LIFF25: The Thing (2011) - Cinema Review

'then, the final act shows up. It looks a bit drunk, it may have once had intimate relations with an episode of The X-Files and almost certainly featured as a deleted scene on the Starship Troopers DVD'

As conceits go for modern-day remakes, sequels and prequels, The Thing's (2011) isn't bad. Returning to a point prior to the events of John Carpenter's film, Matthijs van Heijningen's offering explains what happened at the Norwegian camp, visited by Kurt Russell during the course of the 1982 film. What this allows the director to do is to weave a story similar in construction to that of Carpenter's nightmare, one which fits snugly into the existing mythology, whilst not over-writing it.

For two-thirds, The Thing burbles on in a pleasantly average way, albeit one completely different in structure and style to Carpenter's. In his version, the entire point was that for long stretches you didn't know what was going on or who was attacking the unhappy Antarctic campers. It was some sort of external force but it was completely undefined. It was an, erm, 'thing'.

In van Heijningen's version someone yells 'alien' after about five minutes and the gribbly starts posing for the camera like its auditioning for Cloverfield 2 at about the twenty-minute mark. What we get here isn't the quiet and tense psycho-horror of the original, but something more akin to a creature feature, heroine Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) perpetually accepting her brief of running down corridors and around corners, acting suspiciously of everyone and everything. The former Thing's aesthetic is a much more pleasant and refined take on Horror than this one's but still, doing what it does, it does it rather well for the most part and Winstead, although not the strongest screen presence, does fine.

Then, the final act shows up. It looks a bit drunk, it may have once had intimate relations with an episode of The X-Files and almost certainly featured as a deleted scene on the Starship Troopers DVD. Drunk? It's legless. It's the annoying Uncle come to crash the party, not completely certain where his limbs are flying or why. It takes The Thing from OK-ish averageness to brainless Michael Bay-esque preposterous action-fest and it seems to think its being really clever whilst it does it.

Spare a thought too for Joel Edgerton. This, in which he does a nice line as gravelly anti-hero, and Warrior should have been his mainstream breakouts but both look like they'll end up under-performing, making it increasing likely that the Aussie will have to wait longer for his chance.

Look further...

'though not in any way offensive to fans of the earlier versions, it is disappointing. To state the obvious, there are far better films out there called The Thing' - Anomalous Materials, C


  1. 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.

  2. I agree in part but I don't think its got the tension and paranoia of Carpenter's original at all. I think both of those elements were notable by their absence. Agree the first two thirds were 'better than expected' but then there's that final third...

  3. I have a question although it's rather superficial, is it a prequel or more of a traditional remake? Because although it takes place before Carpenter's The Thing, it seems to straddle that line (at least in the trailer) between those two things.

    Still, I remain convinced that this film didn't really need to be made. It seems to strip away at the mystery of what happened instead of leaving it in our imaginations.

  4. It definitely does straddle the line. It is a prequel but the plot it goes for means it might as well be a remake.

    And yes, it does contribute towards Hollywood's never-ending battle to define everything ambiguous about every event in every movie, ever.