It could have been a remake of The Thing (1982) a remake of The Thing from Another World (1951). Universal saw sense and have made a prequel from the makers who brought the effective Dawn of the Dead remake - and as a bonus it doesn't mess about with the timeline. It is set in the 1980's. Phew.
John Carpenter's The Thing is one of the most underrated horrors ever and remake for that matter. Thankfully in recent years it's gained and even larger following spawning video games and figures. I've always loved it - darn you McTiernan ripping off the opening shot in Predator.
More importantly its prompted this 2011 film and considering it's not a remake its oddly also named 'The Thing'. So here are my husky thoughts on The Thing, the one with Mary Winstead, the star of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Die Hard 4.0 and The Thing - the one with Kurt "Snake" Plissken Russell just so you can tell the difference...
The Thing (2011)
It is 1982, after a signal is investigated in Antartica a team accidentally find a body and ship. A team of researchers are dispatched to assist and they soon find they've discovered something alien and deadly.
From the opening cinematographer Michel Abramowicz delivers an opening of a sweeping snow-landscape as a yellow tractor ploughs across the ice and snow with the familiar beats of the originals score. Bearded Norwegian talk in their native dialogue and you feel you're in good hands from the outset.
Although there are two females roles Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Kate gives it that Alien- esque dynamic with a prominent male cast but over all the look and feel is that of The Thing and it feels like a true prequel.
The recreation of the sets and the 80's music add to the fan-boy fun and Marco Beltrami score excellently reworks Ennio Morricone original track which packs it's own punches and chills.
It's a dark film with lots of shadows possibly more so that it's predecessor which adds to the claustrophobic atmosphere. It's also bloodier, and gorier with an equally fantastic autopsy scene.
There's no getting away from comparing director's Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.'s Thing to the original classic. That said, for new comers watching it cold it works as a stand alone film - as a prequel to the masses its also a joy.
The team are equipped bio researchers which adds extra dynamic and pace to the story, like the viewer some of the characters have equal knowledge of what The Thing creature is doing early on like its audience who have already seen Carpenters classic. However, that fact the characters are up to speed on Alien creatures purpose it takes some of the everyday down to earth person handling a situation, learning more as they go along away.
There's some effective tension and there's a great set piece on a helicopter. Due credit to writer Eric Heisserer and Ronald D. Moore, the Norwegian dialogue adds to the realism and attention to detail. As distrust builds the story becomes even more engrossing. There's too
much CGI nevertheless there are some nice touches involving arm braces and tooth fillings thrown into the mix and Heijningen Jr. handles the mix of splitting heads contorted bodies and faces perfectly while creating a great sci-fi horror ride.
The sound is wonderful with familiar moaning, the tentacles flaying noise and eerie screams galore. These complement the practical and computer effects. There are some discrepancies but none that detract or couldn't be arguably accounted for.
The acting is more than adequate aided by a solid script. There are some notable performances including Ulrich Thomse's Doctor Sander and Jonathan Walker as Colin. Winstead really carries the film and does it surprisingly well -as a side note she's as moody and likable as Kurt's MacReady.
There's not a joke in sight, it's serious. It's a very fast paced film with enough surprises to keep it fresh while paying homage at the same time. The closing act is bloated but arguably so was The Thing's 1982. But like its classic counterpart all is forgiven with its great epilogue.
Overall, semi-perfect replication -like The Thing organism itself.
The Thing (1982)
The isolated setting, the astounding cinematography and scenery creates intrigue; drawing you in from the very beginning. It's a perfect horror/sci-fi cocktail of Ennio Morricone's haunting foreboding score, Rob Bottin and Stan Winston (dog effect) benchmark practical effects (which are unsurpassed) Carpenters claustrophobic set ups and Bill Lancaster screenplay.
It's rare that every single actor is exceptional and supplied with effective dialogue. All the cast from Kurt Russell to Wilford Brimley as Blair are all captivating, great casting by Anita Dann. The characters have their own issues and as the paranoia sets in relationships are forged and other broken, building to a bold and satisfying conclusion.
This is more than just a cult film with a 'monster' hiding in warm places surrounded by snow, it's a finely tuned science fiction horror masterpiece.