Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the Winter Wars! This 13-article series focuses on Christmas/winter-themed horror flicks, pitting them against one another in head-to-head battles to see which movie reigns supreme on its own snow-packed throne.
First up, a battle of interplanetary giants and confusing titles!
In one corner, directed by John Carpenter and starring Kurt Russell, is “The Thing” from 1982, a revered classic. In another corner, directed by Matthijs van Heijningen and starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, is “The Thing” from 2011, the prequel. Both movies feature: the same plot – Scientists in the Antarctic are confronted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of the people/animals that it kills.
I know John Carpenter’s version is technically a remake of “The Thing from Another World” (1951), but really, that movie has no relevance for current audiences because Carpenter’s film is so widely accepted as a mainstream masterpiece. So I won’t mention it other than to say, if you haven’t seen it, you should, because it’s a milestone of ‘50s horror.
This is a difficult match to score because both movies feature the same title, same setting, and same plot. You can’t really judge any of that. One is a prequel, which was definitely ambitious to make, so there’s (+1), but it’s almost the same movie as the original, so (- 1); we’ve got ourselves a wash. Let’s take a look at the cast: Kurt Russell is always +1, but Mary Elizabeth Winstead comes out swinging. She made me wish her star would continue to rise and she’d make more horror films (+1). The mood of both films is the same, perfectly capturing the essence of paranoia and the Arctic chill (+1/+1). Each film works on its own yet they go great together when watched sequentially (+1/+1). Plus, both have flamethrowers!
Is there no winner here?
I left out one big point: the special effects. Both feature amazing, dazzling makeups and monsters. But I’m going to ding the 2011 version (-1) because some of the sequences are obviously CGI, to the point where it takes you out of the story. When my disbelief is enforced rather than suspended, we’ve got a problem. But then, take a look at the 1982 version: all this stuff was done by hand! All the in-camera tricks, puppetry and animation, and lots of lots of silicone, putty, and fake blood burn through your screen during this fright fest. That’s a big (+1). In the end, you can’t beat what seems like it’s really there (because it is).
THE WINNER, BY ONE POINT – JOHN CARPENTER’S “THE THING” (1982)!