Universal Pictures and Blumhouse have announced a co-production alliance to bring the original John W. Campbell, Jr. novel Who Goes There? to the big screen. Don’t recognize the title? Maybe you know it as John Carpenter’s The Thing. Perhaps if you’re more of a classic movie buff you know it as The Thing from Another World. Campbell’s story is what started it all.
Producer Alan Donnes announced via Facebook that the remake, which is being fast-tracked according to reports, will be based on the book Frozen Hell, Campbell’s novel-length version of the story featuring additional chapters thought to have been lost for decades. The book managed to make it into the light of day thanks to a Kickstarter campaign created by John Betancourt.
Donnes stated that the remake will still take from the best parts of the original The Thing From Another World (1951) and Carpenter’s The Thing (1982). The 2011 prequel The Thing was not mentioned among its sources of inspiration (probably because it was a commercial flop while also being panned by critics), although I would argue the producers should really look into the Playstation 2 The Thing game which, for my money, still stands as one of the best survival games of past generations. It’s also a worthy entry into The Thing‘s mythos being a sequel focused on the aftermath of Carpenter’s version of the story.
Fans of the Campbell book will have a lot to expect from this new ‘remake.’ Who Goes There? definitely carries into the movie versions, but its focus is not just on isolation and survival. The book puts in a lot of time into the fear of having the shape-shifting alien spread like an invading parasite beyond the antarctic base. Fun fact: The Thing in the original story also happens to be telepathic. As if the circumstance weren’t already stacked in its favor.
Having been released in 1938, Campbell’s tale feels thematically prophetic in that it reads very much like Cold War sci-fi. The vast coldness of the setting, which transitions beautifully into the films, is the perfect setting to contemplate hidden dangers, all apocalyptic in scope. The worry that binds everyone together in Who Goes There? is not the survival of the individual but that of the entire human race, something we see a lot of in Cold War fiction. It was a running motif in 1950’s sci-fi, Humanity over The Individual. Either we survive together or we die together. It’ll be interesting to see how these themes mesh with Millennial fears, where the focus overwhelmingly falls on the individual (think Get Out, Ready or Not, Midsommar).
Another thing I’m sure fans of the Carpenter movie are anxiously hoping for is practical effects. To say that Rob Bottin’s effects for Carpenter’s film are legendary is selling it short. For many, they are the gold standard of gore and creature design in film. Debating whether to go practical or full CGI in the new remake is a decision that can either make or break the whole experience.
Other than knowing the production is being fast-tracked, there’s not much else on projected release dates or casting. I think it’s safe to assume The Thing is in good hands given Blumhouse’s previous remake successes, 2018’s Halloween in particular. Here’s hoping Universal stays its course and that they honor the original films without giving us too much of the same thing.