In his new release, director Matthijs van Heijningen attempts to transform John Carpenter’s 1982 psychological terror film, “The Thing,” into a modern thriller, but only manages to create a sometimes-amusing, predictable monster flick.
After a Norwegian research team discovers an alien ship buried deep beneath the ice in Antarctica, Dr. Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) recruits graduate student and paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to study the body of the spaceship’s frozen pilot. When they bring the alien back to their base, it escapes in a bloody rampage and threatens the lives of the entire team.
“The Thing” is van Heijningen’s first full-length movie and his first project with writer Eric Heisserer, who previously worked on the film “Final Destination 5.” The pair sporadically succeeds in creating the effectively eerie tone and cinematic atmosphere of the 1982 film, but only because it borrows so much from Carpenter’s work — some of the shots even seem to have been lifted from the original. This dedication toward the original prevents the film from bringing enough new elements to fully warrant the remake.
The smoother, faster CGI movements create more lifelike motion and sudden mutations of the Thing compared to the original film. The CGI makes for more entertaining action sequences and frantic monster attacks. A tentacle-lined, toothy maw sprouts from a human torso and chases people around the base in one scene. As a whole, the digital visuals of the monster in this version are fascinating and bizarre but too clean when compared to the buckets of blood and ooze and eerie props that gave horrifying life to the monster in 1982. The lack of this gore-splattering detail easily reveals the CGI nature of the monster and serves as a overly simplified and computerized substitute to the well-crafted, stomach-churning inventiveness of the Carpenter film.
Heijningen and Heisserer create tension and fear with what remains hidden instead of what can be seen. Though the alien reveals its terrifying polymorphic nature many times in the beginning of the film with violent attacks, it spends most of its time camouflaged as one or more humans.
As the Thing invades their research center, the humans grow paranoid and threaten to kill each other. Like the characters, the audience may be on edge not knowing for sure who is human and who is an alien in disguise while they wait for the dreaded Thing to reveal itself. This makes the film exciting as it effectively depicts fear and irrationality pushing the characters toward the edge of lethal action.
Though this terror can be powerful, it’s not blended through the film. Instead, the tension is sandwiched between less stimulating action sequences that use unrealistic-looking flamethrowers and disembodied human arms growing insect legs and
Though Heijningen and Heisserer manage to create a few terrifying scenes, overall they transform the classic sci-fi terror into little more than an adequate, campy monster mash.
“The Thing” was directed by Matthijs van Heijningen and written by Eric Heisserer and John Campbell.