Cinematic Adventures: the Thing

I love horror movies, but I have to make a qualification to that statement. I love straight up horror movies, no torture porn like Saw and Hostel, and slasher films are really just action movies without any sort of moral compass. They’re enjoyable, but not horror movies. John Carpenter’s the Thing is one of the greatest horror movies ever, it decides to focus more on the paranoia that would come from the idea that the enemy could be right next to you and you wouldn’t know it more than the idea that there is a thing from beyond the stars and we have to go kill it (that aspect is still there, but it plays second fiddle to the crushing paranoia). When this new Thing was announced, I immediately thought that it was a remake. Seriously, who would make a prequel to a movie and give it the same name as what it precedes? Well, it turns out that Universal would and did exactly that to some surprisingly excellent results.

Before we go any further, I’m going to assume that everyone here has seen John Carpenter’s the Thing. Seriously, it came out in 1982! Why haven’t you seen it yet? It’s even on NetFlix Streaming! I’m not going to spoil that movie, but I’m going to assume that you know how it begins, as that’s how this movie ends. I’m not going to spoil the 2011 Thing either, this shall be relatively spoil free so you can enjoy this immensely gruesome movie.

The Thing begins with a part of a group of Norwegians falling down a crevasse where they find a crashed alien ship. The rest of the crew meets with them and they find a frozen alien species and naturally take it back to their camp for further study. Kate Lloyd (played intelligently and level-headedly by the always lovely Mary Elizabeth Winstead), an American Paleontologist gets invited to come down and study the creature that the team established is over 100,000 years old. The alien, of course, escapes and starts eating, assimilating, and copying members of the crew in order to survive which leads to an intense feeling of paranoia and some rather morbid and graphic transformations, impalements, and feedings. This movie is not for the faint of heart, as the depiction of the people/Thing hybrids is not a very pretty sight to see and there is quite a lot of blood.

Despite the fact that the movie is a prequel to the events of John Carpenter’s the Thing, the 2011 Thing is also something of a remake. It is a very similar film in many ways. The story is more-or-less the same until the third act, there is a very similar feeling throughout, and the effects in the new film were definitely inspired by the effects in John Carpenter’s version (although they are a bit more liberal with showing the Thing in the 2011 film). Kate fills the role of Kurt Russel’s MacReady from the original, but ends up feeling more like Ripley from Alien than the obvious connection to Kurt Russel’s character.

The film is not without it’s flaws, though, even though there aren’t that many. The CG effects can be kind of silly at times (like the alien Tetris column, which is a statement that will not make any sense unless you’ve seen the movie), and the fact that the Thing is shown off so many times throughout and even rather early in the film makes the movie not be as scary as it could be (the level of paranoia is claustrophobic, though), and of course one cannot review this movie without mentioning that the prequel truly wasn’t needed. What is more important than asking whether it was needed, though, is asking if it was a fun movie to watch, and that answer is a resounding yes.

As has been stated numerous times in this review, The Thing is a prequel, and it ends up tying in perfectly with the first film. All of the things that MacReady and his team find in the Norwegian camp at the beginning of John Carpenter’s the Thing are there, the wreckage is the same, and you even see the characters getting on the helicopter to try to kill the escaping Thing. What made me squeal with geekish delight, though, was the fact that the Universal logo at the beginning of the film was the one from the 80’s, the text in the opening credits is the same as the original film, and the movie ends with the theme from John Carpenter’s the Thing as the events start to directly play into each other.

The Thing is a very entertaining and scary prequel to a classic horror film that manages to not only tie in with story and design (and be very similar, but also different), but also with an exceptionally familiar feeling of terror that comes from the idea that anyone you know could be the enemy waiting to strike.


One response to this post.

  1. It’s no great thing, just a better Thing than expected. It’s not incredibly scary but has the same tense and paranoid feel that the Carpenter version went for, and it works in a way. The problem is that on own it’s own, it doesn’t really work. Good review. Check out mine when you get the chance.


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