October 15, 2011 / by zac
The Thing prequel from Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. is not only a worthy follow up to John Carpenter’s 1982 film but is also able to blaze enough of its own path while seamlessly connecting to its “follow up.”
I can’t imagine someone seeing this film and not wanting to rush out and watch the ’82 The Thing, whether for the first or fifteenth time, as I would immediately want to know what happens with the fleeing “thing”. That is a testament to the caliber of this film, which while less then Carpenter’s film isn’t all that far behind.
Our protagonist is a young paleontologist, Kate Lloyd, who is recruited by a Norwegian research team to come in on a secret mission to help recover, she assumes, a creature in Antarctica. Once she arrives she finds that this team has discovered an alien craft and its assumed pilot frozen in the ice above. After returning the creature to their base, obviously, it escapes and the team soon discovers that the alien can replicate any life forms it encounters. This poses quite the problem in an isolated Antarctic base, especially after it becomes clear that the creature has covertly inhabited someone’s skin at the base already.
The film is a fine homage to the original but doesn’t try and replicate the experience beat for beat; which is a good thing. The ‘82 film bases its thrills and suspense around mystery and the camp flipping out over who might be an alien replicant. The film is so much about the mystery that it leaves the ending open to the fact that we still don’t know if they got the alien in the end. This film doesn’t try too hard to keep things a secret in regards to who the alien has copied; you can keep tabs on it fairly easily. Instead, the film gets its scares and tension by building an affective atmosphere and having the characters playing cat and mouse with a bizarre and fucked up creature design that starts ripping apart the facility. When the film does stop for some slow tension, it works even more wonderfully, with the tooth filling scene being a high point for the picture.
The effects work is mostly strong and the creative directions on the alien designs are inspired and crazy. Creature fans are going to have a blast with alien transformations, even if a couple of the CG effects could have been a tad sharper, and the practical effects on the autopsy table don’t disappoint. The film will provide some gross out moments for those looking for them and plenty of WTF for fans of the twisted. I was actually surprised how much of the alien we got to see here, as compared to the original, but I think they took full advantage of today’s technology without over doing it.
The recreation of the Norwegian base seems to be fairly painstakingly accurate to the opening scenes of the ’82 film and when I popped in the Blu for that film after watching this the two pictures seemed to blend together as perfectly as this one ends. The score by Marco Beltrami is also extremely affective and fitting for the film. Like the film itself it is making homage to Ennio Morricone’s work on the ’82 film as well as creating its own identity. Once again, great work by, the usually great, Beltrami.
The film’s cast is expansive, and I do wish we got to know a bit more of them, but everyone is solid at worst. Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars as Kate Lloyd and does quite a fine job if you ask me. A dash of Ellen Ripley is mixed with her scientific deductions and the result is a strong female protagonist; both physically and intelligently. Winstead is one of our finer younger actresses and I hope she gets more chances to breakout and be a star after this. Joel Edgerton plays the Kurt Russell homage and plays it just fine. His character, like most not named Kate, is a bit underdeveloped but Edgerton is so likable we will gladly fight along with him. The other standouts are Stig Henrik Hoff and Jørgen Langhelle as a likable pair of Norwegian researchers, with Langhelle sure to become a crowd favorite.
In the end, The Thing is a great prequel that connects perfectly into Carpenter’s ’82 film. Creating its own identity, while paying just enough homage to Carpenter’s film, this feels like a great extension to the work in ‘82 that makes you want to rush out and see that film ASAP. A fun, entertaining, and affective horror prequel to Carpenter’s The Thing, Heijningen’s film is a great companion I can’t wait to watch back to back with its predecessor every Halloween.
The Thing (2011) is an A-