Neither a sequel nor a remake, it’s a prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 horror thriller based on Howard Hawks’ 1951 “The Thing From Another World” which, in turn, was inspired by John W. Campbell Jr.’s short story “Who Goes There?”
In Antarctica in the winter of 1982, a group of Norwegian explorers from an isolated outpost called the Thule Station discover a deep crevasse containing huge spacecraft piloted by an alien encased in a block of ice. Arrogant scientist Sander Halversen (Danish actor Ulrich Thomsen) recruits Columbia University paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to help him with defrosting in order to examine tissue samples, and you can easily imagine the killing rampage that occurs.
That’s when those who survive realize that the alien is a shape-shifter, attacking its human prey, absorbing its DNA and then replicating its victim’s appearance – until the next mutation. Predictably, this leads to anxiety, confusion and paranoia since no one really knows whom the monster has morphed into. The only way to distinguish humans is by their dental fillings since the creature can’t duplicate inorganic material. Not surprisingly, everyone’s increasing panic is accompanied not only by cumulative carnage but also by a blinding storm.
Written by Eric Heisserer and Ronald D. Moore and directed by Dutch newcomer Matthjs van Heijingen Jr., it captures the creepy, claustrophobic comedic elements of the original yet, as it evolves, it becomes increasingly inconsistent, incoherent and, therefore, unbelievable. To their credit, however, they’ve included a tough female protagonist and some sexual tension this time; in the source material, there were only men. And there’s an edgy political subtext between the Americans and Norwegians.
The device of having much of the dialogue is in Norwegian with English subtitles allows the audience to know what’s happening while the American characters are oblivious, like Halversen’s dire warning, “The Americans are the real enemy!”
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Thing” is a frigid, frightful 5, filled with gruesome gore, as the post-credit sequence concludes exactly where the John Carpenter classic begins.