The Thing (2011)

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[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKjErC2JLQc[/youtube]

The Thing (2011)

(15) Running time: 103 minutes

Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic

I will be the first to admit to being a little dubious of this prequel to John Carpenters classic 1982 sci-fi horror The Thing. From what I had seen, it looked more like a remake than a prequel, same setting and from the looks of it the same ideas. However, I will also be the first to admit that maybe I should not have seen so judgemental, and being a little patient I should have waited for the real thing (sorry!) before expressing such anger at such a film. The Thing prequel, I hate to say, is actually rather good, and thankfully the director and writer knew their audience and knew what us Carpenter devotees were angry about, and so they have created a rather impressive homage to Carpenters film. They have lead on to our beloved 80’s masterpiece so well down to the little details of the axe in the wall, the burnt two faced specimen, Hell, even the closing credits lead perfectly onto how John Carpenters film begins. None of this is spoiler by the way as I can only presume people watching this will have already seen the original, and even though we already know how the story will pan out here, the film still manages to offer up the odd surprise and the odd moment of its own brilliance.

However, it is not a perfect film and the lack of mystery can often be frustrating, but if you can just sit back and enjoy the ride without needing to have your brain put to full use, there is much to enjoy here. If you can also get past the fact that this prequel leads on to a far superior sequel, and try just for a second to not compare it to Carpenters, you may have a lot of fun with it. I desperately did not want to like this one bit, and the more I tried to pick holes in the film, the more I started to actually like the darned thing. The plot is wafer thin as we first meet some Norwegian explorers who fall into a gaping hole in the Antarctic and discover a giant alien spacecraft. Days later a team is drafted in to explore the findings, and I think we all pretty much know what happens then, but in case you don’t know, here it is as simple as possible for you. Team of scientist etc find ice cube with alien in it, alien escapes, alien set on fire, escapes and begins to copy the humans it attaches on to. Simple enough for you? That’s basically it, and after twenty brief moments of getting to know the cast, all of which are instantly forgettable, a relentless race against god knows what begins as the team simply go from one moment of “who is the Thing?” to the next.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead impresses after Carpenter’s female free film, and even manages to do a Ripley and take charge of the situation, something which is met with astonishing ease by the rest of the chaps. She seems to have worked out the alien and what is can do, although she does so pretty quick, it almost felt the makers didn’t want to mess around with a plot we already knew so we could get straight to the action. However, what is missing from the plot is any sort of explanation as to where the Thing has come from, and what exactly it wants. So we are just left with a simple thrill ride, nothing more and while many may find the lack of any explanation frustrating, unfortunately we just have to deal with it. Who knows, maybe an explanation would be insulting, could possibly take something away from the ‘not really knowing’ what this thing wants. Sometimes less is better. The only other real character of note is Joel Edgerton’s Carter, a helicopter pilot who very nearly looks to be imitating Kurt Russell’s character with his beard and American machoism.

Now, whereas Carpenter’s classic was very claustrophobic and intense, this version feels a little safer to be honest. The camera is happier to hold back, giving a much larger view of what is going on on screen, and once characters start becoming The Thing they may as well have it tattooed on their foreheads. There is very little guess work needed here to pick who will be next to mutate, so don’t expect the nail biting suspense of Carpenters. There is even a ‘test’ scene reminiscent of the classic blood test scene, but sadly it doesn’t hold up and manages to get a bit lost in its own ideas. Where this film does shine, however, is in its action sequences and its special effects. Now, you cannot watch any of the mutations without thinking of Carpenters, but the effects and ideas, clearly influenced by his film, are really really good. A mixture of CGI and good old fashioned latex and animatronics are used to brilliant effect, and it is actually quite brilliant to see some of the creatures, at some point in their mutation process, appear as one of those from Carpenters film. Thankfully they feel more like homage’s than copies, and appear as a brief glimpse and you get a real sense of the makers respect for the film they are building up to.

All in all, this is actually a rather good film, something totally unexpected. I think the main problem this film is facing is Carpenter devotees, like me, feeling they have a sense of duty to write this film off before even giving it a shot. I was against it, and I am pleased I gave it a go because the end results is nothing too fancy, it is not trying to be too clever or change the story or even try and attempt to better the previous film. What it is though is a straight forward sci-fi horror that is the perfect movie for a Friday night at the cinema. This is more a homage, a film that screams respect to the better film, but adds as a very well presented lead up to the film we all know and love. Watch, enjoy, and switch off for two hours and just be swept up in all the action as it comes at you thick, fast and fun.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

About Matt Wavish 9999 Articles
A keen enthusiast and collector of all horror and extreme films. I can be picky as i like quality in my horror. This doesn't necessarily mean it has to be a classic, but as long as it has something to impress me then i'm a fan. I watch films by the rule that if it doesn't bring out some kind of emotive response then it aint worth watching.

2 Comments

  1. Fantastic review Matt and I couldn’t agree more with the points you made. What a respectful homage this film is to Carpenters and it fits in well with that film. I too thought the same about Joel Edgerton looking remarkably like Kurt Russell in his trapper hat. I really enjoyed the film and whilst it wasn’t as brilliant as Carpenter’s classic, it was one of the better made modern movies. I definately recommend a watch of this! 🙂

  2. I’ll give it a triple ‘We-hay’! This was never gonna be anything better than a good old beer movie and it delivers this. The actors and effects are not in the class of the 1982 classic but the movie is fun. The action scenes are exciting and the effects are surprisingly gruesome. I don’t know if I want to review this now as Matt has hit the nail on the head. I’d mark it a 6/10 but you’ll have a blast.

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