Sunday, October 21, 2012

Horror Film Review

The Thing (2011):  I was nervous about this one.  Remaking classic horror flicks rarely goes well (House on Haunted Hill, The Haunting, PsychoThe Texas Chainsaw MassacreFriday the 13th, and Halloween to name but a few rebooted stinkers) so how badly would they screw up John Carpenter's 1982 original?  I think I was actually cringing when I hit the PLAY button on the remote.  Turns out there was no need.  Comparisons are, of course, inevitable but they're mostly unfair.  While the basic premise is the same as the original (a...well, thing, runs amok at a remote Antarctic research station), the characters and their motivations are totally different.  And there's a lot of Norwegians, which is groovy because they are my people.  Now, this is all well and good, but the question The Thing any damn good?  It's far from perfect, yet on its own merits...yes, it's pretty damn good.  And by golly, they kept the flame-throwers.

Paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is asked by big-shot scientist Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) to go with him to Antarctica after Halvorson's friend and fellow scientist Edvard Wolner (Trond Espen Seim) calls with big news.  Norwegians discovered a massive spaceship embedded deep in the ice as well as an alien embedded not so deep.  They dig it out, drill out a tiny tissue sample, store it in a room not quite below freezing, and proceed to party.  The critter wakes up and jumps through the ceiling (it's pretty strong).  They chase it down, and, after it kills a Norwegian, torch it.  Halvorson wants an autopsy.  Inside, they find the Norwegian partially dissolved.  Kate discovers the alien's cells replicate human cells and soon paranoia rules because anyone could be an alien...except it can't replicate inorganic material, so anyone with metal fillings is human.  The others are suspects.  This tension doesn't last long because the American flight crew that had supposedly crashed and died suddenly appear out of a raging blizzard.  Of course, they assume the crew, led by Carter (Joel Edgerton), are now aliens.  It's at this point that all hell breaks loose.  And if you thought the alien FX in the original were startling as well as  Anyway, after many grisly albeit creative deaths, Carter and Kate chase the alien back to the spaceship for the final confrontation.  Oh, by the way...earlier on, the coolest Norwegian, Lars (Jorgen Langhelle), showed Kate his stash of grenades.  Why they have flame-throwers, much less grenades, at a research station isn't terribly clear, but boy, they sure do come in handy, don't they?

Now for the "far from perfect" issues.  The cast is huge, and given the pace of the action, we never really get to know any of them.  In addition to lack of character development, my biggest pet peeve is, in fact, the flame-throwers.  Why?  Well, they're used a lot, and 90% of the time they're used inside wooden buildings that must be lined with asbestos because only the alien ever burns.  Another issue is the weather.  It's Antarctica and there's a blizzard but you never really get a sense of the cold.  Doesn't help that the CGI used to see people's breath is lame.  Blizzards in movies can almost become characters themselves, however, in The Thing, there's a bit of wind and snow and then it peters out.  Missed opportunity there. 

Ultimately, these issues aren't enough to wreck the film.  My fears regarding the FX were unfounded.  Indeed, the creature CGI is an homage to what we saw in the 1982 version and is really pretty cool.  One other homage is after the first ending (there are two) when they play the ominous music from the original film.  You know what I'm talking about.


Acting:  It's all right.  Everyone seems oddly subdued, though.
Story:  Tried and true.
Direction:  Not what you'd call slow.
Production Values:  Hollywood all the way with a $38 million budget.  Slick.  Maybe a little too slick at times.
Gore/FX:  It's rated R, so there's plenty of blood and related nastiness.  As I said, the CGI is surprisingly awesome.
Scares:  There are, actually.  Not that you'll wet yourself or anything, but they're not bad.
Ending:  Strange.  There are two.  The first is Kate crawling into a Snow Cat after the confrontation.  Not bad.  The second is the next day with a helicopter landing amidst the station's wreckage.  A dog that should not be alive bolts across the snow plain followed by a screaming Norwegian toting a gun who convinces the pilots to follow that dog.  I prefer the first ending.
Verdict:  Should you see The Thing?  Even if you love the original, there's plenty to like here.  By the way, we'll be going through this again next April with the release of the new version of The Evil Dead.  Cross fingers and knock wood, please.

Rating:  3 out of 5

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