The Thing about nightmares
dutch director of the prequel was terrified of not doing justice to John carpenter’s cult movie.
DUTCH filmmaker Matthijs van Heijningen Jr had constant nightmares when filming his sci-fi horror flick The Thing. The 46-year-old horror movie fanboy was not spooked by the creepy subject matter. But he was afraid he would ruin the legacy of the original 1982 cult classic movie of the same name.
His film is set three days before the story relayed in the older movie directed by John Carpenter.
Over the telephone from his home in Los Angeles, the debutant feature film director says with a chuckle: “During the shooting, I would wake up in the middle of the night and think, ‘ Oh my God, will I do the original movie justice or will I be the one who will ruin it?’
“I was pinching myself and thinking how am I even allowed to pay tribute to something as big as The Thing. The whole experience of shooting this movie was completely daunting.”
The new movie, which stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Joel Edgerton, is about a group of researchers who discover a sinister alien form buried deep in the ice in Antarctica, only to realise too late that the monster is still alive and out to eat humans.
Sci-fi horror fans consider Carpenter’s movie to be one of the best in the genre. Though it failed at the box office on its original release, it gained a cult following and spawned novel and comic book adaptations, video games and action figures.
When it was first screened in the Netherlands, van Heijningen was underage and had to sneak into cinemas to catch it.
“In Amsterdam, the movie was for those 18 years and above, but I knew I had to watch it. I’d do it again if I had to because it was one of my favourite horror movies from my childhood. I’ve seen it at least 100 times since then.”
He even chased the job of making the prequel. He says: “The first movie project I was supposed to be doing was shelved for a while, so I was in a void. Then for some reason, I suddenly thought, whatever happened to The Thing?
“I called my agent and asked whether anyone was doing anything related to The Thing and it so happens that production company Strike Entertainment had a script written, but did not have a director on board yet. So I got in touch with them and they were very enthusiastic about my work on commercials, and that’s how I got the job.”
Many of his commercials have sci-fi elements: An advertisement for a deodorant features robots and futuristic machines, while another for a soda drink features angry alien monsters rampaging through a city.
The director, who has filmed commercials for the past 15 years, says: “I treated all of my commercials like short film exercises. They gave me a lot of opportunity to play with different realities.
“They often featured strange, separate universes. Of course, when you direct a movie you have to oversee a lot more things, but the shooting process of a commercial and a film is the same.”
He is likely to do a few more sci-fi horror films, though no details are confirmed.
He says: “There is something about sci-fi and horror – it is a whole other world, which is interesting for a filmmaker to explore. All you have to do is switch off and these movies take you to another reality.”
And oh, how he allows himself to be carried into the movie world.
The director, who is married with three children, says sheepishly: “I watched Paranormal Activity (2007) on DVD at home alone and it scared the sh** out of me. I almost couldn’t finish watching it.” – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network n TheThing is now playing at cinemas nationwide.