‘Thing’ filmmakers: ‘Hybrid’ special effects build a better monster

Oct. 12, 2011 | 11:32 a.m.
letxtnnc ‘Thing’ filmmakers: Hybrid special effects build a better monster

Mary Elizabeth Winstead in "The Thing" (Universal Pictures)

“The Thing” may be director Matthijs Van Heijningen Jr.’s first feature film, but he wasn’t shy about giving the studio his demands when he signed on to the prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 classic horror film, famously inspired by 1951′s “The Thing from Another World.” He told Universal he would direct the film on a couple of conditions. One was that film’s eponymous creature had to be created using practical effects.

“For a director, it’s great. You have something really running around screaming, and you see actors reacting to it,” Heijningen told Hero Complex at the premiere of “The Thing” on Monday.

To reveal what happens to the Norwegian base found destroyed in the 1982 film, Heijningen’s crew blended the use of CGI and practical effects like puppets and animatronics, much to the appreciation of the cast, including star Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

“I’ve been on a lot of sets where there’s a lot of CGI work, and so you’re doing a lot of acting to absolutely nothing, and it can get really confusing,” Winstead said at the premiere at Universal CityWalk. “When you have something to really react to, and something that feels really real and textured and tangible and there, it changes so much.”

With the weighty task of living up to the groundbreaking effects in the 1982 film, Heijningen hired Amalgamated Dynamics Inc., the effects company behind such films as “Alien 3” and “Spider-Man.”

Tom Woodruff Jr. of Amalgamated explained that “there’s a lot of great hybrid technology” that brings together practical and digital effects. They went that route not just for the benefit of the actors’ performances but also to better scare modern movie-watchers.

“Audiences are really savvy today. They’re more technically savvy I think than you give them credit for. They can tell the difference,” Woodruff said.

“The Thing” hits theaters Friday.

– Emily Rome

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