I feel like I’ve seen this ‘Thing’ before
blog by The Canisius Griffin • October 26, 2011 @ 8:45am
Horror remakes are always tricky. Some pay homage to the original, others distance themselves to cash in on namesake and there are a select few that blatantly steal ideas and images, writing them off as their own, or worse, are too stupid to realize that’s exactly what they do. “The Thing” (2011) has been dubbed a prequel as opposed to a remake to John Carpenter’s “The Thing” (1982), which itself is a remake of “The Thing From Another World” (1951). While it takes place in a different setting, a different time and features different characters, this take on the material encompasses all three of those remake characteristics.
It’s impossible not to make comparisons when a film is based so heavily off of another, but it also deserves to be judged on its own merits. The new film, directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr., tells the back-story of the Norwegian Research site in Antarctica visited briefly in Carpenter’s film, which is responsible for excavating the “thing” from the frozen tundra. It’s where all the madness began, before Kurt Russell and Co. went toe-to-toe with the alien shape-shifter. What’s impressive is the effort put in to maintaining continuity between the two films, including a sequence that plays out in the closing credits that leads directly into the beginning of the 1982 film. Every bloodstain, frozen corpse and axe in the wall when the crew visits the base in the original film is present and accounted for in the prequel. Some are set up in fairly clever ways too, causing a smirk to run across my face every so often.
Between that and the new cast of characters, this time lead by scream queen Mary Elizabeth Winstead (“Death Proof,” “Black Christmas”), the prequel seemed to be pointed in the right direction in terms of differentiating from its predecessor and creating its own identity. Unfortunately, the differences end there and after they are established, the film devolves into something that is part homage and part trying too hard.
Winstead, channeling a young Sigourney Weaver, a.k.a. Ripley, is much easier on the eyes than the Grizzly Adams-esque Russell we were treated to in the original. She plays paleontologist Kate Lloyd. However, she is surrounded by a group of thick-bearded Norwegian men, so the respite is short-lived. The alien life form, which infects a host and replicates its appearance, maintains the slimy-tentacled, crab-legged identity crafted in the first film but with a modern CG makeover. The charm of Carpenter’s film was the admittedly goofy practical effects of the monster. The effects certainly show their age today, but they still manage to sustain the film’s fear factor. Practical effects are virtually unheard of in the digital film age and while the new filmmakers claim an even 50/50 ratio of practical to CG, a quick view of the trailer would argue something a little different.
All of that would be forgivable if the film tried something new with the creature, but we’re treated to the same scares as before. The dogs at the campsite recognize a disturbance and attempt to leave just like the first film. The “thing” can’t reproduce inorganic material (except clothes, apparently) so the characters check each other for metal fillings, as opposed to the blood test in the original. Everything is just a slight variation or play off of the events in Carpenter’s film. It’s all filmed and staged nicely, but it feels a little unnecessary next to a film many would argue to be a classic. It’s a problem many horror remakes find themselves with, though, so it comes as no surprise.
Unnecessary as the film is, it still exists. Fortunately, I was still mildly entertained, due in part to the strong cast, a high level of gore and the fact that it’s Halloween, so I’m in a giving mood (it’s my Christmas). I wasn’t happy about all of it, but mainstream horror is all remakes, shaky cam and rated PG-13. So anything pretending to not be based off of something else, filmed on a tripod and slapped with a hard R-rating is A-OK in this film geek’s book.
By Sam Scarcello
Editor in Chief