Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Matthijs van Heijningen
Stars: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ulrich Thomsen, Joel Edgerton, Eric Christian Olsen.
It’s Aliens on ice!
This is the third version of The Thing, and follows the 1951 Howard Hawks/Christian Nyby thriller, adapted from the novella Who Goes There? by John W Campbell, Jr, and which was laden with Cold War undertones, and more particularly John Carpenter’s chilling 1982 cult favourite. The Thing is a retread of Carpenter’s film, thinly disguised as a prequel that gives us the backstory of a team of Norwegian scientists who uncover an alien life form buried beneath the Antarctic snow. The film is set in the days before Carpenter’s film, although much of what transpires here will seem similar for those familiar with that film. It is only during the end credits that we really get to see the scene that links this “prequel” to Carpenter’s film, which was set only a short while after the events of this film.
However, this new film benefits from the latest special effects, and the CGI created shape-shifting monster is more terrifying and vicious than in Carpenter’s film. We see more of the alien creature here than we did in Carpenter’s. Another major difference is that female characters were non-existent in Carpenter’s film. But in this post-James Cameron cinema, feisty independent and strong female characters have almost become the norm. Here there is a feisty female heroine in the Linda Hamilton or Sigourney Weaver mould who is also handy with a flamethrower.
A scientific team in Antarctica gathers to investigate the discovery of an alien object buried deep beneath the icy surface. American palaeontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, from Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, etc) butts heads with the arrogant Norwegian scientist Dr. Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen, from A Better World, etc). But soon they find themselves facing a terrifying shape-shifting monster that kills its prey and then replicates its victims. The alien life form’s ability to take over other bodies adds to the tension and paranoia that develops between the US scientists and the Norwegian crew as they battle to survive.
The international cast includes several Scandinavian actors, and NCIS: LA’s Eric Christian Olsen as a fellow American scientist. Australian actor Joel Edgerton has his biggest role in a big budget Hollywood film to date as Carter, a laconic helicopter pilot and the precursor to Kurt Russell’s iconic character.
The Thing has been written by Eric Heisserer, who also scripted the recent remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street and Final Destination 5, and he knows a thing or two about horror film tropes and suspense. Unfortunately, in creating a prequel to Carpenter’s classic film, Heisserer is unable to find too many new twists or surprises, and The Thing replicates the same narrative structure, intense mood and atmosphere.
This is the first feature film from Dutch director Matthijs van Heijningen, a veteran of commercials, and he effectively develops a claustrophobic atmosphere. He is effective in capturing the psychological tension and paranoia of the situation, and there are a few genuine shocks.
Most of the action is confined inside the research station itself, and the exteriors were filmed at the Canadian Forces base in Trenton. French cinematographer Michel Abramowicz (Taken, etc) captures the stark, cold beauty of the Antarctic setting, and the snow-covered terrain adds authenticity.
The Thing will seem familiar to fans of the sci-fi genre, in particular any film in which humans do battle against a fierce alien creature intent on devouring them. Carpenter’s film was largely underrated when it was first released back in 1982, but it remains more memorable and relentlessly terrifying than this remake/prequel.