Matthijs van Heijningen may be undertaking his very first gig as director with the prequel to John Carpenter's The Thing, but if the source of his inspiration is any indication, the project is in good hands—because he's drawing on some of the best classic horror movies of all time, including Rosemary's Baby and (in particular) Alien.
Speaking to Shock Till You Drop, the director couldn't stop giving shout-outs to Ridley Scott's masterpiece during his interview as being his benchmark for doing that The Thing prequel.
Alien, yeah, to me that's the benchmark. The way it's shot, the way it's acted, the way it shows monsters or not. That's all in your head, basically. These are my two favorite horror movies, so, the inspiration comes from those two movies. I spoke about Alien, about the realism of those characters. Like if you watch just a breakfast scene and you would show somebody that scene, it doesn't really have to be a horror movie. That's what I like about it. Polanski is a general reference that's all about acting and then it becomes a horror movie, which I always like, and you sort of slowly descend into this hell.
The director also refers to Rosemary's Baby as a model for him to make a more slow-burn type of horror movie, in contrast to the faster-filmed/edited/paced horror movies we have today:
Yeah, because I really believe in ... even films like Rosemary's Baby or all those movies where you really get to know these characters, you start to care about them and then, you know, when the horror seeps in slower, I really like that. I had to do sort of a big opening sequence and that satisfied the studio a little bit and then won some time so then, it's really, I postpone it as much as I can.
Van Heijningen also adds that one of the reasons why we don't have many films like that today is:
Because maybe nowadays people need sort of instant satisfaction or just some blood and horror. I think that's one of the reasons, I think they were given more time just to explore characters. Waiting for the horror is almost more frightening than actually seeing it—just the pending dread—so I try to do as much as I can to stall.
But though character development is essential in a movie, the director doesn't think we need to know that much about a character's background for the movie to be effective. Citing Alien again, he says that:
[...] even in Alien, you don't know anything about Dallas or Ripley. It's just how they perform, you imagine who they are, and if you do that good, then you don't need "Is he married or not?" and all that sort of... it's all about performance I think and what kind of character they are at the moment, so I don't give them a lot of backstory, no.
With all that talk about Alien, we're just about expecting to see one little bugger bursting out of one of the upcoming film's characters' chests at one point. How about you?
The prequel to John Carpenter's The Thing is set to be released on Oct. 14, 2011.