We’ve seen many of the great horror films of the 70’s and 80’s remade and yet few if any have lived up to their predecessors. So remaking John Carpenter’s The Thing must have been a tempting but dangerous proposition. The film is considered one of the greatest horror films of that or any time, and a remake might aggravate fans (even though the 1982 film itself was a remake), on top of the knowledge that the Carpenter film was a flop when released. To circumvent that they made a prequel, which copies the original in a lot of ways, and takes place days before the original remake. 2011’s The Thing stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, and Eric Christian Olsen as the victims, and our review of the Blu-ray follows after the jump.
Winstead is Kate Lloyd, a scientist called in by Norwegians to check out their find: a spaceship and an alien corpse. She’s brought in by Dr. Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) and her old buddy Adam Finch (Olsen), and they’re flown in by helicopter, where they meet Sam Carter (Edgerton) and his buddy Jameson (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). The Norwegians are an exciteable and hard to distinguish bunch. They’re all excited by the discovery, but – of course – there’s something alive in their find, and it starts killing off some members of the team. But then also, Kate finds fillings in a sink, and it’s shown that the alien can reproduce human beings perfectly – except their flaws.
The era of torture porn in horror is over, and the new fad seems to be found footage, which is now also covering all sorts of films (from superheroes to comedies), but there’s no new movement in horror. And if the prequel to The Thing has a commendable feature it’s that it’s a monster movie. When the alien mutates and splits open it turns into some horrifying shapes, and though the movie lacks the subtlety or build of the Carpenter version, it does have some thrilling monster effects.
Alas, what would make this film way more effective or interesting would be if it wasn’t so tightly connected to Carpenter’s film. If it were just a monster movie that might be fun, and it’s not a painful sit all things, but in every way you’re better off watching the Carpenter film. The supporting cast is generic, and the film – though it builds slowly – often prefers jumps scares that seem illogical for the character of The Thing. If it can absorb you and take you over, why would it jump out at you like it does here? Things that make some sense in the Carpenter film, like the idea that it shows itself when surrounded by humans, but when left alone with the thing it doesn’t need to go all crazy. Here, it’s as if the makers don’t trust the audience to sit along for the ride.
And where many of the effects were conceived practically, you can see where most were digitally enhanced, and it robs the film of continuity with the original and takes away some of the body horror. It’s just noticeable enough to annoy. By the time the film comes to its big conclusion – knowing how it must end as a prequel – there’s really no stakes that can elevate the closing because there’s not much to care about. And that’s a real shame, because the Carpenter film embraces its fatalism – here it’s not earned – there’s no desperate sense that the beast must be destroyed to save humanity. As a prequel perhaps there couldn’t be. On top of that, the cast is poorly defined, versus the memorable supporting players in the Carpenter. Winstead is an appealing actress, but – like most of the cast – she’s just reacting to things. Edgerton and Akinnuoye-Agbaje could have been fun if they didn’t leave the film for a good chunk of the running time. It’s not terrible, just unnecessary.
Universal’s Blu-ray presents the film in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 master audio. A new film, this looks and sounds great. The Blu-ray set also comes with a DVD and digital copy. Extras include a commentary by director Matthijs Von Heijningen and producer Eric Newman that’s playful and engaged in the film – and also recorded before the film’s release. This is complimented by a picture in picture throughout the film that covers the basics. The disc also comes with seven deleted or extended scenes (7 min.) but none of the original ending. Some do a better job of connecting fates of certain characters the dead people in the Carpenter film. “The Thing Evolves” (14 min.) is the more standard making of, while “Fire and Ice” (5 min.) talks to the film’s practical fire effects.