In The Thing a prequel to the 1982 John Carpenter film of the same name a team of paleontologists Norwegian diggers and rugged helicopter pilots unearth an alien creature with the ability to disguise itself as the organic material surrounding it i.e. feeble humans. Ironically the movie itself also a deceptive shapeshifter impersonating its chilling horror predecessor with the same beats same characters and same scares—but completely void of soul.
A great remake brings something new to the table either in the form of plot twists design or fresh performances but The Thing begs to be compared to the original by cowering in the face of innovation. The movie forgoes character building wasting no time flying us to the familiar Antarctic setting: Girl-who-examines-unfrozen-animal-corpses Kate (played by the movie's saving grace Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is introduced by her friend Adam (Eric Christian Olsen) to sinister scientist Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) who quickly convinces her to throw away her life for a trip to the icy continent. When she arrives Halvorson reveals his team has discovered an alien life form trapped inside a block of ice and he needs Kate to watch him thaw it out.
Anyone with knowledge of the 1982 Thing (or horror movies in general) knows that the beast is far from dead and what unfolds is a flaccid translation of the first film's monster mayhem. Yes the movie has plenty of jump scares insane flesh effects and an increasing sense of paranoia throughout the group—but only because the first movie dictates that it must. Thanks to the charm of Winstead and her Kurt Russell-esque co-star Joel Edgerton the copy/paste script occasionally entertains (who doesn't love a gal who can wield a flamethrower?) but without characters to invest in the alien's rampage of violence is mostly a bore. By the time the group points fingers attempting to sift the real persons from the fakes by checking their teeth (their foe can't recreate metallic material so everyone with fillings is safe!) the movie's floundered its chance to get you to care.
If the titular "thing" was slick enough in its bloodthirsty frenzy perhaps The Thing could redeem itself as a creepy popcorn flick but sloppy CG creature effects end up separating the beast from his prey and obliterating any sense of danger. If they could pull off a guy's head erupting with tentacles using puppetry and prosthetics back in 1982 why not in 2011? When the movie does employ practical effects the results are terrifying—but the moments are few and far between. That speaks to the bigger picture: director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. attempts to mix the original Thing's slow burn terror with modern filmmaking and intriguing sci-fi concepts but can't seamlessly weave them together. Every time Heijningen Jr's Thing defaults to mimicking the previous version the movie craps out.
The Thing's nondescript title once represented the fear of the unknown but for the contemporary rehash it's an indication of a generic lifeless 100 minutes. Buried underneath layers of icy homage is a decent flick but unlike the film's otherworldly opponent it's DOA.
John Carpenter's 1982 film The Thing is one of the more terrifying pictures you'll ever see. A psychological drama/monster movie set in the middle of Antartica -- few combinations tingle the spine quite like it.
Nearly 30 years later, a prequel to the horror classic is on the way, using the opening moments of the original as its point to barrel backward. Also titled The Thing, the movie is directed by Dutch commercial filmmaker Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. and stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim), Joel Edgerton (Animal Kingdom) and Eric Christian Olsen (Fired Up!) as American scientists joining a team of Norweigens on an Antarctica base to investigate an otherworldly entity in the ice. As you can guess, it doesn't go so well.
The movie was supposed to hit back in March, but was suddenly removed from the release calendar, seemingly without a home. Now, the first poster has hit and indicates that, yes, the movie is hitting theaters this October! Check out the first one sheet, which gives you an idea of what the "Thing" will be doing to his human victims come Halloween.
An important item of news for those of you who, like me, nurture a passionate and enduring love for John Carpenter's 1982 horror cult classic The Thing (or for those whose interest may be piqued by its skin-crawling tagline "Man is the Warmest Place to Hide"): Universal Pictures yesterday announced that Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.'s "prequel" (really more of a remake - it even has the same title) will be released April 29th, 2011.
(Some light spoilers ahead!)
Carpenter's film (itself a remake of Howard Hank's 1951 movie) opens on an American expedition of scientists in Antarctica, whose research is interrupted by a bunch of helicopter-borne Norwegians excitedly chasing and shooting at a dog. Strange, right? Their helicopter crashes, and the dog is allowed into the American base, where it promptly mutates and attacks the other dogs. Things begin to appear amiss after a visit to the Norwegian base reveals the aftermath of some kind of catastrophic event; a mangled human body is all that remains. By this point it's too late for our intrepid scientists - the alien creature they've let into their base can take on human form, infecting and hiding in its victims. With few clues as to who can be trusted, paranoia begins to take its toll, even as the body count rises.
Van Heijningen's The Thing appears at the outset to have a similar storyline (which is why I suggested earlier that it may be more of a remake in the guise of a prequel than anything else): an American graduate student, Kate Lloyd, joins a team of Norwegian researchers (those Norwegians? She's doomed!) in Antarctica, where they discover an alien life force, seemingly frozen in the ice. Although I haven't seen van Heijningen's script, I can tell you right now that's probably the point at which things begin to wrong.
Anyway. If any of that sounds interesting to you, and it should, go out and rent the original 1982 The Thing, because it's a goddamn masterpiece. Then find a comfortable balance between optimism and ambivalence towards Heijningen's prequel, starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Final Destination 3) and that guy who plays 'Vaugn' on Community, and a handful of other actors you probably haven't heard of. Don't worry about the casting. Kurt Russell (who starred in the original) wasn't a big movie-star before The Thing either. So let's settle for cautious optimism for now.
April 29th, 2011! I'm putting it on my calendar.