The Thing

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John Carpenter's uncompromising 1982 remake---built of chilly antarctic vistas and Lovecraftian gore, and since hoisted by his fans to the level of Halloween---hardly needed a prequel, which this update is. Then again, there's a satisfying rush to seeing some of horror's '80s virtues back up on screen: Our heroine, a smart geologist, is played by the steel-cheekboned Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who ought to get in touch with Sigourney Weaver's agent. And here again (for a while, at least) are patient, lingering shots of creepy hallways and a daring amount of subtitled Norwegian---we're at their foreign outpost, while Kurt Russell and his American team are miles off.

Unfortunately, though, today's Thing comes to resemble a less-flattering ancestor: David Fincher's half-baked Alien3, a project that had impeccable DNA, a talented director and way too much interference from a nervous studio. Suddenly, we're shocked repeatedly by ADD sound blasts and a glut of computer-rendered beasts (none of them with the solidity of Rob Bottin's classic effects work). Was a functioning spaceship necessary as well? Some of the paranoia remains, especially in a tense sequence involving molar inspection (don't ask). The irony is that the tale itself is about an alien invader that clones its host perfectly. These filmmakers got halfway there, but Carpenter's genius was about more than just a look.

Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf

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Release details

Rated: R
Release date: Friday October 14 2011
Duration: 103 mins

Cast and crew

Director: John Carpenter, Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
Screenwriter: Bill Lancaster, Eric Heisserer
Cast: Wilford Brimley
Richard Dysart
Richard Masur
David Clennon
Kurt Russell
Donald Moffat
TK Carter
Eric Christian Olsen
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Mary Elizabeth Winstead