Matthijs van Heijningen Jr

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr gets ready to celebrate Halloween in style with some horror releases… and he’s not just thinking of Footloose. Unhappy with his life, he follows the bucket list path of Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black, traveling to the bottom of the world where he finds himself in a small Antarctic town that has outlawed dancing. So Kevin takes it upon himself to help the people get their groove on only to discover they’ve been taken over an alien species that duplicate human form. Later, he takes a trip back to the heartland where he finds a feral woman chained in a cellar… pretty standard for some of the towns he’s been to. Finally, not being able to find a theater that is still playing Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence), he checks it out On Demand and promptly throws up.

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Anyone who has seen a horror film knows the cue for when a scare is right around the corner – the music begins to draw out the tension before a percussive boom reveals whatever monster or villain (or in this case, shape shifting alien) has made a sudden appearance on screen. Because it is not just the image that is terrifying, it is the sound leading up to its reveal that contains the real fear. Ever watch a scary movie on mute? The scares on screen become almost comical without the music or sound. Even just listening to the music from a horror film (without the accompanying visuals) instinctively puts you on edge. (And yes – I listened to these scores with the lights ON, thank you) John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) took us to a remote research station in Antarctica where the sudden appearance of a seemingly stray snow dog and a low flying helicopter bring us into a world of extreme weather, extreme isolation and a lot of questions. This year, director Matthijs van Heijinigen Jr. is bringing The Thing back to theaters as a prequel to Carpenter’s film. Heijinigen’s film works to explain how things came to be at the start of Carpenter’s tale and the scares and score have been amplified along with it. Famed composer Ennio Morricone created the haunting, but minimal score for Carpenter’s film while composer Marco Beltrami has created a more “traditional” horror score for Heijinigen’s prequel.

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The Thing is a prequel, not a remake. The trailers indicated Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.‘s film was going to be nothing but a series of retreads, but it’s far from it. The commercial director managed to make a film he can actually call his own. Slightly old school and slightly modern, The Thing is a surprisingly fun horror film. Although, to start with some bad news, it does take time to warm up to this prequel. One of its main problems is reminiscent of Predators – you’re watching characters wandering around spouting “What’s going on?”, when you already know exactly what’s going on. The build-up to the goods doesn’t take a great deal of time, but most of the set-up elicits that unexciting feeling of being 20 minutes ahead of your characters, especially for those who’ve seen Carpenter’s remake. Once the chaos commences in the second act, that’s when the film begins to firmly take hold. There’s an all-hell-breaks-loose moment, where more than a couple of characters are killed off, and it’s the scene where the film begins to work. This bloody and standout scene comes after the expected “let’s see which one of us is still human!” experiment, another bit the filmmakers managed to put their own unique spin on. After that “oh, crap” moment, it’s all running and screaming from thereon out.

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Director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. had a lot going against him when he took on The Thing. Fanboy outrage notwithstanding, the filmmaker had to take the same concept — characters discovering an alien running amuck, guessing who’s not human, that sense of paranoia — and still make his own film, and not simply a series of retreads. The obvious reliance on CGI over practical effects isn’t the greatest difference from John Carpenter‘s film; it’s all the spins and deviations Heijningen crafted — the unique alien designs that differ vastly from the original’s transformations, the lack of any bad-ass heroes, the twist on the blood test scene, and plenty more — which make this prequel stand apart. Here’s what director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. had to say about revamping concepts, why you’ll be seeing more CG versions of the alien over practical versions, and why we shouldn’t expect an unrated cut:

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A few days ago we got a great poster for The Thing prequel. At the time I guessed we would be getting actual footage come Cowboys and Aliens time, but thankfully, I was wrong. Today a full-length trailer got released, and it’s as cool as Antarctica! Get it? Because it’s really cold there and all? Bad jokes aside, this trailer effectively plays up the mystery and paranoia aspect. I still can’t tell whether they’re going for something more fast-paced or if they’re sticking to being a slow-burn, but either way, it looks like a solid, R-rated atmospheric horror film. I just hope they somehow managed to not make an unneeded retread full of the same situations we saw in Carpenter’s original.

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Things have been very quiet on the waterfront for Universal’s prequel to The Thing, suitably titled The Thing. After a scrapped April release date, we’ve seen nothing from the film. No trailer. Only a few images. And no poster… until now. The coolest part of this very well done (and unofficially released) poster is that it shows the movie is indeed coming out this October. With no trailer three months before opening, it seemed as if another delay was coming. Thankfully, that’s not the case.

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When watching the teaser for The Thing, nothing feels inherently eighties about it. The film is set three days before Carpenter’s original, so it was a bit surprising that it still felt very modern. When asking Matthijs van Hejiningen about this, he agreed. While every detail in the film is eighties, the film didn’t feel it, and that’s fine. Nobody going in expects this to look pure eighties, but that’s not bad news considering the film still looks to have a slick atmosphere to it and in not an overly flashy or quick cutting way. Matthijs didn’t seem interested in making a ninety minute hack and slash type of horror film, but just like the original, a slow burn film but that can kick it up a notch when needed. From the looks of the impressive teaser trailer, this is a film with a modern look but with an old school sensibility with epic scope. Hopefully, it lives up to the promises the teaser displayed. Here’s what director Matthijs van Hejiningen had to say during the (grouping) press lines about the style of the film, keeping it practical, and how to play up the mystery of the alien when we already know what it is.

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The Thing

The Thing — the second coming, that is — now has a date of launch. Universal plans to unleash this monster on April 29, 2011. It becomes the first major release to nab that coveted final weekend in April, one that saw A Nightmare on Elm Street open to $32 million. Chances are that the Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. directed prequel (or prelude, as they are now calling it) will find a bit more success. Fans will certainly be interested to see how a remake of John Carpenter’s vision will pan out.

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published: 12.19.2014
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published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+
published: 12.15.2014
B


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