Regardless of if you knew it by the acclaimed 80s horror flick or 1930s novel it was based on, you will no doubt be familiar with this concept: Humans trapped in the frozen wilderness with a shapeshifting monstrosity who can mimic them. It is the perfect recipe for the imagination and has motivated storytellers for generations. In 2011, classic fears were unearthed beneath the inhospitable ice, as audiences were treated to an explanation of the terror that stalked them for decades, In the prequel to The Thing.
In 1982, an international team of Antarctic researchers are assembled when they are called in to investigate a mysterious structure, and a peculiar set of biological remains, preserved in the ice. The thing inside, however, is not dead and now an unearthed creature is stalking the Antarctic base. A quick learner and adept at mimicry, taking on the human characters and mannerisms to a tee. With any one of them being potentially a bloodthirsty monster How will the staff cope, let alone survive?
With this film being a prequel (set roughly around the first) you might be wondering how this film could extract any tension from veteran viewers. It is also true that the film follows a similar formula to the 80s classic. It could be argued that a lot of the film’s charm comes from the (technically) new characters being put in the same shoes as characters from the 1982 classic. True the practical effects mastery is traded for modern-day C.G.I., but still relies on some detailed practical effects underneath, with the results balancing both approaches to make some abnormal abominations.
Taking over from the original’s cast of Kurt Russell, Keith David, et al. We have Mary Elizabeth Winstead who plays Lloyd, she is academic, a palaeontologist to be exact, who is also a dab hand with a flame-thrower. She is capable in the leading role and quickly adapts to the situation and as a result, it makes the experience more akin to the original Alien. Lloyd is not alone of course as the crew of the base also offer distinct personalities to interact. Such as Joel Edgerton who plays Carter (who looks kind of like Russell if you squint a little) an aircraft pilot, whose Vietnam War experience might not be much use in this situation. Many more join their ranks, like Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Ulrich Thomsen, but when the bodies start piling up (and replaced with a homicidal entity), it is best not to get too attached.
Wrapping up any doubts we had at the start of the original about the origins of the eponymous Thing, the prequel is a continuation of the terror felt almost 30 years ago. A Brand-new cast, same scary situation. Any excuse to crack open a preserved bottle of Antarctic paranoia is welcomed here as so many years on it still sends a tingle down your spine. While it is true some things should remain buried, In The Thing’s case, they should be dug wide open.
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