By Chris Exantus
A great horror film should be one that properly projects the audience’s fears onto the screen. Hence, the problem with modern horror films: most focus on easy thrills and gory violence as substitutes for actual terror.
The Thing, a prequel to the 1982 remake of the same name directed by John Carpenter, attempts to use atmosphere and total isolation as a means to inspire gripping fear. Unfortunately, the film falls flat on its face due to an uninspired script and its complete reliance on the 1982 film.
Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World) is a paleontologist sent to Antarctica to research a finding made by a Norwegian scientific team: an alien life-form frozen in ice. However, the alien manages to break out of its prison, and proceeds to hunt down the group using the ability to take the form of any of the scientists.
From there, the film goes through the usual horror-themed routine. Lloyd spends the rest of the film attempting to combat “The Thing,” and anyone else not lucky enough to get top billing on the film is considered to be fodder. This might have been somewhat of an interesting, familiar tale if the film even bothered to give any of these unfortunate characters something resembling a personality.
As great an actress as Winstead is, she’s given absolutely nothing to work with, spending the majority of the first act moping around. When it comes time for Lloyd to take action, Winstead lacks the toughness to be a strong female protagonist.
Joel Edgerton (Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones) fares no better as he’s missing-in-action for most of the film. It’s a shame to see him wasted, since he was incredible in the recent UFC film, Warrior.
The actors are hardly to blame as the script gives them absolutely nothing to do. It doesn’t help when the film stumbles through nearly every horror film cliché in an uninspired manner.
The paranoia the film is desperate to instill is completely undermined by the broad stereotypes the film follows. Its worst blunder is that it fails completely as a prequel. A prequel is meant to provide back-story to an established fiction, introducing information that was previously unavailable. The Thing does none of this, opting to follow the plot of the Carpenter film beat-by-beat. It makes one wonder why the creators didn’t just produce a remake, which is what this film feels like.
Perhaps the only saving grace is the surprisingly well-crafted computer-generated imagery, especially in regards to the creature itself. Absolutely grotesque, the monster provides some of the only moments of pure terror in the film. It’s a shame that this much work crafting such a monstrosity wasn’t applied to the actual narrative.
Ultimately pointless, The Thing is derivative and hides behind what came before it. There’s nothing inherently terrible about it, but it’s too dull to even warrant a watch.
Fans of the Carpenter film will find themselves disappointed with this lackluster prequel, while those new to this fiction will merely shrug their shoulders and wonder, “What’s the big deal?”