Classic Film | Issue 13

Classic Film | Issue 13

The Thing (1982, 2011): Old vs New

Directors: John Carpenter, Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.

A husky dog runs full tilt across an Antarctic plain. Two Norwegians take shots at it with a rifle from a helicopter. As the dog nears a small American research base, as the Norwegians become more desperate. They drop explosives, to no avail.

That’s the opening scene of The Thing (1982) – henceforth referred to as “the old Thing”. It’s a great scene: attention-grabbing, intriguing and vaguely disturbing. Just what you want in a horror film. The rest of the movie lives up to the promise of its opening scenes. It takes a pretty good premise, which will remain undisclosed, and uses it to generate a string of clever and horrific plot developments. Classic stuff. If you haven’t seen it, you should.

So why bother with a re-make? First, despite the identical title, The Thing (2011) is actually a prequel. This is good. They’re not trying to re-invent the wheel. It also means there’s some stuff we know will happen. I like that. It makes you feel clever noticing the stuff from the old Thing. It’s done pretty well, too. In terms of effective homage-ness, the new Thing is remarkably on the ball.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. You probably have no idea what the movie is about. In brief: A bunch of Norwegians discover something remarkable buried in the Antarctic ice. Things go awry and horror ensues.

Where the new Thing wins is its lead character and a few neat plot-twists. I found the female lead surprisingly sympathetic, though it may be because she played Ramona Flowers in the Scott Pilgrim movie. After the old Thing, you’d think the premise might be wearing thin. Not so. Though it falls short of the original’s ingenuity, the new Thing does manage to squeeze a few nice ideas from the same old premise.

Where it falls down, however, are the classic horror pitfalls. Basically, they show a little too much. Just because you’ve got CGI doesn’t mean we need to be aware of it all the time. Plus the characters split up (face-palm).

So, worth a look? Well, I enjoyed the new Thing. It wasn’t mind-blowing, but it certainly exceeded my (admittedly not very high) expectations.

–Toby Newberry
This article first appeared in Issue 13, 2012.
Posted 7:40pm Sunday 27th May 2012 by Toby Newberry.