Ok, maybe that sounds a bit negative to start off, and Matthijs van Heijningen’s 2011 horror The Thing is far from being a bad movie. Throughout it is, in its best moments, genuinely suspenseful, shocking and generally inventive as it tells the story of a team of scientists holed up in a research station in the Antarctic after they discover what seems to be a crashed alien spacecraft, and the remains of its inhabitants.
If you have seen John Carpenter’s 1982 film of the same name, this is all stuff we already know, and throughout this movie pays homage to that earlier ‘version’ of The Thing. But it does manage to stand on its own legs as a horror movie as well with a paranoid, haunted house feeling that builds up to mostly satisfying denouement, and then in the credits links us to where the earlier movie came in.
Unfortunately what the movie fails to do is really give any sense that it is a story that needed to be told. I am not someone who holds Carpenter’s film in high reverence, it is good and I understand why it has a place in the horror canon, but, coming to it later, it is no Halloween, and upon watching it I never had a feeling that going back and seeing what happened before was necessary.
What doing this did was somewhat spoil the sense of mystery that the Carpenter movie had. In not knowing more precise details of the monster and what had happened at the Norwegian base, that film had a greater level of suspense than this one and telling that story now, spoils something of that unknowing.
Also what the 2011 version does in many scenes is use beats and moments from the Carpenter version with a slight twist and, while this pays homage to the original, it does give the impression that, really, what Heijiningen and his team wanted to create was a remake, but instead made a prequel, and one that doesn’t quite have the same inventiveness of its predecessor.
That said the monsters here do generally look good and expand on the excellent designs of Carpenter’s movie in suitable ways with them growing larger and, with the aid of CGI, more inventively gruesome. But, by being CGI there are a few points where they lose the immediate sense of body horror some of the monsters in the original managed and it took me more out of the film than I would have liked.
So, while this version of The Thing is far from bad, and if you like paranoid horror movies with a bit, but not too much, gore, then this is certainly well worth a watch, for me it just seemed to stand far too much in the shadow of John Carpenter’s version to be truly satisfying.