'Prequel' to John Carpenter's 1981 classic is a shapeless mess of a rip-off
Despite confusingly sharing the same title, debutante director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr’s film is a prequel rather than a remake of John Carpenter’s 1981 horror classic, which was itself a remake of Howard Hawks’s 1951 version of John W Campbell Jr’s short story Who Goes There? Describing the futile attempts of an Antarctic camp to contain a bloodthirsty alien which imitates human life-forms is a neat premise, but the latest Thing never fulfils its derivative promise.
Opening as Norwegian researchers discover a huge flying saucer under the ice, Heijingen Jr’s film follows Carpenter’s example fairly closely, right down to using the same atmospheric score. Graduate student Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and her anonymous assistants take the frozen alien back to their base, only to have their first contact celebrations interrupted as the Thing starts ripping through and replacing the base’s inhabitants.
Universal were right to imagine that Carpenter’s concept had more mileage in it, but any initial enthusiasm for the same giddy mix of flamethrowers, parkas, huskies and snowbound tension is quickly replaced by derision at slack dialogue, vacuous characters and, crucially, a Thing that doesn’t operate as Carpenter’s did, replacing the whodunnit structure with lashings of shape-shifting gore. Carpenter’s film offered similar gross out moments, but remains a model of austerity compared to this shapeless mess of a rip-off.
General release from Fri 2 Dec.