My heart is in anguish within me,
the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling come upon me,
and horror overwhelms me.
Director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.’s film has been called a prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 film be cause it ends where Carpenter’s began, with a helicopter chase of a dog. The latter’s film was an ex cellent remake of the 1951 adaptation of a short story by the then greatest of science fiction editor John W. Campbell, Jr. Even though it was 60 years ago, I well remember the suspense and fright while watching that film about the discovery of a crashed space ship and the body of an alien frozen in the ice. The new version, like Carpenter’s, moves the scene from the Arctic to Antarctica, and boasts far more sophisticated science and gruesome special effects—the gory, blood splattered alien’s taking over of the bodies of its victims—so it is not for the squeamish.
As with virtually all horror films, most of the characters exist so as to be the first among the killed, and in this film transformed into a host for the aliens. Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s paleontologist Kate Lloyd will survive to the end, but will any others? The incredible special effects are both fascinating and stomach-churning to watch, the alien at first looking like a combination of a crab and spider, and then as they take over a human body, morphing into something hideous, which we are only too glad to see being burned by a flame thrower. The director succeeds in keeping us on the edge of our seats, as the various characters poke around in the dark in search of their enemies. The ambiguous ending reveals how are times have changed, the original version, made when film censorship was still in effect, ending with the total destruction of the alien. Unlike the Day the Earth Stood Still and a few other sci-fi films, The Thing has no moral or message to impart. It was created for the sheer pleasure of scaring audiences, and in this limited mission the new version succeeds.
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