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Ten Word or Less Review:  The Thing That Sucked is a better title.

At the end of John Carpenter’s 1982 creature feature masterpiece, Kurt Russell looks up at the gargantuan, slimy collection of pulsating limbs, tentacles and teeth that is The Thing of the title and right before throwing a stick of dynamite down its throat(s), he states with pitch perfect action movie bravado “Ahh, fuck you!”  It’s not Shakespeare but it is one of cinema’s great, pointed f bombs.  There’s zero good to say about this new Thing so when it’s over one is inclined to repeat Russell’s great climactic quip and then lob explosives at the soulless monstrosity that wiggles in front of us.  It is a strange and sad bit of irony that The Thing of 2011 acts just like the movie’s monster, it attempts to absorb it’s 1982 relative and immitate it, but mostly just flails around, making a lot of noise in the process.

A pseudo remake/prequel, The Thing of 2011 tries to build in a back story, shouldn’t that be front story, to Carpenter’s 1982 horror opus.  In that feature, Kurt Russell and company visited a Norwegian geological site which had been burned to the ground.  A large block of ice with a very big hole in it was discovered, a gruesome suicide was found, a giant flying saucer was located not far from the site, and most important, a gruesome, burned up, mutilated collection of melded bodies was found smoldering in the snow.  If you’ve seen Carpenter’s film then you know where all that went.  What happened to these Norwegians wasn’t much of a mystery considering the movie we were watching but the new Thing thinks that backtracking to the events of the Norwegian camp is necessary.  It’s a lame case of deja vu for the viewer because what happens in the Norwegians camp looks and sounds an awful lot like what went down in Carpenter’s camp of Americans 29 years ago, except it isn’t spooky, atmospheric, interesting or scary.

It’s hard to know where to place blame for this derivative horror show because everyone seems to have done a shit job.  Considering how glum the performers seem I’d guess even the catering was lousy.  First time director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. is stuck with a story impossible to make intriguing by its very nature.  Would it kill a film franchise to go forward with its story instead of back?  Given a modest budget, some cameras and saddled with the foolish task trying to graft a useless appendage onto Carpenter’s version, Heijningen can establish no identity of his own as a filmmaker.  His movie haphazardly tries to find the same tone and mood that the 1982 film achieved but he can’t come close.  His direction comes off feeling generic and routine, cursed with a dull pace and total lack of tension.  Reshoots were apparently numerous.  The flat, dimensionless, screenplay he’s grappled to doesn’t help matters.  Noted sci-fi writer Ron Moore (Battlestar Galactica) apparently wrote a screenplay for this movie but it’s not here.  His name isn’t even in the credits as sole writing credit goes to Eric Heisserer.  Mr. Heisserer you did a bad job.  A very, very bad job.  Putting another large nail in the coffin of this crap is the dubious use of subpar CGI that undermines the effectiveness of the Thing itself.  Remaking/prequelizing The Thing wasn’t a good idea to begin with but replacing the original’s legendary physical effects work with CGI that would’ve been considered shitty 5 years ago is committing movie suicide.  Throw in the fact there’s very little intrigue as to who the Thing is at any given moment, something the original did a masterful job at, and we’re left with a movie that bungles along until it’s merciful and stupid conclusion.

If The Thing of 2011 is a dispiriting remake it becomes an outright embarrassment by its finale.  Being tied to the 1982 feature, certain things have to be in certain places in order to tie things together and the 2011 movie can’t find a way to make these things happen with much skill.  It’s almost as if the decision to connect directly to Carpenter’s movie was made at the 11th hour and up until then they were simply going for a misguided tribute.  Not only that, as the film concludes the creature does something which in my mind seems to negate the entire story on a fundamental level.  If you’re curious e-mail me and I’ll explain.  At the end the new movie doesn’t so much do the work to get where it needs to be, it simply places its pieces where they need to go because they have to go there, effort and logic be damned.

The actors who have been charged with dredging through the snowy muck get between little and nothing to convey besides shock and worry.  Carpenter’s cast was made up of a lot of pros who didn’t get great monologues or spiky dialogue to work with, but each one brought a small amount of quirk to the little pieces they did get.  Together they formed an interesting lot of cantankerous Americans stuck with each other in the middle of Antarctica with Kurt Russell at the center in his enormous sombrero.  The lot of Norwegians that make up the bulk of the cast here are unnoticeable from each other and their subsequent disposal by the Thing leaves no impact.  They’re horror movie fodder, nothing more.  Standing in the center of the Norwegians is Mary Elizabeth Winstead, a spry, talented actress stuck in a bad movie she has no ability to lift up past its crippling short comings.  Her character’s name is Kate Lloyd and her role is as dynamic and imaginative as that name.  She doesn’t even get an interesting hat to wear.  Was a beret even discussed or considered?  Joel Edgerton is supposed to be the equivalent of Kurt Russell’s part but he barely gets a line, much less the quirk colorful head gear.

It’s been floated around that John Carpenter got out of directing because he was washed up.  While that statement certainly holds no small amount of merit, contributing to his lack of directorial efforts was probably the fact that Hollywood choose to cut him a lot of checks so they could regurgitate his early output.  The Fog, Halloween and Assault on Precinct 13 are forgettable remakes and hopefully this crappy version of The Thing is the last of them.  If not, when they finally decide to redo Big Trouble in Little China we may have to drop a few more f bombs.


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