Film Review: The Thing (2011)
“I can say that going through this experience that no studio would make a film like ‘Alien’ or even Carpenter and Lancaster’s version of ‘The Thing’ today. There is a sense of impatience from the audience to just get to whatever it is they paid their ticket for”.
Eric Heisserer. Screenwriter of The Thing (2011). (interview for Bloody-Disgusting)
There’s the rub, in fact not only don’t they make them like they used to, they never will. Modern action scenes have become musical numbers and horror movies have become action pictures. Case in point, John Carpenter’s ‘original’ (itself a remake of the Howard Hawk’s produced The Thing from Another World) The Thing is a paranoid thriller from the generation of horror that gave us Jaws, Alien, An American Werewolf in London and A Nightmare on Elm Street. A generation that we’ve been looking to in a state of paralysing nostalgia, filmmakers and audiences fawning in unison over superficial details. A monster design, a scene or a line that has become assimilated into pop culture. Superficial details that are then cynically replicated for limited attention spans, all whilst the notion of competent filmmaking is disregarded or ignored. Studio meddling isn’t a new phenomena (just ask Terry Gilliam) but it rears its ugly head in the era of the ‘re-movie’.
“The chameleon strikes in the dark” is a line from the original film and a demonstration of everything wrong with the creature here. Our introduction to it sees’ the monster bursting out of a block of ice, leaving a rectangular shape behind. Presumably it left a Wile E Coyote-style outline in the ceiling too. Occasionally a sequence may get your hopes up by echoing the raptors in the kitchen from Jurassic Park, before abruptly interrupting itself with a monster lunging through a window. All of this made more intolerable by Marco Beltrami’s incessantly thunderous score, flagging up every moment and shock like a third rate Elliot Goldenthal. Beltrami – who scored Terminator 3 – has a history of following up tense, underplayed synth soundtracks with orchestral bombast.
The creature effects here are predominantly comprised of rubbery CG (the work of creature veterans Tom Woodruff Jr and Alec Gillis going largely unnoticed here), CG is not the problem however. The problem comes when each subsequent monster is the same chomping maw mutated from someone’s chest cavity. Basically a big mouth on legs, perfect for protracted scenes of running, jumping and screaming at the top of its little thing lungs. None of the creatures here share any of the simple horrific ingenuity of the sight of Wilford Brimley’s hand merging with Donald Moffat’s face. At times it’s hard to discern whether the filmmakers are even aware of the concept of ‘body-horror’. The irony being that the absence of the infinite possibilities of CGI enabled the most creativity. Thus, the bar is never raised. Particularly problematic given typical franchise standards.
The cast are at least game. Mary Elisabeth Winstead leads a reliable if unremarkable team of thing-fodder. Her performance thankfully registering as closer to Jamie Lee Curtis than simply retreading Sigourney Weaver’s hallowed ground. The performance is one thing, the writing is another however. The character may not be an item of lust or a rote damsel, but she has no foibles. She is always right and never does anything reckless, in fact a romance or another character lusting after her would have gone some way to enlivening the proceedings.
The film hasn’t the creativity, insight or the gumption to introduce anything new to the notion of this story. It cynically recycles without inventing and when it runs out of ideas, it resorts to screaming at you. What actually makes this film worse is that it plays it so safe that it never even jumps the shark. Put it this way, at least we had a reason to see and hate Alien Vs Predator: Requiem. All in all, this Thing belongs in a landfill.