‘The Thing’: The Reviews Are In!

How does the 2011 'Thing' stack up against the '82 original?

The subject of film remakes and reboots has become a sensitive one. With two variations on that theme opening at the box office this weekend, “Footloose” and “The Thing,” respectively, there are very defined, conflicting opinions on Hollywood’s continued obsession with churning out new takes on old classics.

With regard to “The Thing,” a prequel to John Carpenter’s ’82 film, the critical conversation is especially opinionated, given the fact that the horror community takes its films very seriously and that the original is so beloved by fans. Some critics were satisfied and entertained by Dutch filmmaker Matthijs van Heijningen’s take on the film, along with the performances by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton and Ulrich Thomsen; some were not.

Without further ado, let’s dig into the fleshy meat of “The Thing” reviews!

The Story
“For this prequel, first time feature director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. puts a female (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) at the center of the fray, flanks her with several male members (pun intended) of a Norwegian scientific team, throws a phallic, mouthy monster into her path, adds and touch of paranoia, and presto! It’s a scary movie set in a place where hell actually does freeze over. It’s no secret that The Thing 2011 leaves off exactly where the 1982 version picks up and it’s a nice touch that Ennio Morricone end credits song — Humanity (Part II) — is used to complement Marco Beltrami’s score.” — Staci Layne Wilson, Horror.com

The Performances
“While this ‘Thing’ features a low-impact cast full of unknown Norwegians, Winstead (Kate) makes an appealing star, ably supported by Joel Edgerton in the pseudo-Kurt Russell role of a tough-guy helicopter pilot. (His ass-kicking sidekick is played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, otherwise known as ‘the black guy who doesn’t get killed first.’) Thomsen is in fine form as the unctuous and untrustworthy scientist who may doom the entire world to being chewed up and eaten, and Jørgen Langhelle is terrific as a gruff Norse workman who sides with Kate although he speaks no English.” — Andrew O’Hehir, Slate

The Prequel Vs. the Original
“This ‘Thing,’ shot largely in northern British Columbia, engaged me more than Carpenter’s. That’s not to say it can hold a candle to the superb 1951 ‘The Thing From Another World,’ directed by Christian Nyby. That film is a marvel of indirection, of ensemble camaraderie in the face of the Cold War-era unknown. Compared with that picture, this new one’s just an entertaining, well-acted oozefest. All three ‘Things,’ along with everything from ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ to ‘Alien,’ owe their central ideas to the Depression-era story ‘Who Goes There?’ by John W. Campbell Jr. There’s a rock-solid notion in that tale, that of an alien being able to take over a human body and cause pure paranoia in the populace. Who’s real and who isn’t? Why does so-and-so seem a little off today? And why is my dog looking at me funny? While I wish van Heijningen’s ‘Thing’ weren’t quite so in lust with the ’82 model, it works because it respects that basic premise. And it exhibits a little patience, doling out its ickiest, nastiest moments in ways that make them stick.” — Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

The Scream/FX Factor
“Van Heijningen trades methodically established tensions for cheap, easy horror jolts, swapping the paranoia and distrust of Carpenter’s version for simplistic rage and aggression. Where Carpenter carefully sliced into our deepest fears with the precision of a surgeon, Van Heijningen bluntly hacks away at our nervous systems like a maniac wielding a chain saw. Newcomers who rent Carpenter’s film to see where Van Heijningen’s story begins — or, continues — might be surprised by the reliance on organic horror makeup, stop-motion animation and creature compositions. Oscar-winning visual effects supervisor Stan Winston (‘Aliens,’ ‘Jurassic Park’) reportedly worked on Carpenter’s spectacularly gory dog creature, a triumph of horror wizardry. Alas, Van Heijningen replaces those tangible and imaginative alien inventions with shiny, empty digital effects — yet another miscalculation that undermines this ‘Thing’ prequel.” – Sean O’Connell, Washington Post

The Final Word, Pro-Con-Pro Style
“It may not be as novel as the Carpenter original and ultimately, not as memorable, but Van Heijningen does a fine job recreating the look and tone of Carpenter’s film, and there’s enough alien-infested craziness to keep this prequel entertaining.” — Edward Douglas, ShockTillYouDrop.com

“Nothing can save The Thing from itself. Bigger and louder is not scarier nor better, it’s just more annoying. The Thing is too big for its britches and bites off more than it can chew. Everything that was great about the 1982 version (it was a small, claustrophobic film with strong characters and awesome special effects) is ignored in this 2011 crap that’s nothing more than a boring CGI promo-reel. Do not waste a second watching this; instead go pop Carpenter’s version back into your VHS/DVD/Blu-ray player and revisit one of the greatest horror films of all-time.” — Brad Miska, Bloody-Disgusting.com

“This new take on THE THING is a gripping bit of horror entertainment that should excite audiences for its October release. In fact, it may inspire those who haven’t seen the 1982 version to make it a double feature of sorts. Either way, this is a well cast, atmospheric piece that rates a hell of a lot better than some of the previous Carpenter remakes… I’m talking to you THE FOG. Stay for the end credits if you really want to get yourself in the mood for JOHN CARPENTER’S THE THING afterward.” — Jimmy O, JoBlo

Check out everything we’ve got on “The Thing.”

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