Rats, it started to rain on me as I trekked the half-mile or so to the theater to see the new THE THING! “That’s O.K.,” I thought; I need to be cleansed of my unreal expectations. This was a big 30 years in the making deal to me! I started to think back to my anticipation for HALLOWEEN 4 way back in 1988. I felt so lucky. It had seemed like that franchise was dead after Part 3 (another favorite) had screwed the shamrock and killed the pooch in the court of public opinion. It was so nice to be able to visit Haddonfield again!
I’m sorry, but I love sequels (& prequels). I know I’m not supposed to. I believe in episodic storytelling and I adore the familiarity. If my ALIEN box set had one lone movie in it, I would never stop crying. Some HALLOWEENs are better than others but who cares, I want more! To some people the FRIDAYs seem to go on forever but to me, it’s fewer hours than one single season of BUFFY! I want more! I don’t need or like perfection and a satisfying cinematic experience is a privilege not a right. I’m a horror fan, part of that means rolling the dice and taking the good with the bad. If I went by consensus on what was considered “good” half my DVD collection would disappear. I’ll never, ever say, “I want my two hours back!” because I never ever will. I go to the movies because I don’t want those two hours in the first place.
Aww, why’d I have to think back to HALLOWEEN 4? Those were the good old days. I believe I found out about that movie’s existence from the poster hanging outside the theater. I had not read casting news, set reports and every tiny detail before I saw it. I was not reminded on a daily basis that it was a constructed product. I believed it to be real. When I went in that theater door, I was walking into Illinois. I didn’t sit through the movie with a demon on my shoulder pointing out every discrepancy. My purpose was not to assign it the label of “good” or “bad” and I was oblivious to what anybody else thought. I had exactly one friend who liked horror as I did. No big debates. It seemed pretty obvious what was cool and what was dull. I guess we rated movies back then by the volume of the enthusiastic chatter afterwards or how frightening the walk home was…
BTW: The walk home from AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON was terrifying, we had to go through the woods and the walk home from POLTERGEIST was spooky as shit, but that’s because we chose to cut through a graveyard…
Hey, I know people grow up (sorta-ish). I know my brain needs to take a larger leap these days to land in the awesome zone. There’s a big difference between maturity and cynicism though and I wonder how much I’m holding myself back from really enjoying myself at the movies these days and I’m wondering who I’m doing that holding back for.
What if I dropped all my fucking baggage before I saw THE THING? What if I entered the theater like I would at 13? What if I shut off the Internet in my fucking head? What if the termites stopped eating the wood? Nobody has to know. This is between me and the movie screen. What if instead of resisting THE THING’s every advance like a coy prom date, I went with the flow? I might even egg THE THING on a bit. “That’s right THE THING right there.” Hey, it’s my ten bucks. Might as well get into it.
THE THING (2011) impresses me early on by playing MEN AT WORK’s “Who Can it Be Now?” as a reference to “Who Goes There?’ the science fiction novella that all THING movies are based on. I’m sorry but that’s clever. I’m also appreciative of the serious attempt to mimic CARPENTER’s ‘82 film visually and with MORRICONE’s lifted score.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t crazy about the idea of switching to a beardless lead, but this Kate Lloyd (MARY ELIZABETH WINSTEAD) person grew on me. There’s no effort to prove her to be either sexy or ass-kicky, she’s here to be the voice of caution and reason and I approve. I have to laugh thinking of HALLOWEEN 4 again and how a year later its sequel HALLOWEEN 5 wasn’t capable of the type of continuity found in this prequel made THIRTY years after it’s predecessor. Anyone who suggests that 2011’s THING is a thoughtless cash grab with no effort behind it is not looking very closely.
Much of the action in this version echoes CARPENTER’s. Logically it doesn’t seem very realistic that the exact same events would take place in the same way but who knows. We’re witnessing the birth of Armageddon; LOVECRAFT-ian beasts are breaking into our world. Perhaps the fates have decided that these exact events will continue to take place until such time as they take hold. It’s O.K. with me; I’m a slasher fan, so the idea of hitting the same cues a couple times is not alien to me. “All this has happened before and all this will happen again.”
We get a different version of the blood test scene from ‘82. It is learned that THE THING cannot duplicate inorganic material so if you have fillings in your teeth you are deemed safe. Paranoia is alive and nobody is to be trusted or believed. “Not all of us are human.” One not mentioned enough aspect of CARPENTER’s version that is alive and kicking here is the idea that it is dangerous to go against yourself and fall into the imagined safety of the group. In other words, to align yourself with the majority to prove you are not one of “them” is a good way to become one of “them.”
At the time of its release, one of the biggest complaints about CARPENTER’s THE THING was its use of special effects and ironically, an updated version of that debate is stuck to this version’s shoe as well. If you took out “special effects” in a review of the ‘82 version and replaced it with “CGI” the criticisms for both films read almost the same. I do agree that some of the CGI in this movie is handled poorly especially toward the end of the film, but I’ll live. At the end of the day it ALL looks more convincing than JAMIE LEE CURTIS’ wig in HALLOWEEN II.
Truth is ROB BOTTIN’s contributions in the ‘82 version of THE THING are basically the VAN GOGHs of cinema effects. It’s not going to happen again. Period. I’m sorry, I don’t like it any better than you do but a masterpiece is a masterpiece because it is a rarity. The CGI in the 2011 version is further testament to BOTTIN’s remarkable genius and the fact that computers will never improve on the work of a brilliant man at the top of his game. Think of CGI as THE THING that can’t duplicate BOTTIN. Let’s not mourn our loss, let’s celebrate what once was and move on. Pour some beer on the lawn.
2011’s THE THING tries hard. It doesn’t always succeed. Unlike many remakes and sequels though, it has a discernable affection for the film it’s attempting to emulate. I didn’t need or want to venture into the crashed ship near the end but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I got goose bumps as the film closed with scenes that mirrored the opening of CARPENTER’s. Dudes, you get to see how the axe got in the door, who the suicidal frozen radio guy was and the origin of the burnt split face monster! I can’t believe others weren’t as thrilled as me to see all that stuff. I’m beginning to feel like I AM LEGEND.
It’s all good. I make myself happy imaging some die-hard fan of 1951’s THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD checking out the 1982 version in the theater and leaving shaking his fists at the sky. “What have they done?!” I know how it feels, the ELM STREET remake made me bang my head against a wall for hours. Everybody hurts.
I enjoyed this THING though. In fact, if I was sent to a desert island and I could only bring two versions of THE THING with me I’d leave the 1951 version behind! Isn’t that awful? I must have trashy taste. Well, it’s my taste and the mob has not completely gotten me yet. Hey, this is a rambly post! I love rambly posts because it means I’m free from the zillions of invisible eyes that judge me! I guess my experiment of leaving the world behind as I walked into the movie really worked! I’m going to do it again and nobody can stop me!
NOTE: Thanks to FILMFATHER for alerting me to the video below! If you’ve already seen it, well, then…watch it again!