Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Thing: Aaah! Monsters!

 You know what's been missing from cinemas lately? A good, old-fashioned monster movie. If you feel the same way, I have news for you.

"The Thing," a prequel to John Carpenter's 1982 masterpiece, is a pure, bad ass monster movie. And not much else. But seriously, sometimes you have to take what you can get.

Carpenter's film is all about paranoia. Who do you trust when you can't trust anyone? The prequel reaches for that same level of paranoia and while there are some tense moments as the crew of Norwegian scientists disagree with the American paleontologist interloper (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), it never quite makes it.

Part of the problem, of course, is that it's a prequel. We basically know how it ends. I'm giving nothing away when I say it ends with a Norwegian helicopter chasing a dog. If you've seen Carpenter's film, you know that's how his movie starts. The point of the prequel finding out what happened to the rest of the Norwegians.

Unfortunately, none of the characters make us care about them in the ways the (all male) cast of the 1982 film do. Yes, there is a wanna-be McCready (Kurt Russell's character in the Carpenter flick) and everybody in the new movie looks like Richard Mazur does in the '82 movie (lots of big, bushy beards). There's even a token black guy.

The film does get a bit ridiculous toward the end. Just about everybody is dead and there's a weird "digital" column inside a spaceship that looks like an Atari took a crap and tried to piece the crap back together. Much like the need for a prequel, going to the spaceship just seemed unnecessary.

That's enough negativity for now. If you can get passed all that, you should go see "The Thing" because the monsters are awesome.

No, they aren't Rick Bottin practical effects, but holy shit, they're scary. There are shots of the alien creature without a human host and while it's never a full on shot of the creature on its own, what we are given is pretty sweet. And when "humans" get all Thing-y, it's a sight to behold. The creature designers took the best of the ideas from Carpenter's movie and ran with them. Stretched necks, open, hungry mouths and --yes-- stomachs that'll rip your arms off all get star treatment in this movie.

Without giving away who turns into it or how, there's a two-headed creature that is just about the nastiest and coolest movie monster I've seen in some time. I'm sure images of it will be all over the internet soon, but you won't get them from me.

"The Thing" is far from a perfect film. Yes, it lacks substance and character development. Yes, it's completely unnecessary. But it's hard to turn away from such great looking creatures.

Threat level: YELLOW. This was a tough rating for me. I want to rate it higher because we don't get very many kick ass monsters anymore, but I'd really like someone to come up with a new, but just as cool, set of creatures. (For an explanation of our ratings, visit the Warning System page.)

"The Thing" is rated R and stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead and a bunch of Scandinavians. Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr from a screenplay by Eric Heisserer. Now in theaters.

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