The Thing 2011 ★★½

Although an entirely redundant remake masquerading as a prequel, The Thing, when taken at face value is competent enough. For those few who have yet to experience the delights of Carpenter’s film they may well enjoy this superfluous retread. But for those who remember the ‘82 original then this film may be harder to swallow.

John Carpenter’s film is one of my all time favourite horror films (as this list attests). It is brilliant for many reasons but the three main areas for me are in its characterisation, paranoia and groundbreaking special effects. Coincidentally these are the key areas where the prequel most struggles. I defy anybody to remember more than two of the character’s names this time around. Where Carpenter’s film excelled in delivering compelling and memorable characters this time we get a bunch of bland, nondescript Norwegians and a poor MacReady wannabe. Similarly, the sense of claustrophobic paranoia which was so palpable in the first film is all but absent here. It certainly doesn’t help that the infected are always so easy to spot, but because the characters are so crudely realised it is hard to invest in their plight and the sense of tension is greatly diminished. The Thing is also shown too readily and frequently diluting its impact, which neatly brings me onto my next point: the special effects. The CGI just isn’t convincing, the alien has a plastic-like appearance and it is hard to buy into its contorted and grotesque manifestations. This is all the more galling when some excellent practical effects were created for the film (check YouTube for the test footage) yet it is either buried under CGI embellishments or ditched altogether.

As I said earlier, if you have never seen Carpenter’s film or have no real affiliation for it then you may well enjoy Matthijs van Heijningen’s take on the story. Removing any knowledge of what went before it, the film is a perfectly adequate modern horror movie. It is nicely shot, the characters may be bland but the cast do a good job and it still has the odd enjoyable moment. The problem is few people over the age of 16 will be able to watch it without comparing it unfavourably to the earlier, better, film.

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