To prepare for The Thing prequel, I re-watched John Carpenter’s The Thing to refresh my memory of this 1980’s horror masterpiece. The original is filled with practical horror elements that feel organic and an eerie ambiance that keeps you guessing throughout the film. With the new version of The Thing we have a movie that doesn’t look to remake to the original but instead serves as a prequel meant to exude the original’s atmosphere with an infusion of modern-day flare. Whether 2011’s The Thing actually holds up to the original’s charm is a highly contested fact that is being disputed on message boards across the net.
It is difficult to judge this version of The Thing without taking the original into consideration, but I tried my best to keep an open mind throughout the film. This was definitely the best route to take as there’s a lot of this movie that echoes the original while also expanding on a few of the ideas that were first presented a couple of decades ago. The movie takes place a few days prior to the events of the older film and features the group of Norwegian scientists that are showcased in the first scene of original. At this point, Americans are flown in so that the Norwegians can presumably stop using subtitles, otherwise I personally can’t see any reason why their “expertise” was needed. From that point forward, the story follows many of the beats that were featured in the original.
While this can seem damning to some, I do feel that the movie took some turns that were unexpected and helped flesh out the story behind the first movie. For example, there’s a scene that is a lot like the original where the crew is forced to doubt who may be taken over by the alien and who is human. It begins with blood samples being taken (just like in the original) but the movie quickly eliminates this route and relies instead on the idea that the organism can not replicate non organic material. While not as tension packed as the original’s hot coil scene, this take allows for almost the same feel with an interesting twist that deviates from the original.
Without a doubt, the original’s strengths lie in not fully explaining what is going on and allowing the viewer to slowly decipher what they’re presented with. What the new movie does instead is rely a lot on telling the audience what is going on and the mythos behind the situations rather than allowing them to think it out on their own. This underestimation of the audience is what you’ll see with a lot of modern day films and what I feel is the weakest part of the new The Thing overall. I can respect the choice to not alienate audiences with the silence found throughout the original, but the dumbing down through over explanation is a route I would not have taken.
As for the creatures themselves, they’re predominately CGI effects with little of the character attained from the original movie’s practical effects. I’d be remiss if I did not mention how well some of the creature designs were implemented but there were quite a few that seemed like masses of tentacles, flesh, and gore instead of memorable monsters. I spent a lot of the movie hoping to see a new take on the iconic head crawling sequence from the original but instead mostly saw creatures with parts that were cut and pasted from the original’s cast of baddies.
I think what a lot of the criticism of the movie comes from is the knowledge of what the original was and what it provided for horror films general upon its release. It is now years later and you have to respect the choices that were made with this movie when it came to plot progression and the usage of CGI instead of practical effects. This production was quite the undertaking and took great effort to create a film that works as an homage to the original but also retain a bit of its own character. Regardless of the complaints from fans and critics, this is a movie that does a fairly good job with what it’s given and provides a ride that’s well worth the price of admission.
Rich’s Recommended Viewing:
Opening Weekend – At The Theater – Rent It – Watch It On Cable – Stay Away! – 4/5
Yes, the Thing provides an experience that is meant for a mass audience rather than the slow burn that is found in the original but this shouldn’t be held against it. The movie grips the viewer from the very beginning and takes them on a ride that separates itself from the original movie while emulating many of the characteristics that many of the fans gravitating to. While not complete fanservice, there is a lot here that fills in the blanks left by the original including small facts like who was on that Norwegian helicopter at the beginning of the first movie. If taken on its own, you have a story that is fairly creepy that is equal parts suspenseful and action-packed, you can’t really ask much more from a horror film.