The DVD Insomniac

Here's 'The Thing'...

Since, according to Chris Nashawaty, John Carpenter's ''The Thing'' is the greatest sci-fi flick of all time, Universal's new plans for a remake are sacrilege

THAT IS NO DOG It's some sort of Thing !
Image credit: The Thing: Kobal Collection
THAT IS NO DOG It's some sort of Thing!

Don't touch that ''Thing!''

U Preps For 'Thing' Fling:
Carpenter classic set for remake

One morning last week, while enjoying my coffee, I stumbled across that headline in Daily Variety. I nearly did one of those Danny Thomas spit-takes.

For those not fluent in the rat-a-tat La-La-Land verse of Variety-speak, that announcement means that Universal Pictures is planning to remake John Carpenter's 1982 masterpiece The Thing. This is a colossal boner on so many levels I don't even know where to begin.

I'll never understand why Hollywood feels the need to remake perfectly good films, let alone classics like this one. You want to remake the original Ocean's 11, knock yourself out. The original was crap. But this feels like Gus Van Sant's Psycho all over again, doesn't it?

I'm aware that Carpenter's film was itself a remake (kinda) of Howard Hawks' 1951 sci-fi flick The Thing From Another World. But even though Hawks was a genius, that movie wasn't proof of it.

The Variety article went on to say that The Thing remake would be written by Battlestar Gallactica's Ronald Moore — I'll admit, a point in the plus column. But I still think this is not only a bad idea, but heresy. Then again, I'm a little biased.

You won't find a bigger early Carpenter drooler than me. While all of my friends were lining up to see Star Wars again and again in their little Jawa cloaks, I was busy mainlining Assault on Precinct 13, Escape From New York, Halloween, and The Fog. And as for The Thing, well, that was just some next-level shit all together. I was convinced Carpenter was better than Hitchcock and Spielberg combined. Has Kurt Russell ever been more badass than as the bearded Antarctic helicopter pilot and resident tough guy R.J. MacReady? Has Rob Bottin ever hit the creature and makeup F/X ball as far out of the park? Has sub-zero paranoia ever been as bone-chilling? No, no, and no.

It's downright sacrilegious what Hollywood has been doing to Carpenter's early-career legacy lately. First, they get Ethan Hawke and John Leguizamo to star in a totally unnecessary remake of Assault on Precinct 13. Then they get the guy who directed the straight-to-video MC Hammer movie to helm last year's remake of The Fog. (No joke, I looked it up!) And I won't even go into what they've done to poor Michael Myers over the years. And now, now they're messing with The Thing. Well, someone's got to draw a line in sand! I'm drawing that line. This column is my sand. Or something like that.

I'm sorry if well-executed metaphors escape me right now, but I'm so pissed. Last night, I threw on The Thing again just to make sure I wasn't overreacting. To see if maybe it wasn't as awesome and perfect and untouchable as I remembered it being. And you know what? It was even better than I expected. The opening shot with the insane Norwegians hunting down the alien-possessed dog across the frozen tundra. The gooey, gross-out alien effects (''You've got to be f---ing kidding me!''). The roster of slightly anonymous character actors populating the American science team's chilly outpost (special ups to Richard Masur, the tough-as-nails Keith David, and, of course, Wilford Brimley — yes, that Wilford Brimley — as the stir crazy Blair).

I may be going out a very shaky limb here, but for my money, The Thing may be the greatest sci-fi film of all time. If I were on a desert island with a DVD player — a highly unlikely scenario, I know — and I could only choose one sci-fi film to take with me (again, where would I plug the DVD player? I know. I get it. But I'm trying to make a point here), would I take Alien? No. Blade Runner? Sorry. T2? I don't think so. Any of the Star Wars films? Please. Wrath of Khan? Ok, maybe. But what makes The Thing my desert island sci-fi flick is that it's so much more than a sci-fi film: It's equal parts Jack London macho adventure yarn and Fangoria gross-out. Do I even need to remind you of the scene where Richard Dysart (the old, crusty dude from L.A. Law) is defibrillating one of the infected scientists and the guy's chest caves in and snaps shut on L.A. Law dude's hands turning them into spurting bloody stubs?

No, I don't. And if I do, then you need to rent this Thing, stat! My friends, this travesty cannot go unchallenged! The letter-writing campaign to stop this remake begins today! Who's with me?

Originally posted Nov 29, 2006