Sunday, March 21, 2010

Every Thing In Its Right Place

I'm sure John Carpenter finds it ironic that almost thirty years after the box office failure and critical trashing of his 1982 remake of The Thing prompted Universal to fire him from an adaptation of Stephen King's Firestarter (a project that went to director Mark Lester) that Universal is mounting a big budget ($38 million) prequel to that once-notorious film. While the idea of a prequel intrigued me from the start, in recently rewatching Carpenter's The Thing, I realized that my memory had hazed out on the overlap between the Norwegians' doomed attempt to put an end to the Thing and the story of the men of Outpost #31. While I had remembered the dog-disguised Thing arriving at Outpost #31, I had blanked on the fact that it had been pursued there by the last two Norwegians (some Thing fan I am!).

Seeing the opening scenes of the '82 Thing play out, it struck me as cool to realize that this would be the final moments of the upcoming prequel. These two characters would have their backstories fleshed out but, inevitably - once the other members of their camp have been either taken over, killed, or have taken their own lives - these two survivors would take a futile helicopter run across the Antarctic in a last ditch effort to keep the Thing from reaching other potential hosts.

That one is incinerated when a grenade accidentally goes off close to their landed helicopter and the other is shot dead through the eye by Outpost #31's bushy eye-browed commander - with his last sight being the Thing now safely in the company of another group of humans - makes for a nicely nihilistic ending, one that can't be altered by studio notes or test screenings. Knowing that the prequel's storyline has to dovetail with what we see in Carpenter's film (down to such details as why there's an axe embedded in a door in the Norwegian camp or who it was that committed suicide with a straight razor and whose remains were torched outside the camp) makes me think that, if done with care, seeing this mystery unlocked could make for a great film. I just wonder if they'll be incorporating the actual footage from Carpenter's film for the conclusion of the prequel. I'd love to see that - and with subtitles provided for the last Norwegians' final words that he shouts out to the men of Outpost #31 before a bullet blows through his brain.

While there's much about those two Norwegians we don't know yet, we do know that they had escaped infection by the Thing, which makes them a resourceful pair. They may have died in vain but at least they died as men.

12 comments:

Dr. Charles Forbin said...

Carpenter's film also used footage from the original Howard Hawkes film (the scene where they find the flying saucer, reproduced as Norwegian videotape).

Frankly, Carpenter's film is such a perfect homage to the Hawkes film, and one of my favorite horror films, that I have no desire to see a modern-day CGI hack job spoiling my memories of it.

You don't think they'll change the ending, when the Norwegians get to the US base? Wait till they audience-test that "ending" in some suburban LA previews, the rewrites will be quick and extensive. I predict an explosion incinerating the "thing" on the spot.

Ivan said...

Jeff, I agree with you on all points--but (perhaps because I grew up watching John Carpenter films with their unhappy endings) I have no faith that the prequel makers or Universal execs won't try and "better" it, thus ruining it.

BTW, Bill Lancaster's original script has an Evil Dead-like moment where Mac and the others listen to a tape recording made when the Thing is thawed out. I wonder if that'll be used...

Thanks,
Ivan

PS: I love that original The Thing poster--much better than the "glowface parka" poster!

Jeff Allard said...

Dr. Forbin, I might be unrealistic in thinking that a prequel can't avoid a bleak ending but I have faith that Strike Entertainment won't cheese this up. They did the near-impossible by making a Dawn of the Dead remake that was well-recieved and Slither is one of the coolest monster movies of the last ten years so hopefully the Thing prequel will be of comparable quality.

And Ivan, I didn't know about that Evil Dead moment from the screenplay. Sounds terrific - I'd love to see that make its way into the new movie!

Ivan said...

Strike Entertainment? Why didn't you say so? While Slither wasn't my particular cup of tea (I still recommend it as something that horror fans need to see), I really got a kick out of the Dawn of the Dead remake.

Okay, I'll withhold judgment...for now.

kindertrauma said...

Jeff, if only you were overseeing the production, then we'd have nothing to worry about! I can't help but be optimistic with this one though, the premise alone seems to suggest that they have fans of the first film in mind. Have you heard anything about Rob Bottin being consulted in any way? His participation, even if it was just giving advice, would make me feel more confident. Well, in any case this is the movie I'm looking forward to the most right now. The potential astounds.-Unk

Jeff Allard said...

Ivan, glad I could shed some encouraging info!

And Unk, I haven't read anything about Bottin being consulted on this - although the mention of his name does spark the question of "what happened to Rob Bottin?" His last special effects credit was for Mr. Deeds in 2002. Is he retired, ill, really selective about his projects, or what? If he's out of the movie business for good, I hope he's rich, healthy and just enjoying his life but as a fan I hope he's not done with FX yet.

J.D. said...

I believe that I read somewhere that Bottin basically dropped out of the biz when the move from practical makeup switched to CGI. Hell, I don't blame him but it's a shame that he wouldn't continue to ply his trade on some indie horror films. If I was a filmmaker making a low budget horror film and I would certainly try to seek him out.

Jeff Allard said...

If it's true that Bottin stepped back due to digital FX, that's a shame. Rick Baker is still out there plying his trade and getting some cool stuff up on the screen (the transformation FX in Wolfman may have been CG but Baker's practical FX was well represented). Who knows - maybe Bottin will come out of his self-imposed exile one of these days.

J.D. said...

It would be nice if someone like Carpenter (who seems poised to make a comeback) could coax him back into work. I get the feeling that JC isn't all that down with CGI and would probably love to work with Bottin again.

L. Rob Hubb said...

Doesn't matter how many fans of the film there are... the bottom line is MONEY, and right now, there's tons of money to be made from COMPLETE CRAP, attracting morons willing to throw away their allowance on Opening Weekend - so I'm not holding my breath that this 'prequel' is going to be worth anything.

Remember, John Carpenter's THING died at the boxoffice - no producer is going to forget THAT.

David Lee said...

Maybe they'll make a prequel and a sequel! The thing will split in two and the Norwegians will split to kill it. One party goes to Americans and dies. The second party (including Jack's handsome kid brother and a hot Nordic scientist) tracks the second Thing in a long round about chase through the Antarctic that brings them to the American camp in time to rescue MacReady from the Thing! Happy Ending after all!

Corey said...

i like David Lee's storyline pitch above. i think the "hot Nordic scientist" should be played by Tara Reid. wearing glasses.