It’s really tough for a newcomer director to take on such a prized cult classic like The Thing. The John Carpenter version is one of the best horror films of all time and the very original is said to be very good as well. So when Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. was assigned the prequel also titled The Thing, most fans were up in arms and the general public was confused as to if this was a remake or a prequel. The synopsis points towards a prequel, but the trailers and footage released are almost beat for beat the same as the Carpenter classic, so naturally most people went into defense mode, talking down upon the movie before even seeing it and I don’t blame them because I didn’t have anything positive to say either, originally.
It’s not easy being a horror fan today. Most classics are constantly getting shit on with pathetic remakes that are either gorefests for no reason or family friendly PG-13 films. It’s very rare to find a director that “gets” it, someone that can both pay homage to the source material while adding their own unique spin that makes their film feel purposeful and not a complete waste. The Thing (2011) is one of those films that “gets” it.
Kate Llyod (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is our young and smart paleontologist who is given a chance to go to Antarctica to study something unknown. She is greeted by Dr. Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen), an uptight doctor that is only worried about being the first to claim this unknown discovery. Without wasting so much as a minute she accepts and the film kicks into first gear, following our team of scientists, doctors and tough pilots as they travel to the icy tundra. What’s an isolated horror film set in the middle of nowhere with boring scientists and doctors without your American bad asses? Braxton Carter (Joel Edgerton) and Jameson (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) are the American’s that are in charge of safely transporting the team of experts to and from the location.
The team arrives and immediately begins there search for this extra-terrestrial “thing”. They locate the ship and find remains perfectly frozen. Like most curious people of the past they decide to take some samples and from that point the whole film unfolds in a slow game of who is who. Once the creature is revealed and its intentions are on the table everyone goes into lock down mode. Not one person can be trusted as the thing shifts and shapes itself and hides as one of their own.
The Thing (2011) works really damn well as a standalone horror film. I really wish I wouldn’t have seen any of the previous versions because going into this one blind would have been an eye opening treat. The horror is very atmospheric and patient, even though the story moves along at a very fast speed at the beginning. Detail is everything here and that’s one thing that the director really accomplished. Each shot of the snowy scenery is almost unsettling, even before the thing is unleashed. The snow and the darkness mixed with the creepy score really help set the mood for the film. Had this been located anywhere else it wouldn’t have worked, but the feeling of uncertainty and isolation is ramped up to one hundred!
The characters aren’t the most important, but that again lends a hand to the whole mystery of it all. Each person is briefly introduced, with Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Joel Edgerton‘s characters getting a little more emotion. Everyone else kind of fits into the puzzle in their own mysterious way that helps later when it’s time to figure out who is who. Because of this initial mystery no one is really trusted. You really never get to know who anybody is until it’s too late.
The thing itself is really creative here. This won’t come as much of a surprise but yes The Thing (2011) does get lazy and opts for some CGI for the more creative stuff, but it really does work. I still prefer the original practical look, but they were able to achieve more detail and design here, which helped make the kills a little more revealing and interesting. I’d say its 35% practical effects and 65% CGI and of that 65% there is a good 15 to 20 percent that could have been better with practical effects. The special effects are really good during some moments and almost laughably bad during others, but I think for the most part people will be impressed with them, because going in I heard that almost everything was computer animated.
I don’t see how any fans of the series can really be upset with The Thing (2011) unless there just hell-bent on disregarding any sort of sequel or prequel to a classic. The Thing (2011) is not a perfect film by any means, but it’s much better than most shit we’ve had to sit through over the past years. It understands why the Carpenter version worked so well and it takes ideas and adds its own outcome to them. The music, tone, pacing and general story flow exactly like the previous version, but they don’t walk the exact line of copy. It acts as a nice addition for anyone looking for more.
Aside from some moments of shoddy special effects and a couple of lifted scenes from the 1982 classic, The Thing (2011) is a worthy prequel that pays its respects but isn’t afraid to break off into its own direction and be its own “thing”. The tension is really good with constant focus on the fact that no one can be trusted. It makes us question even our main protagonist. Winstead and Edgerton make boring roles kind of interesting and help get across the whole don’t trust anyone aspect, while the rest of the cast fills in the holes. The Thing (2011) for the most part feels like something that didn’t really have to be done, but it was at least done with talent by someone who understood the previous entry. I think fans will find something to enjoy here and newcomers will have a reason to seek out the follow up, since this one literally goes right up to the opening sequence of John Carpenter‘s version.
The Thing (2011) – 7.5/10