The Thing (2011) (REVIEW)

The Thing (2011) (REVIEW)

By Henry Brown – 6.7/10

Sporting the same name as John Carpenter’s 1982 seminal horror film, Matthijs van Heijningen Jr’s The Thing (2011) can easily be misread as a yet another remake; a fate the studios initially had planned, until a fortuitous intervention by the movie’s producers.

Instead, The Thing (2011) takes the form of a prequel, charting the events of the ill-fated Norwegian research team seen in the opening sequence of The Thing (1982). An alien spacecraft is discovered buried near an Antarctica research site, prompting a hurried excavation by scientist Dr Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) and his Scandinavian team. But as a mysterious alien life form is recovered from the ice, American palaeontologist Kate Lloyd’s (Mary Winstead) concerns over possible contamination fall on deaf ears. Inevitably, the extra-terrestrial soon escapes its ice prison and runs rampant throughout the base, prompting a desperate struggle for survival.

My initial reaction to the news of The Thing (2011)’s release was one of dismissal, believing there to be little of worth adding to Carpenter’s outstanding work. Admittedly, the story is no stranger to retellings: starting off as John W. Campbell Jr’s short story Who Goes There, it was adapted to film as The Thing From Another World by Christian Nyby and Howard Hawks, before John Carpenter provided a rehaul with The Thing (1982). A prequel, although a better plan than a further remake, still seemed a little excessive.

In truth, Matthijs van Heijningen Jr’s version treads a well worn narrative path, with the familiar struggle to work out who is infected and the resulting group paranoia, culminating in an expected bombastic ending. New elements are introduced, such as different ways to detect infected crew and the initial discovery of the creature and its enormous spaceship. Gone is the all male cast, as Mary Winstead provides a Ripley-esque female lead, presumably to avoid doomed comparisons with the iconic R.J. MacReady. And Rob Bottin’s animatronic body horror is given a fresh CGI makeover.

However, what really surprised me was the obvious passion and love shown to Carpenter’s version. From the painstaking recreation of the Norwegian camp (practically identical to what we see in the 1982 film, even down to an axe prop which ends up buried in the same piece of wall) to the perfectly fitting plot ending, it’s clear Matthijs van Heijningen Jr was at pains not to denigrate his source of inspiration. I think even the original electronic theme surfaces at one point. On this front I approve whole-heartedly, as genuine film passion is something too often discarded these days.

The Thing (2011) ultimately breaks no new ground and while not bad, never hits those high notes all good horror films should aspire to. What must be commended though is the director’s attention to detail and the addition of a backstory that in some ways enriches the 1982 movie. On that level alone, Carpenter fans should at least be partially mollified.

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About filmfellahenry
Film reviewer, script writer and occasional painter. Fan of Lumet, Aronofsky and Kubrick, with a good measure of early John Carpenter thrown in. Particularly like post-apocalyptic sci-fi, horror and fantasy film genres.

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