After comparing the effects in yesterday’s review of The Void to the original The Thing by John Carpenter, I remembered that I hadn’t yet watched the prequel that came out a few years ago. I had avoided it since, if you’re a horror fan, you couldn’t help but hear about the controversy of how the movie had hired an entire FX crew to make some gorgeous practical effects for the film and then replaced them all with CGI in the final cut. Which isn’t to say that you can’t possibly do good things with CG but to have already paid for and shot with the models is just…woof. That’s rough, buddy.
In this film, we find out about the events that take place in the Norwegian base that we only see the aftermath of in the first movie. Kate Lloyd is brought on to help in some capacity when the Norwegians discover an alien craft and a frozen being. I say in some compacity since she doesn’t do anything and is told not give her opinion on things besides being explicitly sought out at the beginning of the film for her expertise. Turns out, her actual role is to be Ripley and immediately take command when people start turning into monsters. There are also some other characters here but mostly they just hang around to die and you get to go “Hey, I know that guy from Game of Thrones!”
This movie ends up being much more of a traditional “monster movie” than the original. Where as the Thing in the first movie is always one step ahead of everyone and incredibly canny; the Thing in this movie takes any opportunity to monster out and try stabbing people. There is an extended scene towards the end where we have a Thing turn into a gross creature and then stalk people as a giant monster. All of the tension and paranoia that makes John Carpenter’s version so iconic is entirely replaced with a more modern type of horror that is frenetic and doesn’t let you stew in the uncertainty of who to trust. I don’t dislike the idea of doing something different rather than just trying to ape the original but it wasn’t different enough to stand out. Part of the problem I think comes from having too many characters to start which means when the first death happens you’re just like “Oh no, it’s…that guy.”
Obviously, I can’t talk about the movie without bringing up the elephant in the room, the special effects. While far from the worst CGI I’ve seen in a horror movie, there are definitely certain scenes where it is egregiously noticeable. That giant monster Thing I talked about before ends up looking like a rejected design for Mr. Hyde from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen when you see it in the light. I don’t think relying on practical effects would have somehow elevated this to greatness but it definitely would have made it more interesting to watch. Check out Harbinger Down for a movie that the FX team from this movie made with all practical effects as a response to what happened here and you’ll see what kind of cool stuff we missed out on.
I’m not saying the movie is awful. It’s a fun monster movie with flame throwers and spaceships and whatnot. The problem comes when you invite comparison to, in my opinion, the greatest horror movie of all time. Anything less than stellar is going to be a bit of a disappointment. Also, they just had to make the couple Americans the main heroes at the Norwegian base. Come on.
Rating: 3 out of 5