Saturday, 3 December 2011

Film #69 The Thing

A quickie here, I think...

All you cineastes will of course know that this is the third Thing - Howard Hawks did his back in the fifties; John Carpenter's better-known 1982 version was a remake in the loosest sense, staying truer to the original story (John W. Campbell's Who Goes There?) and generally making a better fist of it: the storytelling is taught and suspenseful, and the fabulously gross special effects still look great. This latest Thing is technically a prequel to Carpenter's, though is essentially a remake (and one suspects that the prequellian nature was tacked on part way through production) - essentially, a murderous, body-snatching space alien is on the loose in an isolated Antarctic research base; nobody knows who is human and who is alien etc. etc.

Sadly, where Carpenter's Thing is now recognised as a milestone in horror cinema, this film is just a shoddy rehash, a ersatz Thing. I made the mistake of rewatching the 1982 Thing before seeing this, and on every count it is inferior. Even the special effects - nearly thirty years on, remember - are nowhere near as visceral and stomach-churning. Pixels just don't look real. The acting is doesn't come close either, despite with the radiant Mary Elizabeth Winstead starring, and the director (Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.) fails to extract even the kind suspense that early X Files episodes routinely achieved on TV. And of course we go in knowing what will happen in the end, which hardly helps.

In isolation, I suppose this Thing would just be a ho-hum B movie, the kind of multiplex fodder that depressingly pads out the space between seasons; dull, but not awful. However, next to its far superior source it suffers badly, and slips further into ignominy by not even having the good grace to be original. No doubt it will turn a small profit, but the sooner everyone involved moves on to new projects the better, and this substandard remake/prequel can be quietly forgotten.



  1. Thank you, you've saved me the begrudged bother of sitting through it. My hero.

  2. It's a shocker to be sure, and not in a good way. Not even worth seeing out of morbid curiosity.

  3. 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.

  4. Do you not think it's a big problem for the film that we already know what happens at the end? I realise that this doesn't always matter, as in Lars Von Trier's example of James Bond - we know he'll win out at the end, the interest for the audience is in seeing how it happens. But that contract between storyteller and audience doesn't exist with this Thing; ideally you'd go into it 'blind', but even then the ending would be unsatisfactory.