The Lowdown: The Thing prequel

You certainly won’t find this alien hiding amongst your soft toys or taking you on a flying bicycle ride. This creature, with its slimy tentacles and sharp rows of teeth, is a parasitic organism which lives and grows inside the human body, then takes over your cells and forces its way out from under your skin. So beware, because sooner or later…. IT WILL BECOME YOU.

Originally known as The Thing From Another World and directed by the legendary Howard Hawks in 1952, it was remade by cult director John Carpenter as The Thing in 1982. Both films have a strong storyline, and the 80s film was incredibly grotesque for its time. If you loved Carpenter’s The Thing, when the special effects were limited, then this should be yet more thrilling and spine-tingling.

The new film, a prequel of Carpenter’s eighties classic and directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr, is out this week. With the help of excellent graphics and high quality cameras, it’s set to be even more graphic, gory and in your face than ever before. The script, written by Eric Heisserer (Final Destination V) tells the story of some unfortunate researchers out in the Antarctic, who happen upon a space monster buried deep in the snow. Not realising it is still alive, it comes to life and tries to consume them so it can take over their bodies – which all this sounds rather familiar.

Hare are some great little facts about John Carpenter’s The Thing.

The mystery shooter

In the opening scene, you will recall that a dog escapes from being shot at by a man in a helicopter with a gun. But did you know that the Norwegian who chases the dog through the snow with a rifle was in fact played by the assistant director, Larry Franco? He is primarily known for producing such dark films as Sleepy Hollow and Prince of Darkness, but he also dabbled in acting, appearing in The Thing and They Live. The dramatic helicopter chase scene was inspired by John Carpenter who was learning to fly the aircraft at the time.

Behind the scenes

Believe it or not, the film neither used computer effects nor had people dressed in alien suits. Instead a great deal of imagination was used in order to create some of the most famous and grotesque scenes. These include the incident in the dog kennels and Norris’ attack by the Thing. Let’s see how these two scenes were made:

– The demon dog scene

If you are a dog lover, this scene has probably scarred you for life. The American researchers, take the frightened dog and lock him with their other animals. However, the cute, snow-covered canine suddenly morphs into a violent mutant monster; its face rips in half, a whip-like tail bursts out from under his skin and it begins spitting acid at the other dogs. This scene was choreographed using an animatronic hand puppet, because Carpenter wanted to achieve a more organic movement from the animal. The ‘acid’ was actually the surgical lubricant, KY jelly.

– Noriss’ attack

Possibley inspired by Alien released in 1979, the Thing bursts its way out of Noriss’ stomach, morphing into a huge pair of jaws which bite off his friend’s arm before scuttling off on its long, spider-like legs. Behind the scenes, the head was pushed out by a hydraulic rod and the seeping goo which followed, consisted of melted rubber and gum. The make-up effects artist, Rob Burton, ended up living in the studio and worked 24/7 before he checked himself into hospital suffering exhaustion.

Sneaky appearance

When the American research team decide to visit the Norwegian camp for some answers regarding the possessed dog, they discover it has been burnt down; there is an axe in the door and to their disgust, there’s a mangled humanoid corpse with two faces. This charred Norwegian base camp was actually the remains of the American camp which gets burnt down at the end. Carpenter figured it was much cheaper to double up on sets rather than build and burn down another camp.

After rummaging around the burnt remains of the camp, the team stumble across some video footage. Did you notice John Carpenter’s appearance in the tapes? Have a closer look next time.

Girl Power

The only female in The Thing is the robotic computer system which Mac constantly loses games of chess to. The next time you watch the film, take a close look at Mac’s glass of whisky. In one shot he has three ice cubes in his glass, but the next second he has a whole glassful. However, this ends up being thrown all over the computer because ‘she’s cheating’ according to Mac.

Mac or PC?

Kurt Russell (Backdraft) and Thomas Waites (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) both star in The Thing, but have you noticed that their character names sound very similar to two very well known computers? Russell plays MacReady, aka Mac, and Waites plays Windows. Russell was also a finalist in the casting for Han Solo in the original Star Wars films.

The prequel of The Thing is released on Friday, 3 December. But as the winter approaches, just be careful the next time you dig deep in the snow…

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