opening this Halloween. Even if there had been ten, ‘The Thing’ would still be the best of the bunch. It’s an all-around fun horror movie that, despite being new, has the feel and tone of the horror movies of old. You don’t need to know John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’, but the more familiar you are with it, the more fun this one will be. Plus, it’s always great to see Mary Elizabeth Winstead on the big screen – this time playing a gorgeous and smart bad-ass with a flamethrower.