Movie Review: The Thing

Sci-fi, 103 Minutes, 2011: The Thing on IMDB

I’m a huge fan of John Carpenter’s 1982 classic “The Thing” [IMDB].  Thirty years later the ground-breaking practical effects are still just as creepily effective.  The performances are some of the best ever seen in horror and the pacing and staging has rarely been topped.

The best thing I can say about this modern prequel is that I enjoyed it so much that I immediately rented John Carpenter’s to continue the story.  It just meshed that well with it’s source material.  The worst thing I can say about it is that using the exact same name is freakin’ confusing.

(They should have titled it “The Thing Begins” or “The Thing Lives” or “The Thing before the Other Thing” or really anything other than the exact same… Thing.  But they didn’t and it’s confusing.)

The genius of the original is that it heightened the tension and suspense – and discarded the tedium of the initial discovery and back-story – by picking up the action essentially in midstream.  The events clearly began at the at the norwegian outpost and while we get tantalizing hints we don’t see them.  Until now.

This movie suffers from that genius in some ways; mostly in its pacing.  We do need to see (some of) the discovery and be introduced to the young expert brought reluctantly into the fold.  As the camp is required to be norwegian we also get more subtitled dialog than many horror fans might be comfortable with.

While the pacing issues might initially turn off some they sort themselves out quickly enough.  The performances are effective, if subdued.  The effects are, of course, nearly all CGI.  They’re excellently disturbing and fit well enough with the original so as not to seem jarring when comparing them.

CGI lacks the visceral quality of practical effects.  It just can’t match the wildly dripping drool, projectile vomiting and wall-to-wall blood splatter that practical effects excel at.  At the same time practical effects are unable to effectively manage fast-moving creepy-crawlies and fluid large-scale movement in real-time.  Watching the movies together, as I did, is an excellent primer on the strengths and weaknesses of the two styles.

The call-forwards to the original are all done exceedingly well creating that “gotta watch it again” feeling that I spoke about.  There are a few odd things left unexplained (things which could easily make it into a true sequel) but all of the major events are spoken to.  Like “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” [IMDB, My Review] this celebrates and deifies the original like a straight remake could only fail to do.

It does fail to surpass the original but it’s hard to fault it as very little could.  It’s a quality horror movie completely on its own merits but when coupled with the original it becomes essential viewing.  I can still think of no higher praise.

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