The Prequel To John Carpenter's The Thing Is Blowing Up On Netflix For Some Reason

There's a horror movie remake that's absolutely blowing up on Netflix, leaving some film fans befuddled. Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.'s 2011 remake-slash-secret-prequel of John Carpenter's 1982 horror masterpiece "The Thing" is a divisive film that left most fans of the original feeling left out in the cold, but for some reason it's one of the hottest things on Netflix right now. Honestly, some folks who love Carpenter's version might find faults with any remake, but this remake (okay, remake/prequel) allegedly had a troubled production with lots of studio meddling, and it ended up being a victim of its own marketing hype. So why is it suddenly trending on Netflix? Are new fans without all of that baggage discovering it for the first time, or are old ones finally giving it a reappraisal with the clarity of time? Or are people just confused and think it's the Carpenter version because they share the same name, but then decide to give it a go anyway?

Here's the thing about 2011's "The Thing": it's not nearly as bad as some people might have you believe. Sure, there are some serious problems with the computer-generated special effects, but the movie is an interesting and frightening addition to "Thing" lore. Whatever the reason for its current popularity on Netflix, it's always a good time to give a maligned movie another chance!

The connection between the films

So how exactly does the 2011 "The Thing" fit into the whole scheme of things? Instead of taking the direct remake route, the movie takes place before the events of the 1982 version, showing what happened to the Norwegian team that unearthed the otherworldly "thing" monster before Kurt Russell's MacReady and the rest of the American team discovered it because it infected a sled dog. That means that fans not only get to see the original alien creature, but there are plenty of chances for new disgusting transformations and gory moments. What's more, the characters are all new, so no one is trying to outdo Russell, Keith David, or any of the other incredible performers from the beloved '80s movie. It's a smart move that helps separate the two, but many fans still compare them and only see the 2011 version as an abomination when in reality no movie could ever live up to the brilliance of Carpenter's icy terror. 

The cast of the prequel has a couple of heavy hitters, with Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Kate Lloyd, a no-nonsense paleontologist who ends up both kicking some serious alien butt when push comes to shove. Joel Edgerton plays Sam Carter, a Vietnam vet and helicopter pilot helping to supply the Antarctic bases, and Kristofer Hivju plays a sweet but shy Norwegian scientist named Jonas. Not all of them make it to the end, of course, but that's to be expected when dealing with the Thing. 

Not-so-special effects

The biggest problem plaguing the prequel is that the filmmakers originally planned to mix practical effects with digital effects, but they ended up going with almost entirely digital effects after a negative test screening. There wasn't even an opportunity to release the version with mostly practical effects because it was an unfinished test cut at the time, and Universal wasn't about to dump millions more into an alternate cut of a movie that flopped at the box office. According to the prequel's special effects artist, Alec Gillis, the intent to mix types of effects meant that there's just no watchable cut without some kind of subpar CGI.

The John Carpenter film had practical special effects courtesy of Robert Bottin, and they're absolutely incredible. There are all kinds of prosthetics, animatronics, and puppets, creating enough nightmarish creatures and terrible transformations to give an entire generation nightmares. Early marketing for the 2011 version focused heavily on the practical effects because they were creating some really cool creatures, but unfortunately, they would never see the light of day the way they were meant to be seen. Footage of some of the scenes and screen tests reveal that the makeup and prosthetics were fantastic, revealing that we almost had a perfect prequel

A unique perspective on a familiar tale

The prequel pays heavy homage to the Carpenter film, which is itself an adaptation of a 1938 novella called "Who Goes There?," which was previously adapted as "The Thing From Another World" in 1951. And the 2011 movie features plenty of little moments that harken back to what makes the 1982 film so great. For starters, who doesn't love Winstead with a flamethrower? 

The prequel doesn't try to replicate the dynamics between the men from its source material, however, as the cast is more diverse, with both men and women. The 1982 "The Thing" is a fascinating dissection of gender and how men behave in tense, paranoid situations, sort of like "Lord of the Flies" meets "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," but the prequel has less on its mind. It's a bit simpler and a lot messier, but it still features some great performances and incredibly fun moments. By comparing it directly to Carpenter's masterpiece, fans are depriving themselves of the chance to enjoy another pretty decent "The Thing" movie, just with crummy special effects that are fun to giggle at. 

There were a lot of mistakes made in the marketing and release of 2011's "The Thing," starting with naming it like a remake and ending with the abysmal CGI, but it's still a fascinating box-office failure that deserves a second chance and is getting one 12 years later on Netflix. Some "things" just refuse to die.