Skip to Navigation Skip to Content

Notes from a Darkened Theater: The Thing Returns, Raimi Goes to Hell

No, it’s not quite the return of John Carpenter that longtime fans have been anxiously awaiting since the 61-year-old director’s last film, 2001’s underrated Ghosts of Mars. But that’s no reason to scoff at the news that Ronald Moore, the creative force behind the Sci-Fi Channel’s much-heralded Battlestar Galactica relaunch, is planning a prequel to Carpenter’s 1982 classic The Thing.

While recent remakes of Carpenter films have yielded mixed results – a workmanlike retread of Assault on Precinct 13, Rob Zombie’s flawed but ambitious take on Halloween, and a pitiful, PG-13 reimagining of The Fog – Moore’s involvement with the project can only be viewed as cause for optimism. And though less is known about Dutch commercial-maker Matthijs van Heijningen, who’s slated to direct, it seems unlikely that Moore, an accomplished writer whose credits include Star Trek: First Contact and episodes of HBO’s Carnivàle, would do a terrible disservice to Carpenter’s legacy.

Of course, that legacy is hardly Carpenter’s alone. Universal’s upcoming prequel would represent the third cinematic go-round for the shape-shifting predator first introduced in the John Campbell Jr. short story “Who Goes There?” (Howard Hawks left his own mark on the paranoid fable with 1951’s The Thing from Another Planet.) But for Carpenter disciples weaned on his tense, claustrophobic update, Moore has just one large pair of shoes to fill.

***

With Guillermo del Toro busy cooking up back-to-back installments of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Sam Raimi, who had been considered a candidate to direct New Line’s Lord of the Rings prequels, has taken his time off from the ongoing adventures of Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst to revisit his horror roots with Drag Me to Hell, a thriller he wrote with his brother, Ivan Raimi.

The pair, who last collaborated on Spider-Man 3, wrote the script for their latest slice of supernatural terror more than a decade ago, on the heels of 1992’s Army of Darkness. It will mark Raimi’s directorial debut for Ghost House, the production company he founded seven years ago with friend and fellow filmmaker Rob Tapert.

“Sam calls it a ‘spook-a-blast,’ a wild ride with all the chills and spills that Evil Dead delivered, without relying on the excessive violence of that film,” Tapert says. “When one has done three very expensive movies, they get used to eating caviar. Sam will have to ponder what it means to come down from the mountaintop for a moment.

“The appeal to Sam was returning to what he had once done and loved doing, which was entertaining a very specific group of fans and providing a roller-coaster ride for them. He doesn't have the enormous pressure here that goes with handling a hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars franchise.”

Joining Raimi for his first post-Spidey adventure will be Mac spokesman Justin Long and Matchstick Men’s Alison Lohman, who replaced Juno star Ellen Page early last year. (Page dropped out shortly after last year’s Oscars ceremony, fueling speculation that she is saving herself for weightier cinematic endeavors like her forthcoming roller-derby comedy Whip It!) For Raimi, Hell, due this May, could come as a prelude to Ghost House’s long-threatened remake of his horror classic The Evil Dead – though that rumor seems to have been mercifully, if only temporarily, laid to rest.