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How The Thing Prequel From 2011 Perfectly Connects to John Carpenter's The Thing From 1982

Let's explore the doom that came to the Norwegian camp.

By Josh Weiss
Two attached heads pull apart painfully in The Thing (2011).

Whether it's that pack of ground beef you just took out of the ice box or a ruthless extra-terrestrial organism lying dormant under the glacial fields of Antarctica, things rarely stay frozen for very long. In the case of John Carpenter's 1982 sci-fi/horror masterclass, The Thing, it took almost three decades for "the ultimate in alien terror" to thaw out and start assimilating fresh prey on the big screen again.

Taking the form of a prequel, the 2011 revival — also titled The Thing, which isn't confusing at all — explains what occurred at the abandoned Norwegian camp explored by R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell) and Doctor Copper (Richard Dysart) in the Carpenter film.

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We're shown exactly how the shapeshifting monster was discovered and carved out of the ice, only for it to wake up in a very foul mood and raise all kinds of frozen hell before making its way to U.S. Outpost 31 while assuming the innocent disguise of a Siberian Husky.

The film (written by Eric Heisserer and directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.) funnels the narrative through Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), an American paleontologist asked to consult on the historic find and about the only person at the camp to fully understand the profound danger the creature poses if it should ever make it to civilization. Her growing paranoia and suspicions slowly infect the other members of the base, effectively bridging the gap between the prequel and the Carpenter movie.

How does The Thing prequel connect to the John Carpenter movie?

The Thing prequel directly leads into the '82 film during its end credits as a Norwegian helicopter pilot (Ole Martin Aune Nilsen) touches down at the ghostly camp and begins calling out for any survivors amongst the smoldering ruins. Ennio Morricone's heart-thumping cue subtly fades in and we get flashes of Split Face and the poor soul who slit his own throat and wrists.

In other words, the macabre tableau that will soon greet MacReady and Copper.

A thoroughly spooked Lars (Jørgen Langhelle), the bear-like dog handler, creeps out into the open, threatening to shoot the pilot dead if he doesn't open his mouth wide and prove his humanity. The alien, as Kate correctly theorized, cannot replicate inorganic material, including metal cavity fillings. Lars is pacified by what he sees — the pilot is indeed human. Watch the scene here.

But just then, a sled dog leaps out of one of the ruined buildings and breaks out into a run across the snow. Lars takes aim, fires twice, misses. "That's no dog," he says, eyes wide in terror, suddenly turning to the pilot and demanding they give chase in the helicopter. The pair takes off and Lars leans out of the cockpit, attempting to put the dog-Thing down for good. He keeps on firing as we definitively cut to black, the shots ringing in our ears. Both men have only minutes left to live.

Their pursuit of the canine is in vain. The dog's path will bring them right to the outskirts of U.S. Outpost 31, where they'll attempt to warn the Americans to no avail. The language barrier, paired with highly irrational behavior, is too great an obstacle. They'll meet their respective deaths and the assimilation cycle will begin anew. It's just as nihilistic and downbeat as the closing moments of the 1982 movie, and heaps on a dollop of poetic irony: both films end with two men doomed to spend the rest of their lives in the icy wasteland.

Will there be another The Thing movie?

Much like the creature right after it crawled out of the UFO all those eons ago, The Thing film franchise is currently in a state of frozen hibernation. With that said, there are rumblings of a potential revival from Universal Pictures and Blumhouse. In June of this year, for example, Carpenter alluded to a direct sequel that would resolve the ambiguous ending of his film by bringing back Childs (Keith David) and MacReady (Kurt Russell) for another round with the titular alien.

"I just think there’s another bit of a story to tell there, which I’m not going to tell you about," he told Fandom. "But there have been some discussions about The Thing and what we could do because, as far as we know, both those two main characters — Childs and MacReady — are still alive. They were alive at the end of The Thing, so maybe they’re still alive."

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Producer Stuart Cohen, who convinced a reluctant Carpenter to direct The Thing, exclusively told SYFY WIRE that while he thinks "there's more plot to be had with the franchise," he doesn't think it's necessary to revisit MacReady and Childs.

"Some films deserve not to be remade and this is one of them," he said. "John and I never thought of this film [spawning] a sequel when we made it, even if it had been successful. Because the story had been told. What more do you say? I guess maybe we’ll find out."

How to watch both versions of The Thing 

The Thing prequel is now streaming on Peacock alongside the Carpenter version.

Peacock currently offers two monthly subscription plans: Premium ($5.99 a month with ads) and Premium Plus ($11.99 a month with no ads and download access for certain titles). If you're a student, you can enjoy the Premium plan for just $1.99 for an entire year.

Looking for more classic Carpenter action? Prince of Darkness (1987), They Live (1988), and Village of the Damned (1995) are also streaming on Peacock!