The Thing - Review
Review by Rob Carnevale
MUCH like the creature at the centre of the film, Matthijs van Heijningen Jr’s prequel to John Carpenter’s seminal 1982 The Thing seeks to mimic its predecessor as well as other films in the genre.
But while that certainly strips it of anything original, it’s nevertheless an effective chiller that works on the same mix of tension, paranoia and gruesome effects that helped to make the original movie (itself a remake) so successful.
Ending at the exact same point where Carpenter’s film begins, van Heijningen Jr’s film imagines what might have happened at the Norwegian base found by Kurt Russell and his team of Americans at the start of that movie.
Hence, after discovering an alien spaceship buried beneath the ice of Antarctica, the scientists take a life form back to their base for examination with the help of American palaeontologist Dr Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) only to find their lives under threat when ‘the thing’ breaks free.
To make matters worse, the alien organism in question likes to hide by mimicking its hosts (in this case humans) before breaking out and killing them in ever more disgusting ways.
Taken at face value, it’s difficult not to view this belated prequel as another kind of big studio cash-in that has little or no reason for being.
But given the reverential attitude van Heijningen and his team adopt towards Carpenter’s film, it actually serves as a pretty decent horror experience in its own right, even if it remains in the shadow of that former film.
For starters, the film boasts a pretty decent cast – including Warrior’s Joel Edgerton and Scott Pilgrim’s Winstead – who ensure the characters remain more than just alien fodder, while van Heijningen himself maintains a pretty nice balance between the gory effects and the slow-building tension. You’ll be biting those fingernails in spite of initial misgivings.
And while there are some silly moments late on, including a sequence inside the alien spaceship that adds nothing worthwhile, there are also some pretty clever variations on some of Carpenter’s iconic scenes that should impress the newcomers or fans of the original alike.
At a time when most horror reboots do appear to be more fixated on re-starting potential cash cow franchises, this does seem to have been done with the right intentions in mind.
It’s by no means a classic in the same way that Carpenter’s was, while also inviting comparisons to the likes of Ridley Scott’s Alien by virtue of its gung-ho female heroine, but it does tick all the right boxes for this kind of movie. And that’s surely no bad thing!
Running time: 103mins
UK Release Date: November 28, 2011