The Thing (2011)
December 7, 2011 Leave a comment
When a trio of Norweigian scientists fall through a hole in the ice, saved from near certain death only when their vehicle becomes stuck in the ice, they unbelievingly identify the source of a strange signal as an alien space-craft. Sourcing great minds from around the world following the discovery of a frozen sample, the research group headed by Dr. Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) finds its paleontologist in America’s Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). When the creature is revealed to still be alive, and subsequently escapes through the ceiling, the research team find themselves locked in the tundra with an entity that can imitate any living creature.
With this summer’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes showing that prequels are not – as a concept – completely without merit, The Thing is a welcome affirmation of the device’s validity. While there will be those who dismiss the resultant film out of hand as a pale and unneccessary imitation of a bona fide classic – God knows the film is not without its flaws; this particular replica missing more than just its metal fillings – it is nevertheless a competent piece of filmmaking which entertains on its own while also working as a companion piece for John Carpenter’s original. SO THAT’S WHY THERE WAS A GIANT HOLE IN THE ROOF.
The thing I liked most about The Thing was just how genuinely horrifying it was. Whereas the current horror landscape is awash with understatement and realism – from retrospective paranormal activity to rage addled they’re-not-zombies – The Thing‘s mission statement is far more overt. From our first introduction to the titular entity, a genuinely traumatic crab-gina which would put even Lovecraft’s Cthulu off replicating lifeforms for life, it is clear that director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr has just as acute an eye for vulgarity as Carpenter ever did – making full use of the technological innovations which have come to fruition in the intervening years.
While no travesty, however, and despite an hour and a half of solid squirming, this is no instant classic either. While van Heijningen has taken measures to distance himself from the original (itself a remake) – not least by setting his movie prior to the events of Carpenter’s film – there is an overriding sense of deja vu which is impossible to ignore. Couple that with the fact that the audience, at least those familiar with the previous movie, already knows what is going to happen in the end, and there is very little on offer to keep them invested.
It is the cast which ultimately let the film down. A dearth of characterisation aside from the usual men are bastards and women are survivors styling that seems to have permeated the genre since Carpenter’s own heyday severely damages the picture, with duff performances and little evident effort to flesh out anyone but Winestead’s Kate Lloyd doing little to warrant audience support. I don’t know about you, subtitle wary cinemagoers, but I would have much preferred a movie devoid of all-American heroes, in which the Norwegian research team faced off against the Thing on their own terms and their own language. I wanted more of Kristofer Hivju’s mad, bulging eyes and slightly less of Joel Edgerton.
Although few will argue that it truly satisfies, there is no denying that Matthijs van Heijningen Jr’s The Thing is a much better movie than forecasters would have had you believe. A solid and effective frightener, the film compensates for the facelessness of its cast and the cloying familiarity of its story with an unabashedly demented aesthetic that beautifully imitates Carpenter’s own sight for sick eyes.