Sci-Fi Movie Month: "The Thing" Review

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Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Joel Edgerton play the lead roles in this prequel to John Carpenter's 1982 film of the same name. When an experiment frees an alien from ice at an Antarctica research site, Paleontology graduate student Kate (Winstead) joins crew pilot (Edgerton) to keep it from killing and imitating them one at a time. The creature has the uncanny ability to mimic any life form it absorbs through digestion, thus demonstrating its potential to reach civlization.
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Movie Review: "The Thing"

Rating: R (Violence, language) 
Length: 103 minutes 
Release Date: October 14, 2011
Directed by: Matthijs van Heijningen, Jr.
Genre: Horror/Mystery/Sci-Fi

"The Thing" is a 2011 remake of the cult-classic horror film of the same name that debuted in 1982. The remake follows a similar storyline to the original but features different characters. "The Thing" stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Kate Lloyd, a young research assistant who joins an Arctic expedition to uncover an extraordinary phenomenon. Deep in the icy layers of Antarctica is an extraterrestrial spaceship that has been buried for millennia. Dr. Sandor Halvorson, played by Ulrich Thomsen, has pulled together a brilliant team of scientists and explorers to help him with his discovery.

What the team doesn't know is that the alien spacecraft is far from abandoned. Once they unearth the craft and thaw it, they unknowingly unleash a deadly menace that reanimates and threatens to destroy all life on Earth. The creature starts out by attacking the team in its alien form, and seems to be easily defeated. Unfortunately for the team, it merely passes on from its body to a new vessel. Kate and the rest of the team are left wondering if they can trust anyone when appearances deceive, hiding a monster of unknown origin within even the most inconspicuous vessel. 

Kate is the newest member of the team, but she also proves herself to be the sharpest. She and Dr. Halvorson soon clash when Kate has misgivings about the expedition. She attempts to provide a voice of reason to the team and encourages them to seek help for a matter that is quickly escalating beyond their ability to handle. Halvorson, motivated by pride and a desire to complete the research project of a lifetime, won't have it and becomes almost as much of a threat as the creature itself. 

"The Thing" is a genuinely creepy action thriller that plays off the isolation the team experiences in the midst of the icy wilderness. Antarctica is nearly barren of life, so there is no help readily available when things go awry. This setting creates a claustrophobic atmosphere throughout the film, which renders each twist and turn more frightening than the last. Audiences will sympathize with Kate's plight to get her teammates to believe that real danger is afoot, all while questioning her own sanity. The creature, while unseen for most of the film, is one of the most iconic and unnerving horror movie monsters. The fact that it could take over anyone at any moment means no one can be trusted and keeps the suspense going from start to finish.

The acting in "The Thing" is solid, with a varied cast and relatable performances. Mary Elizabeth Winstead has had an under-rated but prolific career in the horror genre, with major roles in films such as "Final Destination 3" and "The Ring Two." Her character, Kate, is tough-minded and admirable, keeping her cool throughout most of the film even while others are falling apart. Ulrich Thomsen makes a great, unexpected villain, delivering his role as a calculating scientist whose ambition has run away from him with precision. The supporting cast includes Joel Edgerton as Sam Carter, Eric Christian Olsen as Adam Finch, and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Derek Jameson. 

"The Thing" excels by using minimal special effects to create a realistic atmosphere that is just as suspenseful and frightening as any horror film with plentiful CGI. There are lots of jump scares to keep things exciting, but also enough lulls to feature necessary dialog and lure the viewer into a false sense of security. Writer Eric Heisserer is a master at injecting just the right amount of tension into the script at the right time, creating a powerful yet subtle sense of horror. 

Fans of the original 1982 film will not be disappointed by the remake. Director Matthijs van Heijningen pulls off the unenviable task of remaining true to the spirit of the original while adding enough new elements to keep the audience guessing, and he pulls it off well. It is rare for a remake to fill the shoes of such an iconic film in a way that keeps audiences happy. "The Thing" manages to recreate the suspenseful and creepy atmosphere that made the original film a cult classic, while reimagining the story in a new and unique way. Thanks to its ability to straddle the line between new and old, "The Thing" is on its way to becoming a classic for a whole new generation of horror fans. 

Rating: 3 out of 5