Friday, October 14, 2011


Well, the jury is still out on Matthijs van Heijningen's 2011 prequel to John Carpenter's 1982 take on The Thing. Hell, Universal didn't even run an ad for it in today's Los Angeles Times Calendar, which is either the sign of a studio dump or confidence that the front-page Calendar feature on star Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Michael Phillips' (syndicated) positive review printed inside was advertising enough. Phillips notwithstanding, critical reaction has been generally negative-- Stephanie Zacharek complained about the movie's tendency toward literalizing what was mostly (and agonizingly) implied in Carpenter's version via Rob Bottin's nonetheless graphic, groundbreaking surrealist effects. But even so, we got the treat of the first paragraph of her review; with writing this clever, she might have spun out of orbit if she'd actually liked it. (See below for the entirety of Zacharek's blissfully silly intro.)

Less expected was the unbridled enthusiasm dished out by writers like Steven Boone and Ian Grey which, even though I haven't seen the entirety of the movie yet, both seem out of kilter at least with my own luke-warm reaction. (One thing everyone seems to be able to agree on is the general wonderfulness of Mary Elizabeth Winstead's poker-faced commitment to what amounts to a gender-switched take on Kurt Russell's cynical stature from the 1982 film. I love the slight tilt of the head and the impatient intonation she gives to the line "Open your mouth" when examining survivors for metal fillings, the inorganic tell-tale evidence of who might not be exactly who he thinks he is.)

So until we get to see for ourselves, why not spend some time revisiting the events of Carpenter's version, as interpreted by Ol' Blue Eyes, or at least a reasonable (and pretty hilarious) facsimile thereof. Jon and Al Kaplan are two brothers who are dedicated, perhaps to an unhealthy degree, to reinterpreting the landmarks of 1980s sci-fi cinema through the power and majesty of the pop song, and here they lend their interpretive and impressionistic talents to a jaunty reconsidering of the 1982 movie Sinatra-style. Their Chairman inhabits the soul of that doomed husky who opens Carpenter's version in flight from a Norwegian helicopter with the ease and wile of the Thing itself, making over a classic of horror strangely, insinuatingly in his own image. My thanks to Terry Morgan for passing this along, thus brightening my day, and hopefully yours too.

P.S. Here's the lead paragraph to Stephanie Zacharek's pan of The Thing (2011). Enjoy!

"As we all know by now, Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.’s The Thing is not a remake of John Carpenter’s 1982 The Thing, which in turn wasn’t really a remake of Howard Hawks and Christian Nyby’s 1951 The Thing from Another World. So now we have two Things that are only tangentially related to the first Thing, although the thing about the third Thing is that it explains how the Thing of the second Thing demolished the Norwegian explorers who were dead by the time that Thing was even a thing. The Thing of the third Thing basically does the same thing we saw it do in the second Thing, so the third Thing probably isn’t for you if the second Thing wasn’t your thing."




Peter Nellhaus said...

Maybe Zacharek made me think of Dr. Suess and his Thing 1 and Thing 2.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

But Seuss left out all the slithering and ooze!