The Thing (lost practical cut of sci-fi/horror prequel film; 2011)

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Theatrical poster.

Status: Lost

The Thing (2011), directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr., is a science-fiction horror film that serves as a prequel to John Carpenter's cult classic of the same name, explaining how the titular alien came to be discovered, and what happened at the Norwegian outpost found burned and destroyed by the Americans in the Carpenter film. It also explains how the iconic Split Face found in the snow came to be.

The film, originally shot with almost entirely practical effects supplied by Amalgamated Dynamics,[1] received a negative response from test audiences, leading to Universal Studios ordering the film be re-edited and released with CGI effects covering up the animatronics and makeup. When the movie was finally released, it received mixed reviews and was a box office flop, with some blaming the poor computer effects, and others simply for the story and characters being inferior to the original.[2] This left van Heijningen Jr. and Amalgamated frustrated and potentially heartbroken with the final product.

Despite some insisting otherwise, a full cut of the film with the practical effects and some altered scenes does exist and could still be kept locked away in Universal's archives.

Content of the "Pilot Cut"

As a homage to the original film, Amalgamated Dynamics, Inc., a special effects company known for their work on various films such as Tremors and Jumanji, was hired to create the alien creatures for the film, using a mix of animatronics, make-up effects, puppetry and green screen. These designs were used for almost every creature in the film, including the Juliette-Thing, the Griggs-Thing and even the iconic Split Face (or Adam-Edvard-Thing). This version of the film has been nicknamed by fans as the "Pilot Cut", due to the controversial replacement of the climax.

In the final cut, there is a strange, Tetris-like hologram structure in the center of the spaceship and the poorly rendered CGI Sander-Thing attacks Kate before the ship is ultimately blown up, but the original battle saw Kate being confronted by the Pilot-Thing, which was essentially an imitation of the original alien that piloted the ship before it crash-landed. The Pilot Alien pretending to be asleep, or dead was covered by the Tetris-like holographic and the alien attacking Kate was replaced with the Sander-Thing.

Other practical effects included the Centipede-Thing attacking Jonas, some additional shots of the Original-Thing that attacks the camp and the Edvard-Thing before it assimilated Adam and became Split Face.

In response to their work being covered up and replaced, Amalgamated launched a Kickstarter for their own original film Harbinger Down, a spiritual successor to The Thing featuring entirely practical effects. The film was released in 2015 to mixed-to-poor reviews, although it did receive modest praise from some critics.

A trailer was shown at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2010, also revealing that the original cut of the film first introduced Kate and Adam at a cafe in the middle of the city on a rainy day, although this was changed to them meeting at her place of work.


The full practical cut of the film has never been released, not even on the 2-Movie Collector's Edition release of the two movies on Blu-Ray and DVD.

As well as accomplishing their dream of making their own movie with Harbinger Down, the incident also encouraged ADI to upload more archived content to their YouTube channel, including behind-the-scenes footage of the original practical effects used in the film, featuring unused takes, sculpture designs, and appliance to the actors and stuntmen.[3] Other videos feature older and newer material such as the original Green Goblin mask from Sam Raimi's Spider-Man and designing monsters for Godzilla vs. Kong.

Some footage of the practical effects in-movie and the cafe scene can also be found in the San Diego Comic-Con trailer on YouTube. This trailer contains some very brief shots of the practical Split Face, Juliette-Thing, Original Thing and Pilot-Thing.

Some other deleted scenes also exist, such as the infamous Colin suicide and the burning of the Karl-Thing. The canonicity of these "found" scenes is debatable, as they were cut but are included on the home media releases and easily found in full online.

Campaign for Release

In 2015, Aidan Cosky started a petition to release the "pilot version," which was promoted by Dread Central even though the petition closed due to a lack of followers.[4]

In 2020, after the success of Zack Snyder's Justice League thanks to the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut and #RestoreTheSnyderVerse campaigns, fans of the original and the prequel started the hashtags #ReleaseThePilotVersion and #ReleaseTheStudioADIcut, hoping Universal will release van Heijningen Jr. and ADI's original vision of the film. Bloody Disgusting and NerdBot published articles and YouTube videos calling it one of the most anticipated director's cuts in horror movie history.[5][6]


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