The Thing (2011)
2011 Running time: 103 Certificate: 15 Rating: 3
KA The Thing

Synopsis

In this long-gestating prequel to John Carpenter's 1982 sci-fi horror classic, an American scientist (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) joins a Norwegian research team to investigate an alien spaceship buried in Antarctica. But jubilation turns to fear when it becomes clear that the lifeform they find with it survives by invading and copying other living tissue - with horrific results. Fuelling the paranoia with gloriously yucky effects, director Matthijs van Heijningen ensures his debut is a head-splitting baptism of fire... and ice.

Director

  • Matthijs van Heijningen Jr

Cast

  • Mary Elizabeth Winstead

  • Joel Edgerton

  • Ulrich Thomsen

  • Eric Christian Olsen

  • Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

Review

Although set immediately before the events of John Carpenter's ground-breaking splatterfest, by replicating the title, plotline and entire scenes, this belated follow-up isn't so much a prequel as a premake.

Which doesn't make it bad; just largely redundant - especially since 30 years of advances in special effects still can't improve on Rob Bottin's memorably grotesque creations from 1982.

But there's still much to enjoy as a bunch of half- to fully un-familiar faces are twisted further beyond recognition by an extraterrestrial cell-jacker that turns human beings into screaming abominations.

"Do you know who I am?" asks arrogant Nordic boffin Ulrich Thomsen on sweeping into the Columbia University lab of Mary Elizabeth Winstead's fresh-faced palaeontologist.

She does, but unless you've seen Danish arthouse classic Festen, you probably won't. You may not even recognise her from her last dice with certain death in Final Destination 3.

Anyway, she's Dr Kate Lloyd who - owing to an apparent dearth of suitable female Scandinavian palaeontologists - soon finds herself gawping at an unidentified frozen object buried deep in the Antarctic ice, surrounded by delegates from a Kris Kristofferson lookalike convention.

But her job is to examine the dead, er, thing they found with it. Which turns out to be tricky as it's not actually dead. What's more, it stays alive by sneaking its DNA into the nearest warm body, which it then copies from the inside like a malevolent escapee from the planet Xerox.

While ingenious, however, the process is not perfect. So as one team member after the next is reduced to a gloopy mutant mess, the camp becomes a hotbed of paranoia and mistrust.

Before you can shout "pale imitation", the air is thick with flamethrower smoke, unearthly screams, and the ominous chords of Ennio Morricone's original score as the hapless crew try to stop the epidemic.

Macabre fun though it is, it's all been done before. And better.

Ultimately, it's just one Thing after another, since the same story (John W. Campbell's 'Who Goes There') was filmed long before Carpenter got there as The Thing From Another Planet back in 1951.

So the retrodden plot isn't really the issue. But given that pains are taken to take events back to Carpenter's beginning, surely the remakers could have come up with a few different ways to skin the cat - or in this case, dog?

Most of the characters feel cloned from James Cameron's Aliens, with Winstead as Sigourney Weaver's Ripley, Warrior's Joel Edgerton in the heroic Michael Biehn role, and Thomsen as the devious alien sympathiser formerly played by Paul Reiser.

Still, the make-up and effects teams have a field day, torching anything that moves and screwing with the human anatomy to gleefully hellish effect (even if their disembodied limb-lobsters are also evolved from Aliens' face-huggers).

Schlock lovers and Friday night thrill-seekers are disgustingly well served. Best skip that tray of gooey nachos, though.

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