‘The Thing’ (2011) – An Atmospheric and Respectful Prequel That Honors John Carpenter’s Masterpiece

As you may already know, John Carpenter‘s 1982 version of “The Thing” is arguably my all time favorite horror film. I have always believed that it is the perfect horror film. It is a combination of mystery, suspense, gore and amazing special effects that has stood the test of time for almost 30 years. To remake this film would be the same as repainting the Sistine Chapel using painters you hired off the streets. Better yet, it would be like taking a brand new engine out of a car and replacing it with a brand new engine. In other words, it would be pointless. Thankfully, with the 2011 version of this masterpiece, that is not the case.

Rather than replicate John Carpenter’s 1982 masterpiece ‘The Thing’, Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.’s 2011 prequel serves as a reverent companion piece, capturing the paranoid atmosphere and groundbreaking creature effects while answering lingering questions. Set days before the discovery of the extraterrestrial shapeshifter, this gripping Antarctic thriller retains the mystery and menace of the original.

At a remote Norwegian research base, a team discovers a crashed alien spaceship and its frozen pilot. But when the specimen thaws, what begins as an extraordinary find quickly escalates into a desperate fight for survival against a protean entity that can absorb and flawlessly imitate its prey.

The cast, headed by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, is as talented an ensemble as you could hope for. Winstead in no way tries to step into the shoes of Kurt Russell; but instead brings her strengths and vulnerabilities to the role. She doesn’t suddenly turn from scientist to action heroine; she is merely an intelligent woman who is forced to think on her feet to survive.

The only complaint I have about this film, and it is a small one, is with the CGI. It’s great for the most part; but there were times that I found myself longing for the original make-up effects of Rob Bottin from the 1982 flick.

Rather than coasting on the predecessor’s brilliance, ‘The Thing’ 2011 puts in the work to be a worthy companion piece. The tone of isolation and suspicion carries over seamlessly, proving certain horrors transcend time and place. Respectful of its legacy while telling its own tense story, the film shows how prequels can complement a classic.

The Thing 2011 is an excellent film that follows one very simple rule: You don’t f**k with a classic.


The producers convinced Universal Studios to allow them to create a prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing instead of a remake, as they felt Carpenter’s film was already perfect, so making a remake would be like “painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa”. However, the prequel still has the title of the original film, because they couldn’t think of a subtitle (for example, “The Thing: Begins”) that sounded good.

The song Kate is listening to on her headphones is “Who Can It Be Now?”, a song by Australian band Men at Work from their 1981 debut album, “Business as Usual”. The lyrics tell of a paranoid man who hears knocking at his house door and wishes to be left in solitude. This foreshadows the paranoia of the scientists later in the film.

The red axe that ‘Joel Edgerton’ uses and eventually sticks into the wall can be seen still stuck in the wall when the Americans visit the Norwegian camp in the original John Carpenter version.