Film review: THE THING from Built for Speed

Exploding in a fountain of gore at a cinema near you is the third version of sci fi horror classic The Thing.  This version, directed by Matthijs Heijningen and starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Joel Edgerton is actually a prequel to the 1982 John Carpenter film. Without dropping spoilers, fans of the ’82 film will be pleased to know that this prequel makes some very direct links to events in the Carpenter film.
Plotwise it’s pretty much a carbon copy of Carpenter’s movie with a malicious mutating alien monster wreaking havoc at an Antarctic outpost.  Here it’s the Norwegian outpost we saw briefly in the 1982 film.  The only real difference between this film and the 1982 movie is the presence of a strong Sigourney Weaver-like female hero in Winstead.
The Carpenter film set a bench mark for inventively revolting special effects but this just about tops it.  With the benefit of CGI, as opposed to Carpenter’s puppets and stop motion, there’s more gut bursting, spider legged beasties, slimy wiggly tentacles and repulsive mutations.
There is, however, an appearance by the old scuttling sinewy type creature we’ve seen a bit too much of in recent sci fi movies.  Also, at one point the creature looks a bit too much like the infamous vomit creature from Poltergeist 2.  Otherwise it’s a pretty impressive monster which, like Carpenter’s beastie mutates its host like some hideous disease and in so doing draws on a deeply ingrained sense of body horror.
The creature obviously has a powerful Hollywood agent as it receives alot of exposure in this film, I felt too much and that this lessened its impact and detracted from the all-important human dynamic of suspicion and paranoia.  Once the creature makes its grand Ethel Merman-like entrance it’s pretty much non-stop action except for some very tense scenes of people creeping around in the dark while creature lurks nearby.
As the flame thrower wielding palaeontologist, Winstead is a credible heroine although not as charismatic as Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley.  Edgerton is ok in a role very similar to Kurt Russell’s in the 1982 film but nowhere near as memorable. Similarly, the other characters in this movie are just not as vividly drawn as those in Carpenter’s film.
If you’re not a fan of gore do not see this film.  If you are a devotee of the 1982 film, you can rest easy as this is a faithful and exciting remake with a few extra goodies that you may have wished were in the Carpenter film.  It’s a potent addition to The Thing cannon but it would have been good if the filmmakers had not clung to the Carpenter template so slavishly or let the computer graphics people have such a free hand.


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