Very Occasional Movie/DVD Review – The Thing 1982/2011

The Thing - Posters
Image from The Grizzly Bomb

I have precisely 2 horror films in my DVD collection.  I much prefer to borrow them from people and then return them when I eventually remember.  Which reminds me, if I have a DVD of yours, please give me a prod.  It would be 3 but I simply cannot find a copy of “In The Mouth Of Madness”, one of the finest pieces of Lovecraftian circular horror out there, on DVD for a price I’m prepared to pay.  And when I say “price”, I’m generally talking about 99p on eBay here.

Anyway, one of those films is the ZomCom, “Sean of the Dead”.  Where “Hot Fuzz” took “Midsomer Murders” to it’s logical conclusion, “Sean of the Dead” applies the same sense of humour to the zombie genre.  A good film but not one I can watch all the time.

The other one is the 1982 “The Thing”, by John Carpenter.  A superb piece of isolationist horror – protagonists trapped in a limited environment, something killing them off one by one.  Traditional 1980s slasher flick territory.  Only this time the eponymous thing could be anyone – it can mimic people perfectly.  Right up until it mutates, lashes out with it’s tentacles and absorbs you.  As a creature, it’s perfect.  Couple state of the art special effects (for the 1980s, anyway, but they still hold up well today) with a creepy soundtrack by Ennio Morricone (a man better known for his work on spaghetti westerns) and some genuine shock moments – the defibrillator scene, anyone?  It is a superb movie.

Then I discovered that someone had made a sequel.  Or rather, a prequel.  Now this puts things into a very dangerous territory.  Prequels, especially those made almost 30 years after the original, don’t tend to work very well.  For one thing, special effects have moved on a touch.  What’s possibly today, with the help of computers, was definitely not possible back in the 1980s with the help of prosthetics, plasticine and Duck tape.  You only have to look at the TV series “Enterprise” to see prequels done very, very wrong – too shiny, too new and could someone please explain continuity to them?  But the Klingons were funny.

However, this is a prequel done right.  Almost.  The soundtrack is nowhere near as good as the Ennio Morricone one.  Not by a long, long, long, way.  The creature, while looking better, sticks to the ground rules laid down in the first film as far as what it can and cannot do.  It explains them a little more, showing a bit more of the how but still none of the why.  You still know nothing of the creature’s origins, purpose, intentions (other than survival).  In a way, some of the transformations don’t work as well because they look almost too good.  It’s lost something in the “and then we handed it over to the CGI guys for them to work on”.  The movie sets up the original as a sequel perfectly. You know know what happened before MacReady and team turn up – and just why that damn dog’s so dangerous.  It stays true to the original’s sense of isolation, horror and uncertainty.

I’m tempted to add this one to my collection, especially if someone kind out there does a BluRay double-pack with the pair of them.

Final Rating:  8/10.  It would’ve been higher but the soundtrack really let it down.

For the gamers out there, there is a sequel to The Thing.  I never got to play this as it was only released for the PC and didn’t see the light of day on a Playstation.  It’s use of Fear/Trust mechanics to balance how much – or little – you trust the other members of your team sounded like it hit the spot, though.  I seem to recall a graphic novel as well…

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