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The Thing - The Ex-Communicator

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December 4th, 2011


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09:06 pm - The Thing
The new prequel to The Thing is called The Thing, which is gonna make this brief review a little bit confusing.

John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) is one of my favourite films. Literally in the top ten ever. I love it. I nearly didn't go to see this prequel because I knew it couldn't match up. The reviews have not been that good.

But it was pretty good. It's not going to be in my top 10 or anything, but it was a decent horror/SF film. And there are so many bad ones.

I was concerned, from the trailer, that the individual humans were not as well differentiated as the crew in the original (and in Alien). However, they were a little more individualised than I expected, and probably more realistic as the crew of an Antarctic base than the varied bunch in Carpenter's film. Also, I really like that Nordic type, so I was pretty happy with the view from the stalls. Early in the film the American hero says to the American heroine 'Better get this done in the next couple of days. There's a storm coming (ruh-roh). You don't want to get snowed in with twelve Norwegians'. Hmmm... debatable.

Famously John W Campbell's original story 'Who goes there?' has been the subject of 'queer reading'. See for example Wendy Pearson Alien Cryptographies (follow the link to the whole thing if you are unfamiliar - well worth a read).
'Each of us with an eye on the other to make sure he doesn’t do something — peculiar.'('Who goes there?')

The fear of the perfect imitation, undetectable even within an environment as intimate as the camp, resonates with the fear that the gay male can imitate "real" men so perfectly as to pass undetected in the most masculine of environments. The imitation should be detectable—written on the body of the gay man pretending to be straight—yet he remains undetectable. (Alien Cryptographies)

This unconscious fear is made explicit in the process of conversion:
The conversion from human to alien is figured in bodily terms that are reminiscent of the sexual act. The men, caught in the monster’s gaze, are passive victims of its alien seductions... The moment of alien takeover is... figured in terms of both consumption and consummation: the alien inserts a part of its substance into the men, taking them over completely. (AC)

Whether or not you think this reading is warranted by the source, this new version of The Thing is certainly influenced by it. The take-over process is more penetrative and similar to copulation, oral invasion, etc than in the 1982 film. The monster takes the form - as it rampages around the base - of two naked handsome men, fused grotesquely into one another laterally (this is not as sexy as you might think). I would say there is no doubt that first-time director Matthijs van Heijningen has adopted the metaphor pretty whole-heartedly. Not sure what his intention is, perhaps just to make a film which is knowing of its antecedents, assuming audience sophistication.

Talking about 'knowing its antecedents': the leading woman is Ripley, near as dammit, without of course having Sigourney Weaver's fantastic physical charisma (but who has?). The final footage (stay to watch the credits) segues seamlessly into the first footage of The Thing - they must have got permission to use the material. A very accomplished merging into The Other (the other film that is)

Oh, and I must just say that the last bit, just before that confident final flourish, is rather poor. The last fifteen minutes or so loses something by trying to be a bit too SF and fancy. Never mind. Overall, a much better film than I expected.

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[User Picture]
From:tehomet
Date:December 5th, 2011 10:36 am (UTC)
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Thanks for the review.

Early in the film the American hero says to the American heroine 'Better get this done in the next couple of days. There's a storm coming (ruh-roh). You don't want to get snowed in with twelve Norwegians'. Hmmm... debatable.

*G*

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