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The Thing (2011)

October 15th, 2011 by unkle lancifer · 23 Comments

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!

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Tags: General Horror · Trauma Au Courant




23 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jeff AllardNo Gravatar // Oct 15, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    Thanks for bringing up HALLOWEEN 4, Unk – that’s one of my all-time favorite sequels! Like you, that movie reminds me of a much more carefree time. I just can’t get behind this new THING, though. It does try, which makes it even more disappointing that it doesn’t gel into anything special. The first half was strong but once it becomes a standard monster movie, I checked out. I blame the poor quality on studio meddling mostly but I wonder who’s to blame for the biggest gaffe of them all – namely the condition of the Thing’s spaceship. What we see in this movie flies in the face of what Carpenter depicted. They took so much pains to tell us how an axe got left in a door but somehow completely overlooked the fact that the ship in Carpenter’s film was in an enormous open crater created by an explosion by the Norweigian team – not found in a system of underground ice caves. In the end, I’d say THE THING (2011) is half good, half lousy. I’ve seen worse, yeah, but I actually think I like those “worse” movies better than this mediocre one.

  • 2 Binrow The HereticNo Gravatar // Oct 15, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    Unk…

    Thanks for the introduction to THE THING – THE MUSICAL. Made my night. I’m still laughing.

  • 3 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Oct 15, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    JA,

    The shape falls into the backyard of the Doyle’s house in Halloween and the front yard in Halloween 2! Don’t get my Annie Wilkes up! 🙂

    You may be right. I just thought the video in the 82 version showed them trying to blow up the ice but the truth comes out that the spaceship’s heat trying to take off melted the ice instead?

    Maybe some retcon action??? I dunno.

    My least favorite part was the face on the final monster guy. I didn’t like it. He could have been better. I really liked most of the creature creations though. The helicopter guy looked awesome to me.

    I understand not being over the moon with this one but I loved that they worked so hard to mimic 82. Most re-workings just make everything “darker” for the modern crowd and that’s not my thing.

    I think they did a good job of showing some more possibilities of what THE THING can do too.

    Nerd hat on, I love THE THING video game and comic books and I need more THING in my life. Simple as that. This should be a major franchise but it keeps getting stomped out!

    Instead The Predator is running around? The predator can change into nothing. He’s very limited. Being invisible is yawn.

    In any case Jeff we will always have Halloween 4! That really was an excellent stab at doing Carpenter justice. I may have to put that on tonight. (after The Thing)

    Also: I always like you opinion even when it is not mine!

    Binrow,

    I’m so glad I posted that now. I’m always afraid with the internet that people have already seen everything. I think it’s hysterical too.

    I guess it’s not the same person but it reminds me of the great song from DAWN OF THE DEAD (not original version)

  • 4 cmcmcmcmNo Gravatar // Oct 15, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    I like your moxy.

  • 5 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Oct 15, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    CM, I’ve been waiting years for somebody to hallucinate I had moxy!

    Is anyone else familiar with Moxie soda? They used to have it when I lived in Conn. but sadly it does not exist in these parts.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moxie

  • 6 Jeff AllardNo Gravatar // Oct 15, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    >>I always like you opinion even when it is not mine!<<

    Likewise, Unk!

  • 7 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Oct 15, 2011 at 11:37 pm

    Any fan of Leviathan is ok with me!

    Folks looking for an other opinion (Hey, it’s almost like Siskel and Ebert!) check out Jeff’s views here:

    http://dinnerwithmaxjenke.blogspot.com/2011/10/some-thing-old-some-thing-new.html

  • 8 lottie_of_millhavenNo Gravatar // Oct 16, 2011 at 2:42 am

    I’m glad to hear that the movie wasn’t the horrible mess that I feared.

    I may have to check it out.

  • 9 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Oct 16, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Lottie,

    If you are a THING fan I’d say it’s worth checking out. Just tell yourself going in that it will not surpass or reach the same heights that original did.

    There may be some inconsistencies but I guess I’m from the soap opera school where if they say “Today the part of so and so will be played by so and so” you just use your imagination.

    It’s funny I was just reading another review saying that the characters are poorly drawn and you can’t tell who is who (a complaint that Ebert laid on the 82 version.)

    and the truth is, when I originally saw the 82 version for the first time I felt the same way. I was aware of MacReady, Childs, Blair and…a bunch of other guys.

    I mean, it was a lot to take in in one viewing!

    Over the years watching it a couple hundred times the other characters began to gel and take hold.

    So to me it’s like people are seeing this new version and wondering why they don’t feel the same way about the characters and it’s like wondering “Why don’t I like the guy I met yesterday like I do my friend of 30 years?”

    If we forget the original for a moment, the concept alone (a monster that can transform into anything) is about a zillion times more interesting to me than that of any other horror movie that’s been in the theaters lately.

    Meanwhile I guess horror fans would rather wait to see a home footage movie about people being pulled around on the floor by an invisible ghost.-I don’t get it.

    Anyway, I’m actually thinking about seeing THE THING again today. I wish my theater was closer!

  • 10 knobgobblerNo Gravatar // Oct 17, 2011 at 12:47 am

    I think I’d rather avoid the disappointment…

    Here’s a bit of Thing fanfiction I kind of like though… http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/watts_01_10/

  • 11 bloodymaryNo Gravatar // Oct 17, 2011 at 5:22 am

    I have a half-mile hike to my theater, too! But no rain, as I am in Texas!

    Yes, unsuspecting ten year-old me back in 1982 got her socks knocked off! The practical SFX were so much a part of the charm of the Carpenter version, but I liked the look of the new SFX in the trailer. I may change my mind and go see this!

    I’m so weary of watching with a critical eye, too. I wish it was a switch that could be turned off.

  • 12 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Oct 17, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Knob,

    Thanks for that link… I love that!!!

    In fact, I think that is how I will now think of the new movie…as an adapted piece of fan fiction!

    THe THING is such incredible source material. I’d honestly like to see a million takes on it.

    Bloody Mary,

    My family is in Texas!

    I wish I had a better “turn off” switch myself when it comes to these things.

    I’m trying to look at movies more like I look at paintings. I just want to stand back, take in as much as I can and not worry if parts of it don’t exactly appeal to me.

    It’s funny. Working in a video stores for twenty years I think I got to observe first hand as people changed their attitudes toward film.

    In the beginning there was almost a reverence. You’d take a movie home like a gift and watch it several times and try to squeeze as much joy out of it as you could.

    Near the end, movies became disposable. Nobody wanted to pay for their rentals and if something wasn’t the best thing ever – it totally sucked.

    People stopped browsing. They knew the movies that they were supposed to see and supposed to like and it better be in!!!

    I honestly think people approach movies now with a defiant attitude like snobs in a restaurant itching to send the steak back if it is not cooked to their exact specifications.

    Folks complain about Hollywood but I think that it’s the audience that is spoiled rotten.

    I’m not saying everybody should love this movie, it’s just OK, not great…

    I love Jeff’s review because he went in and gave it a chance and watched it rather than just dismissing it from the start.

    He didn’t like it but at least he wanted to like it.

    I’m reading so many reviews where it’s clear the person didn’t want to like it from the start…

    Ack! I hate film reviews! Film is art! It shouldn’t be rated like an appliance in Consumer Digest!!!

  • 13 bdwilcoxNo Gravatar // Oct 17, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    OK, I wasn’t going to comment because I have no plans of seeing The Thing (2011) in the theater (or any movie for that matter since people annoy me to the point of homicide – I also shop at 11:30 at night to avoid people) Instead, I will be waiting for it to come out on Redbox in Blu-Ray like I do most films nowadays (and I will soon forget I left it under the pizza box and, in the end, it would have been cheaper to buy it).

    But I had to comment on Moxie soda! Being a Jerseyite, we would escape to Maine several times a year. Maine is great, but the best part of the trip was the sudden access to my cherished Moxie soda. Sure people hate the stuff, referring to it as Dr. Pepper laced with shoe-polish or rat poison, but to me it’s the equivalent of catnip. (The main ingredient is gentian root which is also the main ingredient in Angostura Bitters.) Oh, Moxie, how I love thee!

  • 14 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Oct 17, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    bdwilcox,

    I’m going to have to order some Moxie soda somehow. I don’t even remember what it tastes like!

    If it is bitter and gross then I will probably like it because I hate sweet stuff!

    Most soda tastes like it was made for Brundlefly to me.

    I have never tried the red box!

    I’m thinking of doing it today with a Thor Blue ray. Can it really be as easy as it looks?

    I’m afraid to give them my Credit card!

    Sorry if I got ranty with THE THING

    I woke up today with the realization that instead of THING 2 we’d more likely get Paranormal Activity 4!

    I’ve decided to take up reading.

  • 15 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Oct 17, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    False Alarm! I don’t have to read. I went to the Red Box instead!

    That was easy and cheap and they have games there too…

    I’m all modern!

    Thanks Bdwilcox!

  • 16 knobgobblerNo Gravatar // Oct 17, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    In regards to being critical…
    Critical thought is good… it keeps me from eating dog shit and watching reality shows. It guides me towards what I’ll enjoy, steers me away from what I won’t.
    I like Roger Ebert’s approach… that movies should be judged on their intentions and promises… not on some lofty Platonic ideal of ‘quality’… so Dawn of the Dead doesn’t get rated against Wings of Desire.
    To my mind having a high budget ups the ante… because presumably the creators have more than enough money to see to it that the final product matches their intent. It’s all the more heinous when the CGI sucks in The Thing vs. when it sucks on some Syfy movie of the week.
    I think that’s why I can enjoy a mess like The Creeping Terror but want to throw stones at inane crap like the remake of The Haunting.

    In the end I think it is very much like sending back poorly cooked food… the management needs to know. If the audience isn’t picky then we’ll eventually just arrive at big screen versions of Jersey Shore… with a side of dog shit.

  • 17 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Oct 17, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    knob,

    You’ve got a point. I don’t mean to suggest that people should force themselves to like inferior things.

    I just think if you watch a movie like Mrs Kravitz watching the Stevens house you are bound to see something you don’t like.

    This movie did have some effects that didn’t work for me but that’s not really enough for me to throw in the whole towel.

    Now, The Haunting… that really was inexcusable. (Although if you watch it as a comedy it’s pretty funny.)

  • 18 aunt johnNo Gravatar // Oct 17, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    Not for nothing, but I would pay top dollar to see THE JERSEY SHORE HAUNTING on the big screen with Catherine Zeta-Jones as Snooki.

  • 19 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Oct 17, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    The Welsh Gazelle!

  • 20 aunt johnNo Gravatar // Oct 17, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    More like the Asbury Park Antelope…

  • 21 knobgobblerNo Gravatar // Oct 17, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    “I just think if you watch a movie like Mrs Kravitz watching the Stevens house you are bound to see something you don’t like.”
    Oh, I know… and I’m just as annoyed by the nitpickers who will dog a movie for non-issues (especially when their complaints stem from their lack of attention span/cell phone addiction). Same for people who want to talk smack about older films for lacking modern FX… what bus did they come in on and when is it going back?

  • 22 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Oct 18, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    I hear ya Knob! This is interesting….over at EW Owen Glieberman (who btw seems to really have it out for Carpenter in general) wrote a piece about how the effects in 82 version don’t hold up.

    http://insidemovies.ew.com/2011/10/18/when-special-effects-dont-hold-up/

    I thought immediately of your comment; “Same for people who want to talk smack about older films for lacking modern FX”

    In a way, I can’t help comparing it to the complaints about the new CGI and I have to ask if the audience has lost the ability to meet the filmmakers half way?

    If I watch an older movie I understand that the effects are limited to their time and my brain sort of accepts them as shorthand and fills in the blanks.

    It doesn’t automatically take me out of the picture …

    Does anybody think Ian Holm’s decapitated head looks 100% convincing in ALIEN? I don”t… but my brain understands the information that his head has been cut off…

    I watch many movies (and especially lesser budgeted TV shows) where I’m not necessarily “convinced” but I can still appreciate the artistry behind it and the intent…

    I seldom agree with Glieberman anyway and I think he is just being contrary but it all makes me think that the audience is losing it’s imagination more than anything else.

    (On the other hand I may be just exceptionally backwards and archaic – I just learned how to use the red box yesterday after all!)

  • 23 Sam HarveyNo Gravatar // Oct 19, 2011 at 10:11 am

    I love your rambly posts! Keep ’em coming! xxx

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