Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Thing (2011)

In this prequel to/remake of John Carpenter's The Thing (itself a remake of The Thing From Another World, itself based on a story called "Who Goes There?"), we discover what happened to the Norwegian outpost, the grisly story of which were only hinted at in Carpenter's film. Turns out that the Thing, an alien capable of ingesting and then perfectly imitating other living creatures, um, basically did the same kind of stuff to them that he did to the American's in the 1982 version.

Look, Carpenter's The Thing is one of my top 2 or 3 favorite horror movies of all time (and by extension, one of my all time favorite movies of any kind), so there was no way that this was going to hold a candle to it. Just not possible. But that's cool. I'm a laid back guy, I try to keep an open mind. I don't get upset when my favorite movies get needless remakes. In fact, considering that Carpenter's version was already at least the third version of this story, it would be downright silly to complain about it being remade. I went in with an open mind.

It's not terrible. It's just not any good, either. It somehow manages to be reverent to Carpenter's film (copying the look, set design, props, basic structure, even reusing some of Morricone's great score) without really capturing any of its magic. Or, really, even understanding what's so great about that film. Carpenter's film is probably best remembered for it's eye-poppingly awesome, disgusting special effects, but in between the big payoff scenes the film is moody, tense, downbeat and paranoid as hell. The new Thing pays some lip service to the idea that no one can trust each other, but it's so short and briskly paced, it's basically just in a rush to get to the big special effects scenes. And don't get me wrong, some of the effects are cool, but they aren't enough to hang a whole film on.

What the new film doesn't understand is that the Thing is scary because it hides. It disguises itself as your friend, a perfect copy right down to the cellular level, and waits. It only attacks when it gets you alone or when it's forced out into the open. Not this time, though. This time, the Thing is prone to Thing-out for no particular reason, at any given time, basically whenever the filmmakers decide that it's been too long since the last gross special effect of a morphing monster. There's no rhythm, no build, no suspense, really, just sporadic money shots that come out of nowhere.

One last note: the movie kind of has an anticlimax, because if you've seen the 1982 film, you know how it has to end. What I want to know is, for the people who say this one but never saw Carpenter's version, what the hell do they make of the final scene? During the credits we essentially see the lead up to the first scene of Carpenter's film, as two Norwegians get in a helicopter chase down the Thing, currently disguised as a dog. And then it abruptly ends. Hopefully this will inspire them to see Carpenter's version, but I have to imagine there were a lot of confused teenagers walking out of multiplexes this past weekend.

Grade: C

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