Movie review: The Thing

For those who’ve seen John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), rest assured, this fall’s horror flick sharing the same title is less a remake and more an homage. Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr., The Thing (2011) is a prequel of Carpenter’s original, updated to fit our modern technology and fashion.

Actually, the 1982 film was originally adapted from a 1951 film, The Thing from Another World. For you cynics, that makes this year’s The Thing a remake of a remake.

The film begins when Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) joins an Antarctic expedition, led by Dr. Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen), shrouded in mystery. There they retrieve an alien carcass from the ice and bring it back to the base for research. As you can imagine, it all goes horribly wrong. The plot is adequate, but to be fair, it’s a horror movie; don’t expect Chinatown. What makes a good horror movie, especially a creature feature, is the directing, pacing, acting and, of course, monster effects.

Direction and pacing are tight in The Thing, no scene goes on too long or seems unnecessary. It’s a decently crafted film overall. Winstead shines as Lloyd in her unassuming leadership role. The character is portrayed with a calm confidence that is emotive without going overboard. There’s a little bit of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley character in Lloyd, calm and collected, but violent when cornered.

Monster films are often made by their special effects. If Carpenter’s film had bad special effects or dated CGI nobody would consider it a classic. The makeup effects in Carpenter’s version are some of the best I have ever seen. With the popularity of CGI effects, however, films become dated a lot faster. Thankfully van Heijningen decided to use a mix of CGI and makeup effects to create something disgustingly beautiful.

CGI is best used to enhance makeup effects, not replace them. The effects are fantastic, better than anything I’ve seen in a creature feature in a long time. The CGI wasn’t always perfect, but mostly acceptable. The monster was so effective the man in front of me violently jumped in his seat every time it appeared. My legs were jammed behind his seat, so I jumped whenever he did.

As you can imagine, I highly recommend The Thing. It isn’t a dull remake and it offers something new to the monster genre. John Carpenter’s vision remains intact and probably will gain even more fans when young theatregoers wonder what’s going on at the end. The Thing isn’t for everyone, though. People who don’t like horror, gore or monsters will probably be turned off. For the rest of us, The Thing is a solidly crafted flick that caters to our monster love.