New York Comic Con: Director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. Kicks It 80s Style with ‘The Thing’

By  · Published on October 13th, 2010

When watching the teaser for The Thing, nothing feels inherently eighties about it. The film is set three days before Carpenter’s original, so it was a bit surprising that it still felt very modern. When asking Matthijs van Hejiningen about this, he agreed. While every detail in the film is eighties, the film didn’t feel it, and that’s fine. Nobody going in expects this to look pure eighties, but that’s not bad news considering the film still looks to have a slick atmosphere to it and in not an overly flashy or quick cutting way.

Matthijs didn’t seem interested in making a ninety minute hack and slash type of horror film, but just like the original, a slow burn film but that can kick it up a notch when needed. From the looks of the impressive teaser trailer, this is a film with a modern look but with an old school sensibility with epic scope. Hopefully, it lives up to the promises the teaser displayed.

Here’s what director Matthijs van Hejiningen had to say during the (grouping) press lines about the style of the film, keeping it practical, and how to play up the mystery of the alien when we already know what it is.

Those who haven’t had exposure to the original will go into this prequel fresh, but for those who are fans it’s kind of a doomed ending that you got. As a director and with the material, how do you keep it fresh when there’s this understanding of how it’s already going to end?

That’s what I like about the original. I even think that how the ending of Alien is sort of disappointing how Ripley survived, I always hoped she wouldn’t somehow. Of course you know they’re going to die, but if you watch Hamlet again and again you know that Hamlet is going to die. You know that, but he’s such a great character, and how is he going to die? Is he killing himself or being stabbed by somebody else? For me, to be honest, the fact that there’s no happy ending is sort of a comfort and out of the way. Not many movies have a bad ending, and I love that stuff.

Can you talk about the challenges of playing on the mystery of the alien when we already know what it is?

Well, there are a lot of people who don’t know the original (laughs). I think we’ll see transformations we haven’t seen in the other movie. There are some other forms of transformations, but the story is structured in a way that our characters have no idea what’s happening to them. Basically, like the guys in Outpost #31 by evidence and speculation, they have to figure it out. And [it’s] staying true to those characters, what their emotion is, how they evolve, and the reality you have to explain through their eyes. So the fans will probably already know the logic, but it’s still cool to watch it to experience it through the eyes of these characters.

Will we be seeing a lot of science-y stuff?

No, not so much.

Then lets talk about the monsters. Did doing it practically bring any challenges into the production? I think a lot of directors would’ve chosen to do this with CG.

Well, yes, it’s a lot of practical problems. You’ll have a little room and a monster here with a medium shot with another guy with twenty people behind you with all kinds of wires and stuff that basically doesn’t fit. I love practical stuff, but a lot of times it doesn’t go right and a lot of times you have to do it again or do it differently. The good thing is that you have an actor in front of a creature that moves or explodes there the performance feels real. They just bounce off of what they see, which is good for me.

When you watch the film, how eighties will it feel? And when the trailer started off it wasn’t set in Antarctica, how much of that will be in the film?

There’s a little bit in New York, everything else takes place in Antarctica. What’s funny is that every detail of that camp is eighties, but it still looks today somehow. If you look closely it’s all eighties; all the equipment is eighties, all the jackets are eighties, Velcro didn’t exist then, but you don’t see old cars. It is eighties with all the details, but it’s not as obvious as I thought it would be.

The Thing hits theaters on April 29th, 2011.

Longtime FSR contributor Jack Giroux likes movies. He thinks they're swell.