Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Eric Christian Olsen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje 16 cert, general release, 103 min
IT’S 1982 and right before Kurt Russell gets busy with a flame- thrower and learns to kick extra- terrestrial arse, an unfortunate earlier expedition to the Antarctic uncovers a spaceship buried deep beneath the ice.
Plucky palaeontologist Kate Lloyd (Winstead) is reluctant to interfere with the alien corpse frozen onboard the plainly sinister vessel, but arrogant boffin Dr Sander Halvorson (Thomsen) has other ideas. Sure enough, the marauding Thing known to John Carpenter fans is unleashed to replicate and destroy the mostly Norwegian scientific team. Can our Ripley Lite heroine save the day before Kurt’s rescue team arrive for the follow-up film?
In a year when Hollywood released a record number of sequels, there seems little point in protesting the ongoing studio molestation of the back catalogue. But never mind the franchise instalments; there’s something uniquely disconcerting about the plundering of top video shelf horrors of old.
To walk past a multiplex playing sleek, shiny new variants of grubby ancient exploitation fare such as Straw Dogsand Last House on the Leftis to experience the sensation of having simultaneously won and lost a war. It’s thrilling to see such pictures take their rightful place in the canon; it’s less thrilling to see them in their glossy, megacorp- approved new guises. At least the latest I Spit on Your Gravehad the good grace to be garbage. Too often, these products are far too professional to dismiss.
And so The Thing, a prequel that’s actually a remake, joins such proficient, watchable recycled titles as Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Deadand Matt Reeves’s Let Me In. As much as the disgruntled punter wishes to cry sacrilege on Carpenter’s behalf, Dutch director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr’s loving karaoke rendition displays an uncanny understanding of the 1982 classic. The plot is regurgitated with precision, human heads continue to crack open in the old-fashioned way, and preliminary medical examinations make for high anxiety.
More than a million stills from Carpenter’s production were reportedly consulted to produce this convincing facsimile. But the soul doesn’t show up in the Xerox. Van Heijningen can replicate the slow burning beats, but he can’t replicate the impact of hearing dogs whimper as the adopted stray Alaskan Malamute sprouted tentacles first time around.