This past weekend John Carpenter fans came out in droves to see the new prequel to his 1982 masterpiece THE THING. The Daves were no exception. And this would also mark the first horror film that we would both see together at the theater. We did not have high expectations, though the film did promise to maintain the same cinematic quality as its predecessor. We worried that it would stray too far from the special effects that had made it so memorable. Also a concern, was how to make a film 30 years later that actually looked as if it had been made 3 years prior. In that regard, we were pleasantly surprised. From the film’s score to its recognizable opening credits, it did indeed look cohesive.
The film depicts the events that took place at the Norwegian camp in Antarctica prior to those seen in Carpenter’s now classic. A few Americans are splashed in and the story revolves around the discovery of an alien ship trapped in the ice. This alone would be a monumental discovery, however, the revelation that one of its occupants also is intact makes it more compelling. Many fans of the original may try to compare the story to its predecessor. The film does indeed show remarkable similarities to a classic, though not the one in question. With a strong female lead, Kate Lloyd (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead of DEATH PROOF fame) who advises against bringing a creature of unknown origin into the camp as well as an over-zealous scientist intent on preserving it at all costs, the film seemed to mimic Ridley Scott’s ALIEN instead. There was even an instance where two of the crew members debate whether they will be properly compensated for the find.
Despite these similarities we must admit that we did find the story compelling and the characters credible. We were surprised that this film did compliment the previous entry while also maintaining the look and feel of an early 80’s film. That is however with one glaring exception…the special effects. Back in July at the Fright Night Film Festival, John Carpenter was asked during a Q&A session what it was like making THE THING in comparison to his previous films which had not been backed by a major studio. Carpenter stated that it was wonderful because at that time, Universal Studios gave him free reign as well as the time necessary to create the film he envisioned. “Today this could never be done,” said Carpenter. “While it is still always about money it is even more the case today. Now it is about how fast and how cheap a film can be made rather than whether or not they are creating a decent picture.”
As we watched this film we were reminded of Carpenter’s words and how prophetic they were. Carpenter’s classic showed some of the most amazing home-spun special effects seen to date. While this film also boasts some impressive effects of its own, it was also marred by the quicker/cheaper modern trend of CGI. Many of the creature effects seen in this film were imaginative and gruesome. However the introduction of digital techniques quickly turned creative into SyFy Channel movie of the week.
Despite this unwelcome movie making trend, we both did enjoy the film though we are unable to endorse it fully. The characters are convincing and we also enjoyed the presence of a stalking monster in addition to the intruder within. In some ways however, this made the CGI facet of the film much more unfortunate. Had it been traditional old school monster effects, we would have both stood up and cheered. Sadly, this was not the case. By all means go see the film while foregoing your memories of Carpenter’s masterpiece. The presence of a powerful female character who still maintains her feminine qualities is a welcome one. But if it is true that beauty did indeed kill the beast, then it was CGI that vanquished THE THING!
~The Terror Daves