Welcome to Script to Pieces, a recurring feature at Wicked Horror where we look at the best, most interesting and at times most unbelievable horror movies that never happened. Sometimes these will be productions that never came together at all, other times, they will be original incarnations that were completely different from what we wound up with. Each should be fascinating in its own way, because the stories of movies that never see the light of day can sometimes be even more interesting than the stories of those that do.
John Carpenter’s The Thing is now known as one of the most iconic horror/science fiction movies ever made. It’s so widely beloved, with many fans citing it as their favorite. Most people consider it one of Carpenter’s best, if not even his very best. On that level, it can be somewhat surprising that it never received a sequel.
Keep in mind, a sequel would not be easy as the film implies the death of its only two surviving characters. The movie is so open-ended that a direct sequel could easily screw it up. Of course, that didn’t stop people from trying.
There was at one point, a rumored sequel that would see Kurt Russell return as R.J. MacReady to battle an infestation of Things, attempting to stop them from setting off an invasion. But those dreams were quickly shattered by the fact that when The Thing was released it completely bombed at the box office and was despised by critics, who considered it much too bleak for audiences who, the very same year, were treated to much friendlier aliens like E.T.
In 2003, a sequel was seriously considered for the first time. It was going to be produced as a two-part miniseries by the Sci-Fi Channel. The miniseries would have been titled Return of the Thing. It would have been set in 2005, when it was planned for release. Interestingly, the setting would have changed from the Antarctic landscape of the Carpenter film to the New Mexico desert.
Written by David Leslie Johnson, the script explained that directly after the events of the ’82 film, the Soviets receive fragments of Windows’s distress call and are the first to arrive at the scene. They discover the frozen bodies of MacReady and Childs and salvage the remnants of the alien ship.
After attempts to weaponize the alien sample result in accidents, the project is halted. This is one of the only attempts at a sequel that actually made it clear that both MacReady and Childs are dead, and that both of them were human at the end of the film.
John Carpenter actually supported the idea of the miniseries and hoped that it would succeed. But even after a completed script and several pieces of concept art, the miniseries did not come to fruition. While it’s not clear exactly which direction it would have gone in, there are some really interesting ideas to it.
The fact that it had Carpenter’s support and would have been produced by Frank Darabont doesn’t hurt either.
Carpenter also had his own idea for The Thing II which would have seen both Kurt Russell and Keith David return as MacReady and Childs, teaming up with a rescue crew after Windows’s message is partially received. But this also never came to fruition.
Gears switched not long after the Thing miniseries was scrapped, as the team behind the Dawn of the Dead remake began looking through Universal’s catalogue for other properties they could adapt. Finding The Thing, they felt like remaking it would be akin to remaking Jaws or The Exorcist, so they instead hatched the idea for a prequel explaining what happened to the Norwegian crew that’s destroyed just before the events of Carpenter’s film.