Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Thing that should not be.....

I am a terrible blogger.

 My actual blog posts are pretty nifty, but the frequency with which I blog is pretty poor.

 So without further ado and any excuses, I continue…with what, no doubt will be something with just a little bite of bitterness.

Welcome to my review of the 2011 The Thing prequel.

 Looks oddly familiar.....The Thing 2011

 I have this problem, it is called optimism. It manifests when I begin reading or watching something incredibly awful. I become invested in truly shitty media with the na├»ve notion that “it will get better, it has to get better.” I start to try to convince myself that there are positive parts of a whole that consists of utter crap. With Land of the Dead (which I have still not forgiven George A Romero for, especially since the further two contributions to the living dead franchise have been progressively worse) I celebrated the beautiful creature effects that Greg Nicatero assaulted my gore starved eyeballs with. I give the worst dribbles of unadulterated garbage little get-out clauses for being a good premise or for having neato costumes or anything that my poor mind can scrabble for to justify these complete lemons stealing moments of my life I will never get back.

 This is what I tried to do with The Thing prequel and failed quite spectacularly.

When I first heard that there was going to be a big budget Hollywood outing that would dare touch the sanctity of John Carpenter’s 1982 vision of John W Campbell’s novella “Who Goes There?” I was filled with the kind of blind rage that would fuel fifty little plucky teenage girls that outlive their slutty friends in every single 1980’s stalk and slash movie. I wasn’t exactly surprised, being that pretty much every genre movie with big studio backing that has come out over the last five years has either been a remake or sequel. When I found out that it would be a prequel filling in the back story of the Norwegian team that first encounters the creature, my fury subsided a tad and that creeping optimism managed to dig its razor sharp claws in. As more information was released on the nature of the prequel, the more that distaste in mouth began to return. The inclusion of American characters was my first alarm bell, the second came when it was announced the main character would be American and also a woman.

American woman, stay away from me! American woman, mama let me be! The Thing 2011

 The 1982 version of The Thing is my benchmark for good effects in a horror setting, which is something for a film that celebrates its thirtieth birthday this year. Rob Bottin’s effects were revolutionary in their hideousness and his passion for the project was blinding in every pus soaked malformation and perversion of living flesh. There are facets of those creature designs that are new and never seen before with each viewing and I have been watching this movie for at least twenty-nine of its thirty year existence. I knew that the creature effects in the prequel would be nowhere near the league of Bottin’s nightmares, with thanks to the advent and over-usage of the dreaded CGI that is so prevalent in twenty- first century cinema.

Rob Bottin overcame his lycanthropy to produece some of the best monster design ever. The thing 1982

 So it came as no big surprise, whatsoever, that the CGI fairy took a huge big dump over all of the landscape in The Thing 2011. At no point for the duration of the film did I even get that little buzz of “Oh, nice play there effects folks”, there was no shock, no horror, just a whole heck of a lot of been there, done that, seen that a million times before in every single shitty creature feature that has been tainted by the hand of CGI. It eventually became a game between my husband and I to greet each new incarnation of the creature with where the effects people had blatantly stolen their concept from, “How’s it going Dead Space Necromorph number three!” or “Hola El Plaguas, bit chilly compared to Resident Evil four!” What comes as an even bigger smack in the face for all the hard work of the creature designers is that there are genuine creations of latex and pulley systems under all the post-production layers of computer generated crapola! Sure, it’s possible that maybe the creators of the film thought that maybe the audience would be more interested in the developing characters and thrilling plot, but seriously….both of those areas were starved down to their frosty skeletons.

 You know a film is thin on character development when you don’t remember their names as you’re watching the bloody film. In this particular gem of a polished turd, there was American chick that was Ramona Flowers in the Scott Pilgrim movie (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), “cute” American blond guy that you just know is going to come to a horrible end, guy with big bushy beard, the guy who can’t speak any English who is obviously the survivor because you have seen the 1982 The Thing, the guy who cannot be trusted and…..oh seriously, who gives a flying monkey’s ass about any of these people, they’re all just going to end up being Thing fodder anyway.

Unbelievably, that is a real beard without any CGI enhancements.

 In writing this review I had a peek on Wikipedia to do just a little digging and find out, exactly what the makers of The Thing 2011 were setting out to achieve and I found this little nugget:

 “Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Kate Lloyd, an American vertebrate paleontologist graduate from Columbia University: In order to not try to compete with Kurt Russell's portrayal of the 1982 film's protagonist, R.J. MacReady, the character of Kate Lloyd was designed to have traits in common with the character Ellen Ripley from the Alien film series” 

The writer must have researched the Xenomorph crap out of those concepts, because the only “traits” that Kate Lloyd (so that was her name!) and Ellen Ripley had in common were having dark hair and being female. I think what should have been admitted was that they knew it was impossible to have a character anywhere near the vicinity of being as badass as R.J. MacReady, so they thought they would throw in some boobs.

 No amount of boobs could ever make up for the badassery of this man. The Thing 1982

 Even the obligatory scene where they finally devise a plan to figure out who is The Thing was a turgid little fart of an exercise. The brilliant Dr Ladyface who is an expert in being a token female, somehow discovers that The Thing can only imitate organic matter, so in her blinding brilliance, peeks in the mouth of every survivor with her trusty Maglite flashlight in search of fillings. Obviously this fails and has the tense moment of having half of the freaking team sectioned off, because they have good dental hygiene. Obviously, The Thing “surprises” everyone by showing up in this intense moment of mouth gazing, because having several people all standing around saying “NOT IT!” would force any alien life form masquerading as the local fauna to show itself.

 "Cooee! Here I am!" The Thing 2011

 What made the John Carpenter film so magical, even without the eye gouging effects, was the atmospherics. From the moment the helicopter touches down, the feeling of unease and tension is palpable, it’s like that rotten tooth in the back of your mouth that your tongue just can’t leave alone. Each character is a fully realised individual that carries the story along its hideous path and most importantly, you have no freaking idea where or who The Thing is going to pop up out of next: key elements that this prequel seems to have entirely missed.

 I admit that the 1982 The Thing is something of a sacred cow in my little, twisted heart. No matter how the subject matter would have been handled, I would have had some sort of problem with it, because the Carpenter film is held in such remarkably high regards, but this offer just stumbled with every misplaced step. It didn’t quite miss the mark as completely ignore the mark and careen off towards some other destination that wasn’t even on the map.

 My optimism that usually chirps all the way through until the inevitable roll of credits gave up after the first reveal of the creature, even it knew that there was no way in green hell that I could scrounge any redeemable qualities from this sad and pallid cash in.

 I’m not mad, just disappointed……