It will take a person with an iron stomach to make it successfully through the third adaptation of “The Thing. Split evenly between real and digital goo, “The Thing” takes gore to the next level.
Essentially a prequel to the 1980’s John Carpenter classic, which itself was a remake of Howard Hawk’s 1950’s Red Scare fright fest, this “Thing” follows American paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) as she embarks to the Antarctic to assist a Norwegian research team in de-icing a 100,000 year-old alien. Of course all hell breaks loose before the ice melts and the ravenous alien escapes and picks off the research team one by one, eventually bringing us up to speed for the Carpenter film.
The plot of “The Thing,” as well as the original, is very effective. The alien creature, after snacking on its prey, takes the form of the person it devoured, thus pitting paranoid human against paranoid human, one of the best attributes of the classic 1950’s paranoia films.
Just be warned: the film is gross. The Carpenter classic was known for its use of gore but this one ups the ante. Like its 80’s counterpart, this film is not shy in showing the grotesque Lovecraft-ian monsters. The creature effects are impressive but when the digital effects take over the scares turn to jeers.
This prequel/remake loses a great deal of points with its tone. Carpenter’s “The Thing” used the stark Antarctic setting to a chilling effect, creating the sensation of claustrophobia and isolation. The cinematography in this update is a little too slick and crisp, removing the atmospheric creepiness.
Though there are some aspects that surpass the original. The classic blood inspection scene is given a very frightening and effective makeover. One other improvement is the music. Ennio Morricone’s musical heartbeat is replaced with an eerie breathing motif by composer Marco Beltrami.
Despite some of the cheesy computer-generated effects, a contrived ending and a lackluster cast, “The Thing” is a faithful and respectful remake and prequel. It keeps the classic 1950‘s sci-fi staples like the crazy scientist who’d sacrifice mankind for fortune and glory and the fear of the other. Even though the Cold War is long over, the meme of not knowing who among you is a Communist, or in this case, an alien, is still strikingly effective.