Wednesday, October 19, 2011

To My Surprise, Just The Thing I Was Looking For

     1982's The Thing, directed by John Carpenter and starring the great Kurt Russell, can easily be classified as one of my favorite horror films. Its cold, claustrophobic story mixed with entertaining characters and cool creature effects gel together to create an icy horror great. Thankfully, 2011's The Thing pays homage to the original ideas without disrespect, and although the story is more-of-the-same (technically, the new film chronologically is a prequel), it shoves enough scares and gore down the throats of the audience that any horror-freak's blood lust would be satiated. And although the film relies on a bit too much CGI as it chugs along to the semi-questionable ending, it always provides enough tension to make you forget you're not watching real effects like the 1982 version.
     A thought that passed through my head about a year ago: Hollywood executives decided to remake Carpenter's The Thing (which is already a remake)? Sounds like a fucking terrible idea to me. A thought that passed through my head about a month ago upon witnessing the first trailer for the new version: Hmmmm...that actually looks sort of cool. Slick and scary, similar to the Americanized Let Me In (a remake of the slightly superior Swedish film Let the Right One In). A thought that passed through my head last night: I'm officially surprised. The filmmakers told a new version of the story with successfully adding worthwhile horror and scares, and although they relied on too much CGI, it was still pretty damn effective. 
     The story of The Thing (any version) has the potential to always be entertaining and worthwhile. It's about an Alien life form that can manipulate its cells to imitate any living creature. No one is safe, and it's very hard to determine who has the "virus". Eventually, "the thing" that is living inside the human or animal it is mimicking reveals itself, and that reveal is always totally horrific and generally disgusting and vomit-inducing. It's got just about any appendage that is able to penetrate human flesh and bone, it seems like a spider and lobster's love child and it lets out a piercing scream that would send shivers down the most skeptical of spines.
     It helps that the last couple of film versions take place in a very uncomfortable and claustrophobic place: The South Pole. Some scientists and general laborers find an ancient spacecraft and the body of an unknown creature enclosed in ice nearby. The Ice thaws. General hysteria ensues. You see, all of the humans are in an isolated research base and major storm is blowing through. (Isn't it always when you need it the least?). Anything that comes into contact with The Thing or its blood could be infected. Who is who, and could anyone still be human? That is the basis for these films, and it serves up paranoia and tension at an extremely quick pace. There's no reason to speak about the actors: Scientist #1, Bad-ass #1, and Frightened Female #2 play their roles with the grace and honor of a total pro.
     This most recent incarnation of The Thing is a great concept with cool moments but is also a little overblown at times in regards to the excessive use of CGI effects instead of more natural looking creatures. However, that fact doesn't particularly hurt the overall enjoyment. When watching The Thing, you take the story for what it is and accept it without much of a sense of disbelief. Characters blow shit up with flamethrowers and slowly creep down dark, narrow corridors, and the viewer watches between the tiny cracks of their closed fingers, hoping they don't end up like many of the film's stars: eaten, half-digested, spurting blood and pieces of skin, shrieking that terrible scream.     (B)

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