Dec 7 2011 by Ian Bunting, Airdrie & Coatbridge
THE Thing is a prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 horror/sci-fi film of the same name.
Student Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), scientist Dr Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) and their team based at an Antarctic research site discover an alien craft, leading to a horrific nightmare where no-one can be trusted.
Carpenter’s The Thing, itself a remake of Howard Hawks’ 1951 movie The Thing from Another World, is one of my favourite horror films ever.
A great mix of fear, gore, paranoia and isolation, it’s a perfect exercise in tension with a wickedly downbeat ending so, as you can imagine, I approached The Thing 2011 with a great deal of trepidation.
It’s not quite the abomination it could’ve been, and certainly better than ‘re-imaginings’ like The Fog (another Carpenter hit), Prom Night and The Hitcher.
But it lacks the fingernail-chewing tension of Carpenter’s film and spends too much time paying homage to it with inferior takes on what we’ve seen before.
The autopsy scene, a sci-fi staple, is lazily wheeled out again and an alternate version of Carpenter’s metal wire sample blood test doesn’t work half as well.
Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. makes his feature directing debut and one of the biggest flaws he makes is not making the most of his environment.
You never get the same sense of the extreme cold the characters were experiencing that existed in the 1982 film and he’s taken away the claustrophobia as well with more exterior shots and a bigger cast.
Eric Heisserer writes his third horror in a just over a year (Final Destination 5, A Nightmare on Elm Street) and the story does tie-in neatly with the previous movie.
The Thing 1982 featured scenes from this Antarctic base and while it’s reasonably refreshing that 2011’s version didn’t just go down the remake route, did we really need to find out how that axe got into the camp’s door or what happened to those two burned up bodies melded together?
Sometimes things are best left to your imagination.
Unlike the original, The Thing 2011 introduces a female character to the mix.
Star of many horror movies Winstead has bizarrely never died on-screen (I’m not saying if that ‘streak’ continues) but she’s no Ripley from Aliens in an underwritten role.
Joel Edgerton (Carter) is The Thing 2011’s closest thing to the 1982 movie’s MacReady (Kurt Russell) but doesn’t make much impression and Thomsen plays a very generic crabby doctor (“you’re not here to think”).
One of the best things about Carpenter’s version was Rob Bottin’s creature special effects.
Of course this ‘upgrade’ is heavy on CGI but it’s actually pretty good (a ’face-busting’ scene is particularly gruesome) and I liked the inclusion of a new plot device that sees the ‘Thing’ unable to take un-organic form (it spits out fillings).
The bookends also sample Carpenter’s excellent music score and it has to be said the movie is rarely dull.
If it seems as though I’ve referred to Carpenter’s version a lot in this review then it’s because that’s inevitable as references are made to that genre classic throughout.
The Thing can’t hold a candle (or a flamethrower) to the 1982 film or its most memorable sequences but does provide some decent frights and gore.
Rating - 5 out of 10.