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The Thing

a film by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.

The Thing From Another World was made in 1951 by director Christian Nyby and producer Howard Hawks (believed to be more Hawksian than Nybyan). Itís retooling (and one can call it nothing but) happened in 1982 and was performed by high-end, paranoiac schlock-meister John Carpenter. This Carpenter version took from the original and expounded on it (in the way a cinephile like Carpenter can) to create something not only different, but actually better, and braver as well. This 1982 version of the story of an ancient alien found frozen beneath the ice of Antarctica, only to be accidentally freed and set loose on the trapped inhabitants of this sub-zero outpost station, did something very rare for a remake - it outdid the original. Carpenter did everything he should have done when creating a cover version.

When one makes a remake (which incidentally seems to be all the rage these days) it is expected to resemble the original in many ways while at the same time having its own vision and own voice, and thus becoming something else entirely. In other words, it should not be an exact replica of the original source material, instead breathing its own life into the original - a thing Carpenter did back in 1982 (and for that matter, something Cronenberg did with his Fly update in 1986 and Zack Snyder did with his 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake). Unfortunately this is a rare thing indeed (the above three mentioned are the only ones I can think of right now), and is certainly nothing we have come to expect from the all-too-ubiquitous modern day remake.

When one makes what is meant as a prequel (which not-so-incidentally, is what we are told to think of this new version as), it should have an even greater individual voice going for it. Something that makes it seem like it could have spawned its predecessor. Sadly enough, Dutch director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. makes his film, also called The Thing (Really? Not even a subtitle to differentiate it from the Carpenter version?), play so close to the bone of the original (the original in this case being the Carpenter version since it is such its own entity that it has come to be considered such) that one would think this actually was the John Carpenter version they were watching. Well, except for the fact that this one has none of the daring nor any of the chutzpah that film had - and had in spades.

This version of the story (which was used as backstory in 1982, and thus you should know the fate of these characters going in) is about a team of Norwegian scientists, with the aid of a few token Americans (We don't want the entire film subtitled after all, do we?), who stumble/tumble across the aforementioned frozen alien and stupidly bring him/she/it back to life. The film stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, last seen as dream girl Ramona Flowers in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, in what is essentially a blend of the Kurt Russell character from the ever-looming Carpenter film (the yin version of course) and that horror movie staple, the Final Girl. The poor girl really has nothing much to do other than fluctuate between looking scared and kicking alien ass - and she is one of the lucky ones.

With scenes taken almost as if by theft from the Carpenter film, this new version, remake, prequel (whatever), is more a rip-off than anything resembling the way a remake (or whatever) should play out - as outlined in our opening salvo. Full of implausibly stupid people doing implausibly stupid things (Really? You are going to turn your back on someone right after explaining how anyone can be the creature in disguise!? Really?) - and we are talking stupid even by horror movie rules of stupidity - The Thing (have I mentioned how much this exact duplicate title sucks?) is basically a waste of one's cinematic time and hard-earned money. In these economic times, one can surely find better entertainment for one's buck. I know, how about renting the John Carpenter version of The Thing (Yep, the title works much better there) and watching that. End of story. [10/22/11]

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