The Thing moves at a glacial pace, which is appropriate since this unnecessary horror yarn is set in Antarctica. It's billed as a prequel to John Carpenter's like-titled 1982 movie that was a remake of a 1951 schlocker. Anything those previous movies did to deserve dittoes is now missing, or too cliched to matter anymore.
Once again we're in a frozen, isolated place, with humans dodging a space alien that in its angriest moments resembles an extreme sashimi platter with teeth (admittedly an improvement over James Arness' giant carrot in the original). The alien has the ability to enter the bodies of its victims, for the sole apparent reason of graphically bursting out. It also has a spaceship, put to no good use.
Ah, but one of the creature's potential victims is a woman too feisty to die. You know, like the Alien flicks. The cribbing is made clear with the casting of Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who bears a distracting resemblance to young Sigourney Weaver, especially when tentacles wave in her face. Everything in The Thing looks like something you've seen before.
Director Matthijs van Heijningen crafted a movie to make you think, although not about what's happening on screen. About what you have to do in the morning, whether you forgot to turn off the oven, or how many tiles are installed in the ceiling of the theater auditorium.
That's especially disappointing since earlier versions of The Thing involved social allegory that always makes hoo-hah seem more important. Being scared of something that looks like you but underneath isn't was topical in the 1950s with the Red Scare, and the '80s with Reagan conservatism. The new Thing floats a notion about foreigners (in this case Scandinavians) mistrusting Americans but that's quickly tossed aside.
No, this Thing is purely for the gorehounds, and they aren't likely to leave impressed. It takes a while for the blood and goo squibs to start gushing. Too often a simple flamethrower blast takes care of the situation before it gets too messy. It's tough to stage a decent chase scene while trudging through snow. When you've seen one mutilated corpse used like an extraterrestrial hand puppet you've seen 'em all.
Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365.