It's a twin thing

There’s something about 1982’s TheThing (rating 4/5) that affects me now in ways that failed to grab me back when Ifirst encountered it as a teenager. It’s a cold, draughty and dragging film.It’s sludgy, unforgiving and a bit of an effort. It’s, well... brilliant,really. If you never thought a monster movie could feel in any way realistic,this one’ll leave you sprawled face-down in the ice. I’ve heard that wintercrews at Antarctic outposts watch it when all the home flights have left forcivilization. That’s pretty brave! We’re talking about a film where the onlycomic relief is the borderline hysteria brought on by its ever more extreme anddisgusting developments. Kurt Russell is incredible in it, delivering aperformance that’s 87% beard and cowboy hat, but which somehow holds the wholething together. Not that it’s in danger of falling apart: the idea’s neat, thescript solid, and John Carpenter’s direction note-perfect in its mixture ofchilly observation and steaming relish. You’ll probably have questionsafterwards, but that’s one of its strengths. It’s a film that encourages debate; that wants you to work at it and pick itapart. And then it wants you to puke.

The new The Thing(3/5) slavishly fills in the backstory of Carpenter’s original, attempting to explainhow each snowmobile came to be standing in which particular snow-coveredparking spot of that abandoned Norwegian base; how each individual icicleformed on each particular overhang; and many other thrilling enigmas barelyworth wasting another semicolon on. One thing it doesn’t explain is why the Thing itself – formerly an unutterablysquelchy dollop of melted face and hyperactive spaghetti – is now a smooth, shinydigital effect that never stands still long enough to let you get a decent lookat it. Neither does it explain why the Thing doesn’t just give all thatmutating a rest for, like, five minutes and pass itself off as a dog longenough to escape triumphantly into the wilderness like a more evil LittlestHobo... Hey, Miss Thing, I found myself thinking in a sassy voice, just rent Invasion of the Body Snatchers if youwant to see how a self-replicating pod-person really gets shit done!

All of which got me wondering why this Thing had to be called “The Thing” again, when even “The ThingAgain” would’ve been a better title. This is, after all, a proper prequel ratherthan a remake – a touch of mild novelty surely worth pointing out by way of amore imaginative title. I suggest The NewThing... Oh no, that’s wrong. Technically, it’s The Old Thing... although that makes it sound like the originalfilm again. How about Before the Thing?First Things First? The Thing-ummy? Baby Thing? That Thing You Do? (Hmm, maybe The Thing wasn’t such a bad title, after all...) 

It’s not a bad film, either, being enjoyable in the mannerof a Resident Evil movie, andchallenging us to accept Mary Elizabeth Winstead as a leading 1980s palaeontologistin a way that’s so serenely audacious it’s actually entertaining in itself. Asa monster movie, it’ll likely be as much of a relic as The Relic in ten years’ time, having had as much deep impact on thesci-fi genre as, er Deep Impact. But,if the worst it does is drive you back into the squiggly arms of the original Thing, then that’s no bad thing. (Hmm...The Bad Thing? No... stop that now!)

Let’s turn our attention instead to Seconds Apart (2/5), a sort of telekinetic torture-porn slasher moviethat weds Carrie and Willard in ways that make less sensethan this sentence. The film features Edmund and Gary Entin as twins – bothevil, both psychic, and both able to command other people to kill themselvesagainst their will – and Orlando Jones as a detective who’s scarred bothphysically and mentally after leaving his wife to frazzle in a house fire. Saiddetective is investigating said twins following a spate of suspicious suicides,while said backstory allows flashbacks that pad out the running time.

Yes, Seconds Aparthas interesting ideas but fails to do anything very appealing with them. Itsidea of style could be described as “tones of decay and some stuff with asnowglobe” – which is probably a direct quote from the script. What it reallycould’ve done with is the colourful, black-humoured histrionics of a Tim Burtonrip-off like the aforementioned Willard(and I believe that may be the first time Willardhas ever been aforementioned) or May. Or an actual Tim Burton film like EdwardScissorhands. Or perhaps any film that takes its title from the name of itsmain character, with the possible exception of Rocky

Ooh! And The Thing!