The Thing is really great, is not about Ben Grimm

Anne and I saw The Thing last night. tl;dr: I thought it was great.

It's a prequel to the 1982 John Carpenter movie, which is one of my favorite movies of all time, and easily the best Sci-Fi/Horror film ever made. Normally, I would flat out refuse to see it, because I thought it was a remake/reboot, and I'm sick to death of those things. However, I'd heard that they gotten a lot of the practical effects guys together for it, and that was intriguing to me. When a bunch of friends were getting together to see it last night, that was all I needed to go ahead and give it a chance.

So, full disclosure: it turns out that my friend Eric wrote it. How I didn't remember this until I saw his name in the credits is a mystery, especially considering that the whole reason we all got together last night was specifically to watch it with him.

(This is what happens when I have Writer's Brain, and all I can think about is the story I'm working on. My mental CPU is usually at 180% and there's no virtual memory available for other tasks.)

Anyway, I really liked the movie. It's a prequel to the 1982 film, and it tells the story of the discovery of The Thing by the Norwegians, and what it does to them. It's scary, it's gory, and it does an absolutely fantastic job of respecting Carpenter's film, both in tone and story.

My only complaint is that one of the actors makes a really bad choice to play essentially the same note through the whole movie, which robs his character of what could have been a very satisfying arc.

When I mentioned on Twitter last night that I gave it 4.5/5 (the .5 being taken away for the aforementioned complaint), a bunch of people replied to me with various versions of "I hated it and you're stupid for liking it," which sort of baffles me. Now, as an unabashed fan of the 1982 film, maybe I have a connection to the story and the mythos that the average 20-something doesn't, but I don't think you need to be a fan of Carpenter's movie to enjoy this one.

39 thoughts on “The Thing is really great, is not about Ben Grimm”

  1. Sadly, haters gonna hate… I feel like the haters are being particularly loud against this one; not sure why. I’ve always trusted your opinion on media, so I think I might ignore the critics and go check this one out now!
    (I’ve also never seen the original Thing and now have plans to Netflix it tonight because of your endorsement… so go ahead and put two points in your Victory Book for the day. :P)

  2. Although i have not seen the movie yet, I MUST correct one glaring error… “Alien” is the best Sci-Fi/Horror movie of all time… (though the Thing is a very close second on my list)

  3. I loved Carpenter’s The Thing, and can’t wait to see the Prequel… but how can you use the word “easily” to describe Carpenter’s film as the best SciFi/Horror film ever? Surely, you agonized a bit over Alien?

  4. I had not planned on seeing this, as I too am a fan of the Carpenter version. My wife and I will find a night this week to see it.
    My father maintains the “original” from 1951 as one of the scariest movies he has ever seen.

  5. Hmmm…. you may be right, and now I have forced myself into a box where I have to justify my statement, even if I now doubt it.
    TO THE DEBATE CLUB!

  6. I liked the prequel, and I think it would be an awesome movie for anyone who can accept it for what it is–a movie from a different age. Personally, I prefer the psychological horror of the first over the BOO! horror that is popular now, and nothing can top Rob Bottin’s Things, but they did a nice job.
    The only thing that really bothered me was the suicide homage. That seemed really forced while the others worked so well.
    Also, on a different note, it’s easy how to rank The Thing and Alien: The Thing is the best Sci-Fi/Horror movie set on Earth, Alien the best set in space/on another planet. Everyone’s happy!

  7. I’ll have to agree with Nulature that it goes to Alien…RE: Debate club. Especially because the entire plot line of Alien (not the sequels) is that the alien is just trying to take a nap and people keep disturbing it. Why can’t a creature get some sleep?

  8. I saw the prequel on Friday and watched the Carpenter version again last night. I have mixed feelings about the new version. I tried to like it as much as I could, but I see some problems. Will try not to spoil anything here (I assume anyone reading these comments are at least passingly familiar with the Carpenter version or Campbell’s “Who Goes There?”).
    Can’t really tell how people are being “infected” off camera. In the Carpenter version, you see the dog creature go into one of the character’s rooms, which must be when/how he and one of the other revealed converted characters got taken over. You see blood in a shower, but this is after the primary creature has been dealt with in the new version. Could be the dog creature that we only see at the very end when it’s headed for the American camp, but there is no sign of it before then. Makes for more of a told not shown sort of situation.
    One of the characters gets converted without any damage or staining of his clothes (and he is somewhere he didn’t have a change of clothes). Plot issues like this hurt the movie some for me.
    I did like the effects, but nothing made my jaw drop like the scenes in the middle of the Carpenter movie with the chest and head (maybe I’m just a bit jaded from having seen so many sci-fi movies now). Didn’t notice the acting problem Wil did, and I liked Winstead’s smart and brave Kate Lloyd character (though think she should have been lunch at that one scene, creature should have taken her the way Blair deals with Garry in the Carpenter version, but instead it takes the time to show off; guess it was doing the alien version of monologuing).
    There are some nice overlapping scenes if you go back and rewatch the Carpenter version afterwards, like the bloody ax in the wall and the two-headed alien corpse.
    I thought the new version was entertaining enough, but that it could have been better with a few tweaks here and there.

  9. I gotta go with the 1955 version. Scared the hell out of me when I saw it on tv. When they open that door and the creature is right there… No it doesn’t hold up but just knowing it was Marshall Matt Dillon in the Thing costume added another level of otherworldliness. Will see the new version based solely on the Wil recommendation.

  10. This is one of my favorite posts you’ve written. Between the joke in the title, comparing your brain to a computer, and the “to the debate club!” comment, I am laughing / nodding in agreement enough that my cubicle neighbor became concerned that I was having some manner of fit. Can’t tell you how much I needed that today, thank you!

  11. Sound like a great movie. Norwegians getting killed by a “thing”, being bombarded by terrorist, and now taking away the North Dakota oil…. They are roaring for sure in this movie!! God dammit!

  12. Not about the movie specifically, but about Eric Heisserer, your friend who wrote it (right?): I really dig his short stories. I read his fourth one on Mulholland Books’ Popcorn Fiction today, and it’s REALLY interesting. I think I still may like “Last Vegas” better, but all of his stuff on there is worth checking out. Actually, most of the stuff on that site is worth checking out, and I would strongly encourage any WWDN:IX readers to head on over there. (Note: I am not affiliated with that site or Mulholland Books in any way. I started reading Drew McWeeney’s stories over there and got hooked by all the awesome content.)

  13. Carpenter’s The Thing is fabulous. I love it. The comment Palmer makes when he sees the head? My favorite part. I was leery of seeing the prequel, as yours is the first positive review I’ve found. Perhaps on DVD…

  14. I feel no shame in admitting that I’m going to use this post to argue to my boyfriend that he needs to see this movie with me. XD I’ve loved John Carpenter’s “The Thing” since I was a kid, and I’ve been wanting to see this prequel since I found out about it being made. Quite a few of my friend’s have liked it, as well, so now I’m really looking forward to seeing it.

  15. I’d be curious to know how close the film stuck to the original script. There were a few bits in there where I really felt like “There’s something important on the editing room floor”. Particularly the suicide of the radio man(?). We’ll have to wait for the mega phat DVD version.
    I gotta admit, the original is certainly in my top 5 horror flicks (and still has *the* best jump-outta-the-seat moment when the Thing passes through that dark hallway).

  16. I saw the original in the theatre all those years ago… scared the crap outta my sorry teenage butt back then. I guess I will have to go check it out.

  17. Oh!! I got it: The Thing is the greatest Sci-Fi/Horror, and Alien is the best Horror/Sci-Fi.
    THAT, my friends, is how it's done.

  18. As I’m a huge fan of the original as well, I’m glad you think the prequel is great (the trailer looked good) so I’m definitely going to go and see it.
    Three years ago I had the pleasure of seeing the original in glorious 70mm on a big screen during a fantastic films festival. It really was fantastic. The year after they showed Aliens in 70mm and I hope they will finally show The Wrath of Khan next year.

  19. Come to think on it, wouldn’t The Thing do better as the better Horror/Sci-Fi? It has less sci-fi elements than Alien, after all, and could just as easily not involve sci-fi at all and be just as horrifying.
    The fact that the Thing is an alien is really just a convenient tool for the plot–it could just as easily be an ancient being and work. Part o what makes Alien work is the close confines of a spaceship.
    Then again, either story would work in either scenery…I feel a story coming on. To the writing station!

  20. It good to hear that you liked it. I liked the first one as well and I was worried that it would fall into the dreaded prequel/sequel abyss. I’m glad they stuck with the Norwegian angle. Can’t wait to see it.

  21. If you’re in the area, please come to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood ( http://www.halloweenhorrornights.com/hollywood/2011/ )! I’m working the maze for “The Thing” there, and I can testify firsthand that the creature effects hold up even under bright light, even though there’s atmospheric low-light conditions in the walkthrough. They actually did pull molds off of the movie’s practical effects sculptures for this event, so that’s just one more element that makes the venue special.

  22. “Original”
    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
    The 1951 film The Thing From Another World is the original (the one with James Arness as the alien mentioned earlier in the comment thread), based John W. Campbell’s _Who Goes There?_ from 1938.

  23. Yeah, I know. I say "original" because I saw John Carpenter's The Thing in 1982 when I was 10, so — to me and many in my generation — it *is* the original.

  24. Just to pop a few more cogs on the whole “original” thing (no pun intended), the original film was based on a lousy/mediocre/good/excellent (take your pick) novella titled “Who Goes There?” written by John W. Campbell, the famed editor of Astounding Science Fiction (later Analog Science Fiction and Fact).
    You can read it online here: http://nzr.mvnu.edu/faculty/trearick/english/rearick/readings/manuscri/Who%20Goes%20There/Who%20Goes%20There%20Index.htm. It’s a lousy/mediocre/good/excellent (take your pick) read.
    Ken

  25. The ever lovin’ blue eyed Thing heads to the arctic where he’s plagued by murderous practical-jokers from the planet Yancy Street. Now that’s a movie!

  26. I ran into an unhealthy dose of that “it’s popular so I hate it and you’re an idiot for liking it” crap over on Reddit the other day. It was in a thread about The Big Bang Theory (and on the Star Trek subreddit, of all places).
    I couldn’t help but hear several of the more haughty posts in Sheldon’s voice.

  27. I must also agree with Nulaure…can’t beat the Alien movie. But I guess now I will have to watch The Thing to see how the movie turned out.
    In general I don’t go with what other people think of a movie, even though I always keep asking “hey, how was that movie?” because often enough, I end up liking movies, the majority loves to hate and the other way around. But I guess that’s the good thing about being mature enough to respect other people’s opinions without forcing their own upon them.

  28. The 1982 Thing has an insane Wilfred Brimley. That puts it at the top of my list. (it really wasn’t paranoia btw, just months and months of Quaker oatmeal)

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