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Ever had one of those days when you didn't feel quite like yourself?
The Thing has those sorts of days all the time. It's really the Thing's way of life, truth be told. With no steady job or home improvement projects to keep it busy, the Thing spends its days mimicking other life-forms and then, just when the music gets all spooky, it explodes into a mass of teeth and tentacles and various sharp, disgusting objects to eat and absorb whatever hapless creature happens to be the closest.
It seems like a less-than-fulfilling existence, and we wonder whether the Thing could use a session or two with a psychiatrist. "I can never be myself at parties," it might say. "I try, but people invariably start screaming, and I realize that I have to digest one of them." But then again, we suspect that the Thing is not of a contemplative mindset. It'd be only a matter of time before it ate the doctor.
So perhaps the Thing was just looking for a little soul-searching R&R when it decided to travel to Earth. Maybe it hoped to spend some time on the beach, taking along its copy of Men Are From Mars, Things Are From Ygthmmmzzzyfth.
Alas, however, the Thing took a left turn at prehistoric Albuquerque and crashed into Antarctica. Having left its multi-tentacled parka at home, the Thing had nothing to do but sit down in the ice and freeze …
… until, lo and behold, some intrepid Norwegian scientists dig the Thing out of the ice 100,000 years later, take it back to camp (still frozen in a big block of ice) and begin puzzling over what exactly, the Thing is.
I've wondered too, the Thing may think to itself in its block of ice. All I've ever wanted was companionship—someone to understand me. Perhaps these bearded Norwegians might be the kindred spirits I've been looking for. Perhaps they'd like to be my friends. My very, very close friends. (Cue spooky music.)
And so the Thing blasts out of the ice and begins killing, eating and absorbing every screaming, fleeing biological other thing he comes across—taking on their characteristics along the way.
Oh, the humanoids try to make the Thing stop—killing it again and again and again. But just like a spider plant that's sprouted too many babies, the Thing keeps spreading—infecting ever more bipedal creatures, until the Norwegians (and a few Americans) have no idea who's friend and who's … well, a Thing.
And they begin to ask each other, with fear in their eyes, "Are you having one of those days where you don't feel quite like yourself?"
An ever-dwindling band of scientists strives to extinguish the voraciously violent Thing—with some sacrificing their lives to prevent it from ever meeting someone outside the Antarctic Circle.
We hear a dirty joke involving sex and incest.
The Thing—referring to both the creature and the film—isn't pretty. In fact, it's aggressively ugly, and it dispatches its victims in obscenely grotesque ways.
The Thing begins its rampage by consuming a dog. We don't see the attack, just a lot of blood and fur where the dog once was. The first human it attacks is skewered in the chest by a harpoon-like tentacle, then pulled toward the Thing, where it's eaten/absorbed. After the creature is finally killed via bullet and flaming gas, scientists dissect it (we see loads of disgusting and unexplained organs) and discover the remains of the first victim somehow transforming into … something else.
But by then the Thing had already been very busy elsewhere. One of four people onboard a helicopter has become another Thing, and during the flight his face and chest split open, revealing that telltale mass of teeth and tentacles. The scientists who stayed behind watch as the helicopter crashes in the distance.
From then on, we see the Thing (or, if you prefer, Things) appear in a variety of guises. Masquerading as a female scientist, it reveals itself by turning the fake female's chest into a gaping, fang-filled mouth as its human-looking head lolls backwards as if broken. Another man's arms drop off and become fleshy, centipede-like creatures that wave what looks like bloody angel-hair pasta in the air. One of the these mini-Things attacks a human, eventually stuffing part of itself in the man's mouth as the two slowly, grotesquely, transform. Yet another Thing bends its human host backwards, becoming an impossibly hideous quadruped that skitters over to an injured human and consumes its victim through osmosis. The resulting Thing has two heads, a variety of alien limbs and countless tentacles.
Hacking at these Things doesn't seem to kill them; amputated pieces just keep skittering around until they can rejoin. The only effective way to dispatch them, apparently (and even then there's a little doubt at times), is by burning them. Thus, we see various aliens, alien corpses, humans and human corpses engulfed by flame, most often still alive and screaming. One particularly monstrous Thing gets blown up by a grenade.
Elsewhere, a scientist finds a pile of metal tooth fillings on the bathroom floor (the Thing can't absorb metal) and a shower stall covered with blood. A vehicle full of scientists falls through an ice hole. Someone shoots at a dog. A man shoots another man who was threatening him with a flamethrower. A scientist commits suicide, and we see his frozen body sitting in a chair, still holding the razor he used to cut his throat. A woman falls through an opening in a spaceship. A scientist works beside the carcass of a large, dog-like beast.
Crude or Profane Language
A dozen f-words, 10 s-words. God's name is abused about 10 times, twice paired with "d‑‑n." Jesus' name is abused three times. Other profanities include "a‑‑" and "h‑‑‑."
Drug and Alcohol Content
The Norwegian outpost includes a small tavern, and we see characters drink beer, hard liquor and shots of some other mysterious substance.
Other Negative Elements
The Thing is ostensibly a prequel to John Carpenter's 1982 film, also called The Thing (which itself was a remake of the 1951 film The Thing From Another World). The 1982 version is now considered something of a classic among horror aficionados.
Back in the day, though, most folks were less than impressed. The Thing made just $3.1 million its opening week, finishing eighth, and didn't make back its $15 million budget during its initial theatrical run. Critics at the time didn't like the film any better than audiences. Newsweek's David Ansen wrote, "There's a big difference between shock effects and suspense, and in sacrificing everything at the altar of gore, Carpenter sabotages the drama. The Thing is so single-mindedly determined to keep you awake that it almost puts you to sleep."
Those words offer a fitting segue to director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.'s reboot—which boasts a litany of gross-out elements that turn out to be, ironically, some of the least frightening parts. Even though these scenes were designed to terrify, I was often so engrossed (pardon the pun) with trying to figure out exactly what was happening onscreen ("What is that Thing doing to that guy's face?!") that I forgot to be scared.
The movie's real tension happens, as was the case with the first version, when you don't see the Thing in action: When it's masquerading as a human … breathing, smiling, looking for all the world like a normal person, looking for opportunity to strike.
Even in these moments, though, The Thing falls flat. It's telling, I think, that I was able to write this entire review without naming a single human character: There's really no need, because the characters here are no more than bait for the Thing to do its thing. And because they don't really connect with us, audiences don't feel much when they're unceremoniously eaten.
The result? The Thing feels like a cynical exercise in excess and desensitization. It can't make audiences care. It can't make them laugh or cry. So it goes for the cheapest sensation in the book: It tries to makes viewers go, "Ewww!"
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Kate Lloyd; Joel Edgerton as Braxton Carter; Ulrich Thomsen as Dr. Sander Halvorson; Eric Christian Olsen as Adam Goodman
Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. ( )
October 14, 2011
January 31, 2012