Check it out, I’m writing about movies again. In my continuing quest to figure out why the hell I can’t seem to update here more regularly, its occurred to me that I might broaden my horizons a bit. I don’t necessarily have a erotic-mind-control-moment every day that would be worth sharing, so why not write about other things?
So, this week I’m going to write about an upcoming film that is a unique prequel/remake of which I happen to be a big fan of the source material. As it turns out, I’m a really big fan and this is going to take two posts so…buckle in.
Last time, I wrote about At The Mountains of Madness. Now, in addition to being one of my favorite Lovecraft stories, it was also extremely influential on a novella published two years later: John W. Campbell’s Who Goes There?
Who Goes There? depicts a group of scientists in Antarctica who discover a spacecraft and its pilot buried in the ice. They bring the preserved pilot back to their camp where it’s thawed out and they discover that it is a highly-intelligent creature capable of assuming the physical appearance, memories, and personality of any being it devours. Soon, panic and madness set in as the group realizes that someone, and probably several someones, amongst them are no longer human.
Now, the actual literary-quality of Who Goes There? is a debatable point. The book is filled with some brilliant ideas; several that are better executed than others. Something (haha) that was extremely well-executed was the pair of film adaptations that were based on the novella. Howard Hawks’ 1951 red-scare metaphor The Thing From Another World and John Carpenter’s 1982 paranoia masterpiece The Thing.
What is so brilliant about Carpenter’s adaptation is not horrific imagery, or startling monster-jumps-out-of-the-closet moments (though the film does have them), but the psychological terror that one arrives at by simply asking ‘what if?’ What if I were in this situation, how would I react? Who would I trust? Would I trust myself? How would I know if I was still me?
And we haven’t even gotten to the end-of-the-world stuff yet. What if The Thing reaches civilization? How long does an organism that spreads like a virus and takes over its host from the inside need before it completely supplants the population of a neighborhood? A city? A continent?
Now, the only thing more terrifying than a good apocalypse yarn is a Hollywood remake. They’re all the rage these days and most of them are every bit as despair-inducing as global catastrophe.
The obligatory remake for The Thing is coming out this October, the first trailer was recently released and…well, I’ll let you see for yourself:
Now, The Thing is in a unique position in that this ‘remake’ is also a prequel to John Carpenter’s adaption. In the 1982 version of The Thing, the protagonists have an early encounter with two members of a nearby Norwegian science outpost. Through a mix of language barrer, panic, and misfortune the two Norwegians die before anyone can establish what’s going on. Several team members take a helicopter to their camp only to find everyone there dead, and several, er, things burned to a cinder. Combing through their records they discover the Norwegians had dug up something buried in the ice and brought it back to their camp. Then it woke up. And so forth.
Now what’s brilliant about this plot device (as opposed to having the protagonists discover the alien themselves as in the novella) is it provides a mechanism for exposition. The element of the unknown is preserved since the information obtained from the Norwegian camp only provides a context to understand the creature and not instructions on how to deal with it. But, as a means to establish certain elements of the alien’s abilities, this method is far more effective than the leaps of logic that occur in the novella: “I had a dream that monster could imitate whatever it devoured, I bet it’s telepathic too!”
I’m paraphrasing, but that’s not far off.
It also means that there’s a story hinted at but left untold. The story of the Norwegian camp whose personnel must have experienced the same confusion, horror, and paranoia that we witness in the film…before they all ended up as s’mores. This ‘remake’ is the story of the Norwegian science outpost and depicts the events that lead up to John Carpenter’s The Thing.
Now, I realize that not every film has such an exploitable opening for a prequel, but I’d like to tip my hat to the film makers for finding an extremely clever way of satisfying the studio’s desire to remake a famous film and cash-in on its name recognition while also creating a film that doesn’t supplant the original and in fact supports and expands on its story.
Will it be good? Who knows. I’m hopeful. The trailer hits a lot of the right notes, feeling both familiar while also going new places. Some of those places, such as the snow cat falling through the ice, were bits of action that were originally meant to take place in John Carpenter’s film, but were cut for budgetary reasons. So little bits like that and nods to the original novella are sure to provide some easter eggs for fans.
Speaking of easter eggs, did everyone see the Alien head in the ice cave?
Next time, I’ll break down the trailer in more detail and compare/contrast with prior works.
So, dear reader, looking forward to the remake? Ever seen the original? Read the novella? What do you think?