Living up to its 80’s predecessor/successor with 21st Century style
For those of you who have spent the last two decades believing that John Carpenter’s 1982 masterpiece The Thing could not be beat; that his attention to gore, blood-thirsty alien-terror and his bold all-male-cast could never be tampered with or revised, have no fear. Director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr’s 2011 The Thing does genuine justice to the original and, is in fact – though the name may confuse – not a remake at all, but instead a prequel to John Carpenter’s cult classic.
Set just days before the original, in the frozen abyss of Antarctica, The Thing foretells the initial discovery of the self-titled thing, where it is discovered in the ice near a deep, buried crash site of an enormous extraterrestrial spaceship that has seemingly been abandoned for tens of thousands of years. The film reveals until the bitter, too-soon credits, how the alien came to be that notorious little human-replicating monster-husky bounding through the frozen tundra in the famous intro sequence to the original.
Keeping more with the times, Heijningen Jr dares not to cast all males once again but instead casts . . . wait for it, two female characters – one of which effectively plays the ass-kicking lead protagonist. Mary Elizibeth Winstead, whom you may recall as Ramona Flowers from the 2010 cult comedy Scott Pilgrim vs The World, plays Kate Lloyd, a graduate student studying paleontology who is escorted to the Antarctic wasteland to study a “mysterious specimen.” Winstead’s take-charge protagonist demeanor does seem to intentionally compete with Kurt Russell’s character MacReady, but is given additional character traits to cloak the comparison. In fact, many reviews have branded Winstead more in tune with the alien-nightmare Ellen Ripley from the Alien series than the original’s scotch-chugging hero.
Though the film itself seemingly things the original, by replicating its fundamental premise and motifs:
Isolated in a tiny compound in the middle of the Antarctic, a team of scientists is attacked by an alien “thing” that can devour and replicate a human’s physical form. NO ONE IS SAFE.
Heijningen’s prequel still stands alone as a film with plot twists and turns of its very own while lovingly hinting at events from the original. For example, the famous blood-test scene from the 1982 version where MacReady develops a “scientific system” by which he is able to test the blood of his peers for alien DNA is attempted in the prequel but ultimately thwarted, leaving the new (older) cast to develop their very own system for testing “thing-liness.”
Lastly, the actual Thing in The Thing is worth a good solid “Bravo”. Though Heijningen went for computer animation, opposed to the heaps of blood-soaked latex and stringy nightmarish guts that were so innovative in the 80s, this new monstrosity is a worthy successor/predecessor to John Carpenter’s infamous beasts. Heijningen’s Things are fantastically creepy and gruesome in an “I didn’t know I would ever have to be scared of that” kind of way and I’ll have you rest assured that he tries in earnest to gross the viewer out as was seemingly so effortless for Carpenter way back when.
All in all, Heijningen has made a well-crafted film of his very own while never once forgetting the shoes that he needed to fill. Both fans of the original and brand new audiences will have cause for approval in this sci-fi horror, that is, if blood, guts and human devouring alien beasts is your thing as much as it is mine.