Directed by: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr
Written by: Eric Heisserer, John W. Campbell Jr.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead
When remakes of films are announced, you’re usually left moaning and groaning: “Why does Hollywood have to do this again?” It stings the worst when it’s a film you actually enjoy. John Carpenter’s THE THING is sheer brilliance. It’s scary, it’s unknown, it’s definitely not in need of a reboot.
But what if that reboot is masked as a prequel?
Director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. takes the familiarity of Carpenter’s film and cleverly uses its story as a platform. Re-creating the previous events at the Norwegian Antarctic outpost, THE THING was able to structure itself on the base of a solid backstory that was never fully explored in the original film, but one that fans can still thoroughly appreciate.
Unlike the ambiguity of some prequels like PROMETHEUS, THE THING clearly states it’s intention by recreating set pieces from the original film, as well as some charred bodies to boot. While it’s not apparent at first, the THE THING is not only a remake of the original film, it is also a transitional piece into Carpenter’s version, and a respectful nod to it as well.
Scientist Kate Lloyd (Winstead) is hired by Dr. Sander Halvorson (Thomsen) to assist with the exploration of a newly discovered alien spacecraft and its pilot who is preserved in a block of ice. Naturally, things begin to fall apart as the alien pilot escapes, and the crew quickly learns that not everyone is who they seem to be.
Much like that in the first film, trust becomes a major issue. Is everyone really who they say they are? How do you know? Once confronted, the creature begins to run amok, attempting to eliminate everyone in the camp. While some people die instantly, others become absorbed by the monster, which really makes for some intense scenes- each containing creatively graphic displays of special effects.
When watching the alien try to replicate others in this digital-effect era, things become a lot more interesting. Watching live skin graft itself onto another person’s face its quite the awesome feat. While the monster on its own looks unrealistic, it is really the thought of what is actually happening on screen that can give you the willies.
Speaking of effects, the sound in THE THING is terrific. From the horrific screams of the monster, to the melding of two voice boxes, props have to be given to the original idea of literally putting two people together and seeing what could possibly happen next.
THE THING certainly has a lot of merits going for it. While the story is not original, the fact that it is trying new things with an old idea is refreshing. It is unfortunate, however, that things like special effects and knowing the movie is a prequel (thus telling you how the movie ends) take away from the overall experience. Not to mention, I did not once feel scared while watching this film. It was as if I had anticipated all of the “jump” moments. After all, with a limited cast, there’s only so much one can do with a shape shifting alien.
For what it’s worth though, THE THING certainly ups the ante with gore and violence. It’s just a shame none of it is really that scary – it’s just neat to watch.