October 13, 2011 by Vinnie Leduc
Ever since Final Destination 5 surprised most critics and audiences in late summer, mainstream horror on the silver screen has been mediocre at best. I missed Fright Night, but both Apollo 18 and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark couldn’t capitalize on some interesting marketing to shake viewers. Shark Night 3D was expectedly bad, and Creature has my vote for worst movie of 2011 so far. This weekend though offers a creature feature that (just barely) breaks the weak streak.
Similarly based on a Science Fiction Hall of Fame novella, The Thing is a prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 remake. The producers of the Dawn of the Dead remake, which was definitely scarier and more satisfying overall, have nevertheless provided a good companion piece nearly three decades after the groundbreaking classic. It’s not without its flaws, but this psychological monster movie successfully revisits the external and internal conflicts of an Antarctic team in the face of a horrifying alien discovery.
The best thing about this prequel isn’t E.T. though; it’s the portrayal of the human(/oid) reaction and interaction with one another when paranoia adulterates and overtakes trust. Like in the predecessor, survival is essentially a life-and-death Mafia party game in which you can’t trust anyone… or anything, for that matter. The film’s most pulsepounding moments involve more of the perpetual second-guessing and less of the actual Thing itself.
Speaking of which, the deadly lifeform’s design, conjured from where nightmares are born, can be boldly imaginative and disturbingly frightening, but unfortunately the CGI too often looks closer to fake than real. But at least they didn’t skimp out on the R-rating. After spending a bit too much time slowly building and rebuilding tension, once it all hits the fan, The Thing rewards viewers with some memorable imagery straight out of Dead Space on Ice. However, the movie decelerates back into some mild stagnation in the last half hour.
The humans most notably include Mary Elizabeth Winstead, last seen in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, and Joel Edgerton, last seen fighting for and against family in Warrior. Winstead does a good job drawing from and improving upon her Final Destination 3 character, but Edgerton wasn’t as remarkable.
Some moviegoers may say the same thing about the new Thing, but I found the sci-fi horror film to be a generally thrilling human story with some questionable special effects (think The Mist, except not as visually artificial or out-of-this-world) that should appease most sci-fi freaks and gore-whores alike. Stick around during the credits for a stinger that bridges this Thing to the next. The Thing gets 3.0 out of 5 stars or B- or Good.