The Thing (2011 film)

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The Thing
Theatrical Poster
Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
Produced by Marc Abraham
Eric Newman
Written by Eric Heisserer
Based on Who Goes There? 
by John W. Campbell
Characters created by
John Carpenter
Bill Lancaster
Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Joel Edgerton
Ulrich Thomsen
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Eric Christian Olsen
Music by Marco Beltrami
Cinematography Michel Abramowicz
Edited by Julian Clarke
Peter Boyle
Jono Griffith (add'l ed)
Frank J. Urioste (add'l ed)
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • October 10, 2011 (2011-10-10) (Universal City premiere)
  • October 14, 2011 (2011-10-14) (United States
Running time
103 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $38 million[2]
Box office $27.4 million[3]

The Thing is a 2011 science fiction horror film directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. and written by Eric Heisserer based on the novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell. It is a prequel to the 1982 film of the same name by John Carpenter. The film stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Eric Christian Olsen. They are part of a team of Norwegian and American scientists who discover an alien buried deep in the ice of Antarctica, realizing too late that it is still alive.


In 1982, an alien spacecraft is discovered beneath the Antarctic ice by a team from a Norwegian research base: Edvard (Trond Espen Seim), Jonas (Kristofer Hivju), Olav (Jan Gunnar Røise), Karl (Carsten Bjørnlund), Juliette (Kim Bubbs), Lars (Jørgen Langhelle), Henrik (Jo Adrian Haavind), Colin (Jonathan Lloyd Walker), and Peder (Stig Henrik Hoff). Columbia University paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is recruited by Dr. Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) and his assistant Adam Finch (Eric Christian Olsen) to investigate the discovery.

They travel to the Norwegian base, Thule Station, located in Antarctica near U.S. Outpost 31, in a helicopter manned by Carter (Joel Edgerton), Derek (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and Griggs (Paul Braunstein). After viewing the spacecraft, Kate, Sander, and Adam are told the group also discovered an alien body from the crash, buried in the ice nearby. In the afternoon the body is brought to the base in a block of ice.

That evening, while the team celebrates their find, Derek sees the alien burst from the ice and escape the building. The team searches for the creature and discovers that it killed Lars' dog. Olav and Henrik find the alien, which then grabs and engulfs Henrik. The rest of the group arrive and set fire to the creature, killing it. An autopsy of the scorched alien corpse reveals that its cells were consuming and imitating Henrik's own.

Derek, Carter, Griggs and a sick Olav take the helicopter to seek help. Kate discovers bloody dental fillings near a blood-soaked shower. She runs outside to flag down the helicopter after it takes off. When it attempts to land, Griggs transforms into the Thing and attacks Olav, causing the helicopter to spin out of control and crash in the mountains. When Kate returns to the shower, she finds the blood is gone.

The team agrees to evacuate, but Kate confronts them with her theory that the Thing can imitate them and has likely already done so. They dismiss her claims, but Juliette says she saw Colin leaving the showers. Juliette and Kate look for the vehicle keys to prevent the others from leaving, when suddenly Juliette transforms and tries to attack Kate. As Kate flees, she runs past Karl, who is impaled by the creature instead. Lars arrives with a flamethrower and burns the Juliette-Thing, and then the Thing already assimilated Karl.

By night Carter and Derek return to the base, but the team refuses to believe that they could have survived the crash. Kate has them isolated until a test can be prepared to verify they are human. Adam and Sander work on a test, but the lab is sabotaged by fire. Kate proposes another test, believing that the Thing cannot imitate inorganic material. She inspects everyone and singles out those without amalgam dental fillings: Sander, Edvard, Adam, and Colin.

Lars and Jonas go to retrieve Carter and Derek for testing, and discover they have broken out of isolation. As Lars searches near a building, he is suddenly pulled inside. The group hears Carter and Derek breaking into the building and rushes to intercept them. In the middle of a standoff, Edvard orders Peder to burn them. Peder takes aim, but Derek has a gun and shoots several times, killing Peder and rupturing the flamethrower's fuel tank, which ignites seconds later. The explosion knocks Edvard unconscious.

When brought to the rec room, Edvard transforms, infecting Jonas and Derek before assimilating Adam. Kate torches the infected Jonas and Derek before she and Carter pursue the Thing. While the pair searches, Sander is also infected. After they separate, the Thing into which Edvard and Adam are fused corners Carter in the kitchen, but Kate burns it, and it jumps outside through the wall into the snow, dead. They see Sander drive off into the blizzard and pursue him in the remaining snowcat.

They arrive at the spacecraft, where it suddenly activates and its engines begin to melt the ice over it. Kate falls into the ship and is separated from Carter. Kate discovers the source of the radio transmission at the beginning of the film, in the form of a giant glowing cylinder with strange geometric blocks forming and shifting apart, the signal still broadcasting. Confronted by the creature, Kate destroys it with a thermite grenade and the explosion deactivates the ship, shutting down its engines. Kate and Carter escape the ship and Carter suggests driving to a Soviet base about fifty miles away, saying that they'd stashed enough fuel in their snowcat to be just able to cover that distance.

As Kate and Carter return to their vehicle, Kate notices something strange. She accuses Carter of being the "Thing" because he's missing his earring. When she confronts him, Carter points to the wrong ear and Kate then burns him, during which he screams like the alien, proving Kate's deduction correct. She then retreats to Sanders' snowcat and stares blankly as the screen fades black.

As the final credits roll, helicopter pilot Matias arrives by morning at the now destroyed Norwegian outpost. He shouts, looking for someone. Colin is shown to have committed suicide in the radio room using a straight razor to slash both his arms and throat to ensure the Thing could never get to him. Matias sees the charred remains of the Adam/Edvard-Thing in the snow.

Lars, now revealed to be alive and uninfected, orders Matias at gunpoint to show his dental fillings to prove that he is human. The Thing, in the form of Lars' (deceased) dog, then runs out of the camp. Lars realizes it's the Thing and orders Matias to start the helicopter. As the dog runs away from Thule Station, the two chase it in the Norwegian helicopter, with Mathias piloting and Lars leaning out of the open doorway, trying to shoot it with a scoped rifle leading into the events of the 1982 film.




"It's a really fascinating way to construct a story because we're doing it by autopsy, by examining very, very closely everything we know about the Norwegian camp and about the events that happened there from photos and video footage that's recovered, from a visit to the base, the director, producer and I have gone through it countless times marking, you know, there's a fire axe in the door, we have to account for that…we're having to reverse engineer it, so those details all matter to us ‘cause it all has to make sense."
 — Eric Heisserer describing the process of creating a script that is consistent with the first film.[16]

After creating the Dawn of the Dead remake, producers Marc Abraham and Eric Newman began to look through the Universal Studios library to find new properties to work on.[17] Upon finding John Carpenter's 1982 film The Thing, the two convinced Universal to create a prequel instead of a remake, as they felt that remaking Carpenter's film would be like "paint(ing) a moustache on the Mona Lisa".[18] Eric Newman explained; "I'd be the first to say no one should ever try to do Jaws again and I certainly wouldn't want to see anyone remake The Exorcist... And we really felt the same way about The Thing. It's a great film. But once we realized there was a new story to tell, with the same characters and the same world, but from a very different point of view, we took it as a challenge. It's the story about the guys who are just ghosts in Carpenter's movie – they're already dead. But having Universal give us a chance to tell their story was irresistible."[19]

In early 2009, Variety reported the launch of a project to film a prequel—possibly following MacReady's brother during the events leading up to the opening moments of the 1982 film—with Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. as director and Ronald D. Moore as writer.[20][21] Matthijs van Heijningen, Jr. became involved in the project when his first planned feature film, a sequel to the Dawn of the Dead remake, a zombie film taking place in Las Vegas written and produced by Zack Snyder, who directed the Dawn of the Dead remake, and co-produced by Abraham and Newman, called Army of the Dead, was cancelled by the studio three months before production began. Needing to start all over again, he asked his agent to see if there was a The Thing project in development, since Alien and The Thing are his favorite films.[22] As a fan of Carpenter's film, he was interested in the project because, being European himself, he had always wondered what happened at the Norwegian camp.[23] In March 2009, Moore described his script as a "companion piece" to Carpenter's film and "not a remake."[24] "We're telling the story of the Norwegian camp that found the Thing before the Kurt Russell group did", he said.[24] Eric Heisserer was later hired to do a complete rewrite of Moore's script.[25] Heisserer explained that in writing the script, it was necessary for him to research all the information that was revealed about the Norwegian camp from the first film, down to the smallest details, so that it could be incorporated into the prequel in order to create a consistent backstory.[16] The decision was made to name the film the same title as the first film, because the producers felt adding a "colon title" such as Exorcist II: The Heretic had felt less reverential.[23]

Matthijs van Heijningen, Jr. explained that he created the film not to simply be a horror film, but to also focus largely on the human drama with the interaction between characters, as the first film had.[26] The director felt that horror films worked better when time was spent to explore the characters' emotional journeys, allowing the audience to care about them.[27] Mary Elizabeth Winstead insisted that the film would not feature any romantic or sexual elements with her character, as it would be inappropriate considering the tone of the film.[28] Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje said that the film would try to recreate the feeling of paranoia and distrust that the first film had, where the characters can't tell who has been infected by the alien.[29] The filmmakers drew additional inspiration for the film from the original novel Who Goes There?, in making the characters in the film educated scientists as opposed to "blue collar" workers.[23] However, the filmmakers drew no influence from the events of the The Thing video game.[23] The director also drew additional inspiration from the film Alien in creating the film, particularly in regard to casting a female lead,[26] and in the way the alien creatures are filmed by not showing too much of them.[22] Matthijs van Heijningen also cited the films of director Roman Polanski as influence, such as his work on Rosemary's Baby.[27] Actual Norwegian and Danish actors were cast in the film to play the Norwegian characters,[23] and the director allowed the actors to improvise elements different from what was scripted when they felt it was appropriate, such as a scene where the characters sing a Norwegian folk song called Sámiid Ædnan ("Lapland").[27][28][30] Many scenes involving characters speaking Norwegian were subtitled,[31] and the language barrier between them and the English speaking characters is exploited to add to the film's feeling of paranoia.[32] Director Matthijs van Heijningen said that the film would show the alien creature in its "pure form", as it was discovered in its ship by the Norwegians; however, it is not revealed whether this is the creature's original form or the form of another creature it had assimilated.[5] Addressing rumors stating that John Carpenter wished to have a cameo appearance in the film,[23] Carpenter himself corrected these in an interview for the fan site "Outpost 31", in August 2012. "[Those] rumors are not true", Carpenter stated in the interview.[33]

Filming and post-production

The film was shot in the anamorphic format on 35 mm film, as the director dislikes the look of films shot digitally.[27] The director chose not to fast cut the film, instead opting for a slower pace, hoping to build a sense of pending dread.[27] The prequel was filmed in Pinewood Toronto Studios, Port Lands on March 22, 2010 and ended on June 28, 2010.[34] On set, the director had a laptop computer which contained "a million" screen captures of the Carpenter film, which he used as a point of reference to keep the Norwegian camp visually consistent with the first film.[35] Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr. of Amalgamated Dynamics created the practical creature effects for the film.[36] In addition to creating the effects for the human-Thing transformations, Gillis, Woodruff and their team had the challenge of coming up with the look of the alien in the ice block unearthed by the Norwegians. While it was initially only intended to be shown as a silhouette, the director liked their designs and encouraged them to fully create the creature, which was realised by creating a monster suit that Tom Woodruff wore.[32] The effects team opted to use cable-operated animatronics over more complex hydraulic controls, as they felt they gave a more "organic feel".[32] In order to emulate the creature effects of the first film, Heisserer revealed that traditional practical effects would be used on the creatures whenever possible.[37] The film's computer-generated imagery was created by Image Engine, the effects house who worked on Neil Blomkamp's 2009 film District 9.[26] Computer Graphics were used to digitally create extensions on some of the practical animatronic effects, as well as for digital matte paintings and set extensions.[26] Alec Gillis stated that the advancement of animatronic technology since 1982 combined with digital effects allowed the effects team to expand upon the possible creature conceptions.[35] Matthijs van Heijningen preferred to use practical effects over computer imagery, as he believed actors give better performances when they have something physical to react to.[23] However, in post release interviews, Alec Gillis revealed that while Amalgamated Dynamics creature designs for the film remained intact, most of their practical effects ended up being digitally replaced in post production. The creation of Gillis' all practical effects independent horror film Harbinger Down was partially in response to this.[38][39] Stunt men covered in fire-retardant gel were used in scenes when characters are set on fire.[32] The original Ennio Morricone score was reflected in the film's score, but it was initially reported that Morricone did not score the film, nor was his music from the 1982 version used.[31] However, his theme "Humanity (Part II)" appears in a bonus scene during the prequel's ending credits (indicating how it leads directly into the 1982 film).

The interior of the crashed alien spacecraft was created by production designer Sean Haworth.[32] To design the ship, Haworth had to recreate what little was shown of the spacecraft in the Carpenter film, then "fill the gaps" for what was not originally shown. Haworth and a team of approximately twelve others then created the inside of the ship as a several story-high interior set constructed mostly out of a combination of foam, plaster, fiberglass, and plywood.[32] The ship was designed specifically to look as if it were not made to accommodate humans, but rather alien creatures of different size and shape who could walk on any surface.[32] A section of the craft called the "pod room" was designed to imply the alien creatures manning it had collected specimens of different alien species from around the universe for a zoological expedition.[32][40]

While the film was originally set for release in April, Universal Pictures changed the date to October 14, 2011,[41] to allow time for reshoots. The intention of the reshoots was to "enhance existing sequences or to make crystal clear a few story beats or to add punctuation marks to the film's feeling of dread."[42] On his Facebook page, Matthijs van Heijningen, Jr. claimed that the reshoots of the film included making an entirely different ending, referring to the original cut as the "Pilot Version" and the new cut as the "Tetris Version". In the original ending, Kate was to discover the original pilots of the spaceship which had all been killed by The Thing, which was an escaped specimen they had collected from another planet, implying that the ship was crashed in an attempt to kill the monster. "I liked that idea because it would be the Norwegian camp in space. Kate sees the pod room and one pod being broken, giving her the clues what happened. What didn't work was that she wanted to find Sander and stop the ship from taking off and still solve the mystery in the ship. These two energies were in conflict."[43]


Box office

The Thing grossed $8,493,665 over the opening weekend and ended up third on the box office chart. It was distributed to 2,996 theaters and spent a total of one week on the top 10 chart, before dropping down to the 16th position in its second week. It concluded its domestic run with a total of $16,928,670.[44] Its box office collections was called "an outright disappointment" by Box Office Mojo, who goes on to say "[the film] was naturally at a disadvantage: a vague "thing" doesn't give prospective audiences much to latch on to. It was therefore left up to fans of the original, who are already familiar with the concept, to turn out in strong numbers."[45] The film grossed $9,530,415 in foreign countries,[46] bringing the total worldwide box office gross so far to $27,428,670.[44]


The Thing received, according to Metacritic, mixed-- primarily negative-- reviews. It currently holds a 36% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 149 critic reviews, with an average rating of 5.1 out of 10, with the site's consensus: "It serves the bare serviceable minimum for a horror flick, but The Thing is all boo-scares and a slave to the far superior John Carpenter version."[47] Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gives the film a score of 49 based on 31 reviews.[48] In CinemaScore polls users gave the film a "B-" on an A+ to F scale.[49] Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune gave the film a rating of 3 out of 4, saying "While I wish van Heijningen's Thing weren't quite so in lust with the '82 model, it works because it respects that basic premise; and it exhibits a little patience, doling out its ickiest, nastiest moments in ways that make them stick".[50] Andrew O'Hehir of called it a "Loving prequel to a horror classic", saying "It's full of chills and thrills and isolated Antarctic atmosphere and terrific Hieronymus Bosch creature effects, and if it winks genially at the plot twists of Carpenter's film, it never feels even a little like some kind of inside joke."[51] James Berardinelli gave it three stars out of four, saying that it "offers a similar overall experience" to the 1982 film, but "without replicating styles and situations".[52] Christopher Orr of The Atlantic wrote that the narrative choices open to a prequel "exist on a spectrum from the unsurprising to the unfaithful", but van Heijningen "has managed this balancing act about as well as could be hoped" and although the line between homage and apery is a fine one, "in our age of steady knockoffs, retreads, and loosely branded money grabs, The Thing stands out as a competent entertainment, capably executed if not particularly inspired."[53] Josh Bell of Las Vegas Weekly rated the film three out of five stars and wrote, "Winstead makes for an appealing protagonist, and Kate is portrayed as competent without being thrust into some unlikely action-hero role."[54]

Kathleen Murphy of MSN Movies rated it two-and-a-half out of five stars, calling it "a subpar slasher movie tricked out with tired 'Ten Little Indians' tropes and rip-offs from both Carpenter and the Christian Nyby-Howard Hawks' 1951 version of the chilling tale that started it all, John W. Campbell, Jr.'s Who Goes There?".[55] Jim Vejvoda of IGN Movies also rated the film two-and-a-half out of five, saying, "This incarnation of The Thing is much like the creature it depicts: An insidious, defective mimic of the real, er, thing. It's not an entirely lost cause, but it is a needless one."[56] Roger Ebert gave the film two and a half stars out of four, the same rating he gave the 1982 film.[57] In Patrick Sauriol of Coming Attractions' review, he states, "Stack it up against John Carpenter's version and it looks less shiny, but let's face it, if you’re that kind of Thing fan you’re going to go see the new movie anyway. Try and judge today's Thing on its own merits."[58]


The film was nominated for two awards at the 38th Saturn Awards, but lost to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and X-Men: First Class, respectively.

Year Award Category Recipient Result Ref.
2012 Saturn Awards Best Horror/Thriller Film The Thing Nominated [59]
Best Make-Up Tom Woodruff, Jr. and Alec Gillis Nominated


The Thing: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by Marco Beltrami
Released October 11, 2011
Genre Film score
Length 55:31
Label Varèse Sarabande

The music composed for the film by Marco Beltrami was released in October 11, 2011. The soundtrack was released under the label Varèse Sarabande.[60]

Track listing

  1. "God's Country Music" – 1:27
  2. "Road to Antarctica" – 2:41
  3. "Into the Cave" – 0:39
  4. "Eye of the Survivor" – 2:25
  5. "Meet and Greet" – 2:55
  6. "Autopsy" – 3:08
  7. "Cellular Activity" – 1:38
  8. "Finding Filling" – 3:25
  9. "Well Done" – 1:32
  10. "Female Persuasion" – 4:51
  11. "Survivors" – 3:28
  12. "Open Your Mouth" – 4:20
  13. "Antarctic Standoff" – 3:28
  14. "Meating of the Minds" – 4:28
  15. "Sander Sucks at Hiding" – 2:22
  16. "Can't Stand the Heat" – 2:10
  17. "Following Sander's Lead" – 2:39
  18. "In the Ship" – 2:39
  19. "Sander Bucks" – 0:45
  20. "The End" – 2:33
  21. "How Did You Know?" – 2:29


AllMusic rated the album 3.5/5 saying, "Composer Marco Beltrami's appropriately tense and brooding score for director Matthijs van Heijningen, Jr.'s 2011 [prequel to] The Thing dutifully echoes Ennio Morricone's stark score for the original version, which in its own way echoed the soundtrack work of that film's director, John Carpenter."[61]


The Norwegian characters play an excerpt from the song Sámiid Ædnan.

Home media

The Thing was released on Blu-ray and DVD on January 31, 2012 in the US.[62] The film earned an additional $5,174,780 through DVD sales.[63]


The film was made into a maze at both Universal Studios Hollywood's and Universal Orlando Resort's 2011 Halloween Horror Nights events, having the subtitle Assimilation at Hollywood's version.


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External links