Back in 1982, John Carpenter released one of the most amazing horror movies of all time, The Thing. The story, based on John W. Campbell’s novella Who Goes There, has actually been turned into a movie twice with a 3rd movie following essentially the same plot but coming in as a prequel to Carpenter’s classic. This week, it was announced that Universal and Blumhouse are developing another one!
Before the ranting fans start chanting, “I’m so tired of remakes,” let’s examine what constitutes a remake. A remake is a movie that generally tells the same story as a previous movie, usually of the same name. The only difference is that the remake updates the movie making magic and special effects for contemporary audiences. However, Shakespeare and Jane Austen have their stories turned into movies again and again yet each new movie isn’t generally referred to as a remake. Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is up for best picture this year at the Oscars, and no one is calling it a remake.
So, the upcoming new version of The Thing isn’t necessarily a remake. Rather, it will be another adaptation of its source material. If instead, you want to think of it as a remake, then you must also consider Carpenter’s Kurt Russell-starring classic, The Thing, as a remake. The original adaptation of Campbell’s story was released in 1951 as The Thing from Another World.
In Campbell’s story, a mysterious alien invades a research station in Antarctica. The alien, or “thing”, can shapeshift into any living being, animal or human. As it makes its way through the research team, no one knows who’s who or even if they’re human or alien. No one can trust anyone. This setup creates such an atmosphere of distrust and panic that the fear of the novella or the movie is almost palpable. The most intense scene of the movie is, of course, the blood test scene where the characters try to prove who is who they say they are.
Carpenter’s version is amazing and generally considered better than the first adaptation. I suppose, then, that it’s possible that another version could be even better, but I doubt it. Carpenter created the perfect movie for that distrustful atmosphere. It’s a slow burn, allowing the fear and anxiety to build in the audience as the movie progresses. A slow burn, but never boring. For the majority of the movie, the audience will undoubtedly be on the edges of their seats. When the alien presents itself in all of its half-shape-shifted glory, it is both gory and epic.
For those with a keen eye while watching another of Carpenter’s classics, Halloween, you’ll notice The Thing from Another World is one of the movies the kids are watching in their horror marathon before Michael Myers attacks. Based on that inclusion and the subsequent release of his own version four years later, it’s clear Carpenter liked either the original Campbell story or that 1951 movie version.
Unfortunately, what Carpenter presented in 1982 didn’t do exceptionally well at the theater, but it has gathered a huge fan following since. Many blame The Thing’s release coming too closely to 1982’s other famous alien, ET, as the reason for its initial box office failure. Since then, though, The Thing has become beloved in the horror genre, even though it’s about an alien and technically crosses the horror and sci-fi genres. In fact, The Thing is generally included within the top 10 of most “Best Horror Movies of All Time” lists.
So, with it doubtful that anyone can improve upon Carpenter’s The Thing, why make another adaptation? Well, aside from the simple answer of a cash grab, that’s where the potential for a new movie gets rather interesting. In 2018, while biographer Alec Nevala-Lee was researching Campbell along with other authors of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, it was found that Campbell’s Who Goes There? was actually a shortened version of a larger, never published novel called Frozen Hell. With a new opening and 45 additional pages added to the original 1938 Who Goes There? content, people wanted to see what Frozen Hell had to offer and so started a Kickstarter campaign to get it published. It was released digitally in January 2019 and as a physical book in June 2019.
Another adaptation of John W. Campbell’s story of the shape-shifting alien that kills humanity, spreading like a virus, could be a hit or a miss. It may end up being a blip on the radar like the 2011 prequel, or if we all cross our fingers and hope for the best, it could achieve the atmospheric perfection that Carpenter reached. Either way, it’s coming, and Universal/Blumhouse promises it will delve into the new content that came about from the latest publication of John W. Campbell’s sci-fi, and horror, classic.
Some THING is in the Works
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