Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Thing and Looking Over Your Shoulder : A Movie Review

Director: Matthijs van Hejiningen Jr.

Writers: Eric Heisserer and John W. Campbell Jr.

Unbelievably, Matthijs van Hejiningen Jr.'s second feature The Thing has made its way into theatres. First time or second time directors rarely get to helm such an important project. After seeing The Thing in theatres this reviewer now understands how Hejiningen Jr. received the job. This latest title is a prequel to John Carpenter's 1982 film of the same name, starring Kurt Russell. In this latest feature there is some repetition from the first film as an alien, let loose, begins to turn humans into replicants of itself. Then you are left with the whole: who can I trust scenario? Proudly showing lots of CGI work, 2011's The Thing is thrilling and dare this reviewer say grander in scope compared to Carpenter's earlier feature?

In this second film, or is it considered the first? - either way, this film shows more of the alien technology and shapeshifting abilities than the earlier film. Carpenter's version is exceptionally tense, full of great dialogue with one of the best anti-hero's in film. However, here you get to see more of the backstory of the shadowy villain. How did the aliens get to Earth? How was the alien released? All of these questions are answered here, while Hejiningen still manages to offer some of the tension of the earlier film. Once this vicious chameleon is thawed out the havoc really begins and character's are now no longer able to trust the man or woman standing beside him or her. Let the flamethrowers, grenades and general fireworks begin!

Of course nothing will replace Carpenter's original and the script from Eric Heisserer (Final Destination 5) based on John W. Campbell Jr.'s short story "Who Goes There?" only sets out to tell its own story, while possibly repeating elements of the first film. The check of who is infected and who is not is repeated here, but this time teeth fillings or "inorganic material" give the creature away. It can only hide for so long. However, the monster does utilize its disguise to effect as several character's are turned when isolated from the rest of a Norwegian based research team. When its numbers grow the Thing takes many grisly shapes, which made this reviewer shudder once or two. Two heads and a multi-legged beast equals terror, especially when character's are unarmed.

And that is what is so entertaining about The Thing. This title utilizes scares, dangerous situations e.g. Antactica and an unbelievable situation to really get the blood pumping. Some viewers might be offset by the slow build, but the film's second half steps up the tempo. As well, not knowing which character is the alien and which is a regular character kept this critic guessing. Only a few late close-up camera shots will give viewers any idea as to who has been contaminated. In the meantime, characters turn on characters in a desperate bid for survival. Being a million miles from civilization means that these poor souls will have to fight it out to the finish, or die trying.

Gone are Carpenter's great musical scores (except for the final scene). However, the film broadens the alien's story by showing some CGI enhanced shots of an alien ship. The Thing is also shown in more shots here than the 1982 version. So this may dampen or heighten viewer's enjoyment. This critic squirmed a few times and the story here seemed mostly original, with a female protagonist leading the charge. Overall, this is a great popcorn film that will require your best detective skills to determine who is hiding an alien being and who is just trying to survive this hellish night.

Story/plot/subplots: 7 (Carpenter's script and interpretation is a lot more tense).
Characters/believability: 7.5 (some can handle the situation while others turn to suicide, this reviewer is buying it).
Setting/mise en scene: 7.5 (setting the film in Antarctica is like a double whammy or doubly dangerous).

Overall: 7.3 (go in with an open mind).

A slightly choppy review of The Thing is here and Variety is almost always a great read for movie reviews:

The Thing Reviewed by Rob Nelson

The film's homepage:

The Thing's Homepage on the Web

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