Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Thing (2011) dir Matthijs van Heijningen Jr

As many of you long time HYR readers and friends of mine I put John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) in my nebulous top five favorite horror movies. I also really enjoy The Thing From Another World (1951) .  I genuinely love that movie and though it's turned into a movie I throw on in tandem with another Carpenter/Russell team-up there are moments that still get to me.  Rob Bottin's effects still look excellent - the complete edition has long interviews with Bottin about how the effects were pulled off - and the sheer inventiveness and imagination in design and creation fill me with joy.  In case you don't know who Rob Bottin is, he's the man who worked on the effects and creature design in The Howling (1981), Legend (1985), Robocop (1987), Total Recall (1990), and more.  Ennio Morricone's score is still harrowing (and impossible to find for a reasonable price).  Wilford Brimley doesn't have a mustache.

Needless to say I went into Matthijs van Heijningen Jr's prequel very very wary and armed for snark.  I had avoided all reviews, trailers, junkets, or anything related to the movie.  One or two things had popped about the quality of the film from people I trust but still I was prepared for suck.

Note: contains spoilers but if you've seen the 1982 version you know what's coming and
 if you haven't seen the 1982 version then stop reading now and go sit in the corner.  
You can rejoin the class when you don't suck.

MvH Jr's version is a damned faithful prequel and comes across as real tribute from the pacing, effects, scoring, down to nitpicky details I was looking for.  Amalgamated Dynamics Inc. led by Tom Woodruff Jr and Alec Gillis did an excellent job with effects (considering they've not exactly worked on any gems since the 1990s - their creature effects in Skyline were okay) that in some sections of the movie I wish I could have paused and rewound.  They stayed faithful to the original design and feel of the Thing as horrific gribbly but with some really nice polish from the modern age of technology.  Marco Beltrami (one of the best new generation of composers) lifts tell tale cues from Morricone's score and puts together a solid score.  I don't know if it could stand on its own but I'm willing to track down the score to check it out.  The cast is solid though I didn't recognize anyone, though when I checked Mary Elizabeth Winstead's imdb page she's been in a lot of movies I have seen.  I really appreciated the fact the Norwegians were Norwegians and not Englishmen pretending to be Norwegian, plus with all the Norwegian horror movies coming out it's nice to see a potential jumping off point for new horror fans.  What got me was the sound design - digital sound really amped up the horrific noises the Thing makes.  It's pain/anger cry is top notch.

However my over-all impression isn't blown away.  Part of it was the theater, the screen was filthy and vast expanses of white were marred by weird stains.  A large portion of the movie was dark yet it didn't simply seem to be part of the design but just poor cinematography.  There were a couple of moments were I felt a little squinty but at least the movie wasn't in 3-D.  A section or two of the movie just felt out of place.  Additionally the pacing did not convey the isolation and claustrophobia that 1982 did, which ratcheted up the tension.

I'm certainly going to watch The Thing again if only to be able to instantly watch 82 afterwards.  The way the two films dovetail is one of the high points of the prequel.  Well worth seeing.

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