It's Pretty Young Thing vs. The Thing in the 2011 reboot of the classic soul-sucker form space story. The Thing was first brought to the screen in the 50s as sheer sci-fi, and then again as a straight up horror film directed by John Carpenter in 1982. For this prequel, first time feature director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. puts a female (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) at the center of the fray, flanks her with several male members (pun intended) of a Norwegian scientific team, throws a phallic, mouthy monster into her path, adds and touch of paranoia, and presto! it's a scary movie set in a place where hell actually does freeze over.
While most of The Thing's scares come from boo's, big bangs and bashes, there is a bit of suspense and spookiness to be had thanks to a solid cast whose terror is augmented by practical effects and (mostly) judicious use of CGI. Winstead, in spite of her youth as she plays a "top notch" paleontologist (really? What'd she go to school for, six months?), is believable enough and the fact that screenwriter Eric Heisserer (Final Destination 5) avoided any romantic angle clichés with she and them, makes The Thing a tiny cut above the rest. Also, it is not in 3D (amen to that). I have to say: in the realm of remakes, sequels and prequels, this one really is more of a companion piece to the Carpenter tale (he exec-produced this version but had nothing to do with it, creatively).
It's no secret that The Thing 2011 leaves off exactly where the 1982 version picks up and it's a nice touch that Ennio Morricone end credits song - Humanity [Part II] - is used to compliment Marco Beltrami's score. Much like its predecessor, there's a dog-keeper, a guide, a snowmobile driver, helicopter pilots, doctor, and so on. Cast includes Joel Edgerton as the gravitas and voice of reason, Eric Christian Olsen as the good-looking winner whose face you just know is going to be destroyed, and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as a comic-relief character you actually care about.
The parasitic thing from another planet is well done, and works through animatronics, prosthetics for the big, real-time effects shots, and then CGI for some of the veins pulsing, and morphing from human-host to Thing. However, it's revealed more and more as the story unfolds, doing it a disservice.
I enjoyed The Thing as it played out and I recommend seeing it for those who're curious, but I don't think it will reshape into a classic in the canon anytime soon.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson