Sunday, 18 September 2016

The Thing (2011)

Title:  The Thing
Director: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
Released: 2011
Starring: Ulrich Thomsen, Eric Christian Olsen, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Trond Espen Seim, Kim Bubbs

Plot: A prequel to the events of the original film, as a Norwegian research team based in Antarctica accidently stumble across a buried alien space craft aswell as the frozen body of it’s alien pilot, which they decide to bring back to their base to study further. Unsure as to what they have found head scientist Dr Sander Halvorson (Thomsen) and his assistant Adam Finch (Olsen), bring in paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Winstead) only to find out to late that the body in the ice is still alive, as it escapes and being taking on the appearance of the research team, as mistrust begins to run rampant as they struggle to identify which of them is human and which of them is the thing.

Review: John Carpenter’s “The Thing” in my own humble opinion, is without a doubt one of the scariest movies ever made, while released when Carpenter was working at the peak of his directing talent and a loving remake of the equally classic “The Thing From Another World” with Carpenter taking full advantage of the skills of Special effects wizardry of Rob Bottin to bring to life some truly hellish visions, which obviously wasn’t possibly for the original to pull off with it’s B-movie budget, even if it’s gasoline throwing sequence still looks equally amazing today. So perhaps it was with some hesitation that I approached this latest big budget remake of a horror classic.

It’s unsurprisingly that this release has been greeted with the usual hostility from some members of the Horror community, who view any remake of an established classic as nothing short of being sacrilegious, which is a shame really as this latest remake plays more like a big budget fan fiction than anything resembling a remake and in that sense makes it more comparable to Zack Snyder’s equally fun remake of “Dawn of the Dawn” the producers of which Marc Abraham and Eric Newman are also behind this film aswell, which plays well for the film especially as they were ultimately responsible for this film being a prequel rather than yet another remake, rightly defining Carpenter’s original as “Perfect” and any attempt to remake it would be similar to “Paint(ing) eyebrows on the Mona Lisa”. So here we are introduced to another group of potential alien chowder, who despite this time being largely comprised of educated scientists are still in many ways are the same kind of blue collar workers that we saw in the original, while their mix of Norwegian’s and American’s makes for another interesting angle with Director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. insisting quite rightfully that the Norwegian scientists frequently speak in their native tongue, which adds a delightfully inventive new level to the continually rising sense of paranoia.

Still what is clear throughout is how much of a fan of the original that Heijningen is, as he not only treats the source material with great respect, but also manages to capture the same claustrophobic atmosphere while making it equally hard to spot the real scientists from their alien clone, while he also ensures that the links to the original or plentiful many of which will raise a smile from the fans of the original, while also finding time to cleverly reference classic moments by given them a slight twist as the blood test is now replaced with Kate suspensefully checking each of the team members teeth for spaces were fillings are supposed to be, after discovering that the thing is unable to replicate metal, while the first time we meet Kate she is shown examing a cadaver which bares a striking resemblance to the thing dog hybrid from the original.

Sadly we are not given any form of new insights into what the thing exactly is, while it’s personal motives proves frustratingly less clear, as it is first setup as trying to escape the frozen landscape by imitating members of the team, so that it might potentially infect a larger population, a theory which is soon dashed when it attacks the crew of the escape chopper hence removing it’s easiest route of escape. Next it’s that the thing just wants to kill everyone at the research station, before then seemingly decided it would rather just escape in it’s spaceship, though seeing how the craft has been buried for the last 10,000 years makes even less sense outside of providing a unique location for the final showdown, yet still leaves the nagging question as to if it still is as fully functional as it seems, why not escape this way long before now?

Still if you find the motives of the thing baffling you may find the distinct lack of character development even more frustrating with most of the scientists interchangeable to each other, seeing how the team is largely comprised of burley bearded Norwegians, with Heijningen doing little to help them standout from each other, to the point were it seems only the Americans and a handful of key characters are easy to identify.

The cast who get parts bigger than Norwegian scientist #2 are all likable enough with Thomsen good fun as the Dr. Halvorson whose own personal research clearly takes presidence over the lives of his team, while Winstead embodies the tough Dr. Lloyd who shares more than a few traits with Ripley from the “Alien” saga as she brings another female alien ass-kicker to life, with Winstead looking equally comfortable in her lab coat as she does welding a flame thrower.

Thanks to CGI being sadly the preference over practical effects these days, it is unsurprising that the thing is largely a CGI creation this time around, which also allows for a whole new set of hellish forms for it to take, which feature heavy use of whip cracking tentacles and teethed appendages, while also demonstrating a whole new set of tricks rather than just recycling the fan favorites. Still it would seem that Heijningen is not a director to hold back, especially as he equally rivals the gore quota of the original with bodies being melded into each other and torn appendages taking on a life of their own, there is plenty to enjoy while the scientists are not slow to break out the flamethrowers once the thing makes it’s first appearance, which did have me asking as to why for a non military lab that they processed so many? I’m not sure if this column has any arctic based scientists who read it, but if anyone wants to shed any light on these, then please feel free to do so.

While it may not be on the same level as the original, it still provides a fun companion piece which helps further the mythology of the thing, perhaps as this film further proves one of Sci-horrors greatest unsung heroes and while it would be nice to see a whole heap of monster movies follow in it’s wake or further additions to the series, this film provides enough gooey fun to tie you over in the meantime…. just make sure you eat before you watch it.

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