I am a big fan of John Carpenter’s 1982 version of The Thing. It’s one of a handful of horror films (Aliens, Poltergeist, A Nightmare on Elm Street, the first two versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers) that have formed the foundation of what I look for in a good horror film. And, unlike a lot of film fans, remakes do not bother me in the slightest, as long as they do the job.
Of course, 1982’s The Thing is in itself a remake- although similarities with the black & white original are minimal at best, so it’s the 1982 John Carpenter version that will be hereon referred to as the original, especially since this 2011 version isn’t a remake anyway, but a prequel to that specific film. Set in 1982, the film ends where the original begins. Well, sort of. Over the end credits we get glimpses of the bridge between the two stories- but it does leave one or two particularly large open ends.
Importantly, no previous knowledge is required in watching this film, although if you do have prior knowledge, then you have a clearer picture of where this is going, and how much hope there is for the characters involved. For me, this was an effective device, as it meant anybody could be disposable at any time, and by any means, but with the possibility of survival for anyone, also. As a result, there were some genuine heart-in-mouth moments, but also the occasional eye roll.
The original is a master class in paranoia. This achieves that, but in a slightly different, but no less effective way. The original features some phenomenal physical effects. This uses a combination of physical effects and CGI, but it has to be said that the CGI has a tendency to remove credibility, rather than add to the scares. It’s fair to say the plot follows an almost identical path to the original, with specifics tweaked here and there. However, they’ve managed to justify this film’s existence by throwing in a few new ideas, re-imagining some of the genuinely creepy moments, and expanding the mythology regarding the “thing” itself. Although this latter part is only partially successful, as it doesn’t really add anything worthwhile to the story.
So fans of the 1982 film needn’t worry- their beloved film has not been abused in any way. But truth be told, given the choice, next time I’m in the mood to watch “The Thing”, I’m more likely to stick to the John Carpenter version than rewatch this one.