As a revolutionary horror sci-fi film, John Carpenter’s original The Thing is held in higher regard than the 2011 prequel for these five reasons.
John Carpenter’s The Thing released in 1982 to poor reception but has since been revered as a cult classic, ranking among some of the most well-known and best horror movies. However, as some may not remember, a prequel (confusingly also titled The Thing) was released in 2011. While this prequel also received poor reception, it definitely has not become a cult classic, with many people forgetting or choosing to ignore its existence.
From characters, soundtrack and much more, there are a number of reasons the original Carpenter movie is regarded more highly than its prequel. And while some may still enjoy the prequel, most will agree that it lacks the level of storytelling and emotional punch of the first film. Prequel director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. decided to not only make the story lead directly up to the events of the original, but he also made many events closely resemble Carpenter’s story, making both films easily comparable.
1982’s The Thing Excels With Character Development
In the prequel, however, Mary Elizabeth Winstead takes center stage as paleontologist Kate Lloyd. While Kate isn’t necessarily a bad protagonist, she’s slower at getting to action than MacReady and lacks any real defining features other than being intelligent. And while some of the side characters stand out more than others, it’s clear who is expendable and will be the first to go, as opposed to the original, where every character has their use.
John Carpenter’s The Thing Wows with Practical Effects, Not CGI
Carpenter’s The Thing is renowned for its incredible use of practical effects. It uses almost every trick in the book, from stop motion, using footage in reverse, puppets and even hiring an amputee missing both their arms for when the doctor is attacked. Some view The Thing as the pinnacle of what practical effects can achieve, which is why it makes the prequel hurt all the more for using an overabundance of CGI for the monster. While some of the CGI works, much of it makes the monster look much goofier and unrealistic. And to top it off, it’s been said by many in the production crew that they used well-made practical effects when filming but decided to replace it with CGI during post-production to appeal more to audiences, which clearly was not successful.
The Thing Prequel Shows Too Much Creature
Following along with the different use of effects, another aspect as to why the original works better involves how it treats the creature. MacReady makes a point to say it will only reveal itself when it has an advantage or is vulnerable, so the creature is sparingly seen. This adds to the paranoia and tension and makes the big reveal all the more impactful. However, in the prequel, the creature has no problem not only revealing itself but also chasing people around the base in full view. While this works for a lot of traditional movie monsters, what made The Thing so special was that audiences never knew where it was.
1982’s The Thing Featured a Suspense-Building Score
Carpenter liked to compose his own music for his films, such as the memorable and eerie Halloween theme. Yet for The Thing, he let composer Ennio Morricone take the reins, who ended up producing the incredible score to perfectly build suspense. The slow beat continues almost throughout the entire movie, never becoming too loud and picking up the pace to force tension and keep the audience constantly on edge. Composer Marco Beltrami composed the prequel, and while it’s not a particularly poor score, it’s more predictable. As such, the generic theme fails to stand against the tones brought by the original.
The Thing’s Ending Perfectly Punctuates Carpenter’s Film
One thing the prequel gets right is the continuity. The ending leads directly into the original film, with all characters and props left in the correct place they should be. While this is somewhat satisfying, the ending carries the same problem as many prequels — there’s no surprise as to what happens to characters. Audiences already know who dies, who won’t survive and where the creature is. Therefore, the horror and satisfying ending of the original comes from the fact there are no clear answers. Two characters remain, with no indication as to whether one is the creature and whether they even make it out alive — and that’s when the credits roll. Even to its last moments, Carpenter’s The Thing keeps the feeling of distrust and paranoia, securing it as a horror classic.
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