MOVIE REVIEW The Thing is …

Prequel to the 1982 thriller is primitively grotesque and really, really paranoid

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Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Sander (Ulrich Thomsen) examine a mysterious something in “The Thing.”
courtesy of universal pictures


The Thing

Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.

Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, and Ulrich Thomsen

Rated R

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In the 2011 prequel to the 1982 John Carpenter film of the same name, paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is called to Antartica for what could be the discovery of the century: an alien ship buried deep in the ice and a frozen organism that seems to have died when the ship hit Earth. Kate and her Norwegian colleagues perform experiments on the organism in the name of science but, to their utter horror, unleash an alien nightmare; this “Thing” engulfs and transforms into anything it touches. So here we have a bunch of Scandinavians and righteous Kate isolated in a cluster of wooden cabins in Antarctica, each of them vulnerable to becoming the Thing. That’s essentially the entire plot — now how do I begin to discuss The Thing?

Taking place almost entirely in the same couple of rooms against a formless Antarctic background, The Thing is far from a scenic spectacle, but it is quite cute at some parts — how often do you see a roomful of Scandinavians in full reverie? The Thing is slow to start, with just enough suspense to keep you awake, until the alien wakes up and makes you regret you were ever awake. Unless, of course, you’re into that kind of thing. Made possible by CGI but maintaining the simple aesthetic of 80s sci-fi, The Thing is absolutely gory and disgusting.

With its basic storyline and literal graphics, The Thing feels primitive, but it is not pointless. The Thing is scariest when the paranoia finally sets in anyone could be the Thing and you wouldn’t have a clue until it’s too late. The Thing is most thought-provoking when the alien creature is first released — you might wonder, with a monster so ugly and destructive on the loose, why in the world are those people still hanging around? At once, you can’t help but admire the team leaders’ determination to stay and confront the alien — whether it’s fueled by the spirit of scientific discovery or a moral duty to protect the rest of civilization from the Thing.

After 102 minutes, The Thing is not the deepest, most impressive or pleasant film by any terms, but it could be the ultimate gross fun for this Halloween weekend.