Let’s (re)do this Thing
I watched the prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing today, which is also called The Thing because it’s not really a prequel but a remake with incidental changes.
It adds very little to what Carpenter’s film had already laid down. In fact it gets some of it wrong. What Carpenter understood – or at least didn’t have the budget to explore – is that his film didn’t need anything more than a shapeshifting alien and loads of fucking ice. The film is very tightly wound around key concepts – intense paranoia heightened by Arctic isolation, our heroes surrounded by ice and only able to kill the enemy with fire. The alien’s ship is unexplored, its consciousness a blank. Even the exact process by which it transforms into and disposes of bodies is left to our imagination.
The remake leads us into areas best left unexplored. It gives us a clumsy brace of horror cliches – a long autopsy-table look at the alien’s body, then a microscope-lens view of its spiky, evil cells replicating the shit out of a human host. There’s some power to the half-formed man uncovered in its stomach (is he half-ingested, or half-formed?) but effective as it might be, I don’t want to see details. In Carpenter’s movie, the discovery of a two-headed corpse was heavy with monstrous meaning. It’s a beautiful symbol of shattered identity, fallen man, agony – was this a human host resisting the parasite? A creature tortured by its own mutated existence? Oh, no – the new film tells us it was two people whose heads were pressed together by a fucking alien. And for fuck’s sake, don’t set the climax down some fucking air vent on the alien ship as its engines are powering up. Jesus.
All of which is stupid, because remaking The Thing is easy. Don’t believe me? Here are three ways of doing it that are way better than last year’s average attempt.
This is a music video made for a track called ‘Driving This Road Until Death Sets You Free’ by some men from France called Zombie Zombie, which sort-of remakes The Thing with GI Joes.
Here’s a more direct remake set in the world of Pingu, which for reasons unexplained is not called Thingu.
And here’s an incredible piece of work which recuts the film as a musical, set from the perspective of the alien and sung in the style of Frank Sinatra.
That wasn’t so fucking hard, was it?