Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead

A while back I said I really liked Rec 3 and how it was a better film than expected, and also how I hoped it wouldn’t be pre-judged for being a poor sequel. It was a fun film, had a sense of humour about itself and the franchise, but also had good characters and an emotionally driven plot.

So having done that, I feel it is only fair to give a nod to Dead Snow 2. For pretty much the same reasons.

To give some background, the film Dead Snow is a Norwegian cult horror film, where some friends go up a mountain and end up fighting Nazi zombies. There is a historical context for it, revealing that the Nazi soldiers had once controlled this region and been slaughtered by an uprising. They were vicious murderers and greedy looters back then, and nothing had changed for them now they’re undead. They want their gold back and they’ll kill everyone just because. Also, the zombies aren’t slow, gurgling automatons. Rather, these soldiers are armed, quick, deadly. They are presented as highly intimidating early on.

The film itself is fairly Evil Dead 2: a Norwegian zombie retelling. Lots of humour, quick cuts and gore fights. It is a lot of fun as well as a solid horror film.

The sequel continues on from where the original left off. Spoilers here, but the lone survivor, who found a gold coin in his car and then sees the zombie leader outside, manages to escape, taking off the leader’s arm. He had already lost his own during the first story, trying to not turn into one of them after being bitten. That whole sequence was very Sam Raimi inspired, funny as well as wince inducing.

That all becomes important as the character wakes up in hospitable with his arm sewn back on, except it is the arm belonging to the Nazi officer, Herzog. This leads to bloodshed and police involvement, as the arm kills of its own accord, yet the film pushes on beyond this to reveal the Nazis are fulfilling a mission from their previous lives and are intent on destroying a town. Martin, the survivor, has to stop them, and finds out his new arm is not only super strong and bloodthirsty, but can also raise the dead. Both he and Herzog are then building their own forces to face off, culminating in a showdown, where dead Nazis fight dead Commies.

There’s more to this though. I need to mention the Zombie Squad, three Americans who are very geeky but actually quite good at killing the undead. They become involved in this Norwegian skirmish, as does a museum employee, and they’re all quite fun. Best thing is that Martin Starr, aka Gilfoyle from Silicon Valley, is one of the squad. I remember watching the film for some time thinking: wait, is that Gilfoyle? Nah. Looks like his 12-year-old brother at best. But it was him!

So without going on about plots and themes, etc, I want to talk about why I rate this film and think it’s worth watching. Also, why it confounded my own presumptuous nature.

Basically, I saw the trailer for this and swore. I saw Americans in a Norwegian film. I suspected this would be a very American movie. I suspected an American company had got hold of the rights or something and had made some crappy sequel (much like the Descent 2). I saw no reason for this to exist. It looked kind of dumb, as well as just a bunch of random stuff happening. I leapt to my steed of outrage and proclaimed this was some kind of BS sequel for cash and would impair the original!

I ended up watching it anyway, thinking: ah well, if it’s bad, it is bad. Nothing new there. A bad, unnecessary horror sequel. Join the long queue.

Very early on, I got that this was more comedy than horror this time, and it was really enjoying itself. It is still gory, brilliantly so, but the emphasis in tone was certainly more to having a laugh. It isn’t a parody of itself, this isn’t Gremlins 2 or anything, but it does know what it is. Nazi zombies, splatter gore across the camera, jokes and deaths. It goes all out. Many death scenes for nameless characters are pretty unique, or at least striking.

Something I loved quickly, and still do, is how much the film embraces grotesque, horrible humour. This is not a film to enjoy if you don’t like bad things happening to people. Babies are blown up and you hear silly baby noises, making it clear this is comedic, not serious. Early on, you meet an American kid who is all peppy and chatty and just very ‘American kid in a movie’. I did wonder if he’d be a major character, tagging along. But no, he’s dies very quickly. Hilariously too. He isn’t just thrown through a barred window by the zombie arm, but when Martin tries to revive him with CPR, his powerful limb crunches through the boy, spraying blood over Martin’s face. Nope, this film isn’t just about nasty deaths, it makes it very clear this is bad taste humour.

Quick mention of the actor playing Martin, Vegar Heol. He’s really good at humour. I didn’t find him a particularly notable character in the first film, but here he has a lot to do and does it very well. His reaction to a zombie eating its own sick is fantastic.

Oh, got to mention that zombie. He’s a superb example of what this film is aiming for. Basically he is a poor bloke who gets killed by the Nazis. Martin revives him by accident. Then kills him in surprise. Then revives him again, then he is killed by an axe to the face as the Zombie Squad arrive. Then he is revived again. If you’re noticing a pattern, well, it keeps going. The poor sod gets killed and revived several times, and often gets the rough end of things besides that. Being used as traction is never good for you.

The film has a very fun yet also weirdly kind of emotional ending, but I refuse to give that away.

So Dead Snow 2 is a much better sequel than you may think. I wouldn’t put it up there with Gremlins 2, yet, I have to admit, it isn’t far behind. I really enjoyed it. Reminds me of the twisted humour of Peter Jackson’s Braindead (called Dead Alive by North Americans). I liked the characters a lot. The American geeks are a bit on the nose, sure, with the Star Wars references, but nothing that put me off, and I tend to have a low tolerance for that kind of thing. The film is in Norwegian often, also spoken in English other times, so if you’re not a fan of subtitles, well, you’re missing out on a lot of great films.

Dead Snow was a really good horror zombie film, with good comedy and striking gore. I loved it, have it on DVD, seen it a few times.

Dead Snow 2 is more focused on being funny, on pushing the edges of decency, and doesn’t bog itself down in explaining what is going on. Herzog and his men are Nazis, they are trying to complete their mission, Martin has a zombie arm. That’s it. The film does kind of counter some of the stuff from the first one, I guess, where they were only loot hoarders. Doesn’t matter much.

Anyway, if you like horror comedy, watch Dead Snow. If you can handle it and want more, especially if you want the comedy turned up to eleven, then watch the sequel. You might be grossed out. You should be really, and appalled at killing kids, but feel free to laugh too. It’s just a movie. A surprisingly good one.

Well holy shit, in checking facts and names about the film, I found that Stig Frode Henriksen, who plays the repressed museum employee, was also in the first movie as one of the friends. Had to check and, wow, yes it is him, can see it now, but would never have recognised him. Fair play, mate.

REC 3: Genesis – Better Than You Think

I should be writing more Sojourners in Shadow, yet last night I watched Rec 3: Genesis, and I felt impelled to champion this film a bit. So I am.

The first film is one of the few first-person horrors I think works quite well. Ambitious and pushy reporter and her cameraman, stuck in an apartment block where terrible things start to happen. Really great film. The Spanish do really good horror and this is one of the best I’ve seen. The American remake, Quarantine, is okay.

Then came the sequel. I watched it, was okay as well. Did a few different perspectives, built on the story a bit. Had a few good shocks. But honestly, if you had seen Rec, then Rec 2, there’s a good chance you’d never bother with a third film. Which is why I want to say this:

Watch it. No, really, watch it. It’s fun.

Wait, fun? The first two are very serious films. Dark, terrifying, macabre.

So here’s the thing with the third film. It starts off at a wedding. This is the tough part you have to get through. I can see why it goes on, so you get to know people, why they matter – to you as the audience and to each other – but it goes on for sometime. You have a teenager (cousin to the groom I think, I can’t rightly remember) filming things, along with a professional. So it’s first-person and showing you this wedding, where you know things are about to go very bad. Once you see the uncle with a bandaged hand, you really know.

So yeah, wedding stuff, character stuff, and then biting and screaming. Things go nuts. A few run into the kitchen and lock themselves in. The main character, the groom, turns to the camera and asks why the man is still filming. The world must know!, he replies. Groom loses his shit, grabs the camera and smashes it. Then the Rec 3 title comes up. After about 20 minutes. Yeah, 20.

But when the film starts up, it’s third-person, and that’s how it remains (barring a crawl through the dark via nightvision). Basically, this third film highlights the absurdity of someone filming while people are dying and struggling to survive, smashes the camera and goes to third. It throws aside the perspective of the first films. Not only that, but you start to realise the tone is very different. When I first saw this moment (trust me, it works a lot better than I describe) I laughed out loud. I had only watched the film to check it out, with nothing better to do; having seen the sequel and not liked it, I wasn’t too bothered. I let it run through the build up, then that moment happened. I knew something was different from then on.

So Rec 3 quickly reveals itself to be a comedy horror, much more akin to the Evil Dead and Shaun of the Dead than the previous Rec films. A man in the kitchen is uncovered to be someone checking the music played at the wedding for copyright, and is thus dubbed Royalties. Hey, Royalties, come help. But the groom is the focus. He wants to be with his new wife, and when he is panicking, she speaks over an intercom, and this gives him all the drive he needs. Time to escape and find his love!

That is the film. She is newly pregnant, she tells him this over the intercom, and both find new strength to re-unite. There’s a great moment where the bride is in a room and the zombiefied beings are clawing their way in and she is scared as hell, but she clutches her stomach and gets to action, finding a way out.

There’s a lot to love in this film and that is one of them: the main couple get scared, a lot, freaked out even, but they keep on. These aren’t badasses, they are normal people. This is a nightmare. The bride is standing in the rain at one point and her eyes are wide as hell as she is waiting, struggling to cope. But she finds a way.

If you ever wanted to watch a bride charge around with a chainsaw, then watch this film. If you ever wanted to see people be sensible, gear up in armour and go out into the undead, then watch this film. Drunken making out is mistaken for someone being devoured. There are meaningful characters and comedic ones to come and go. There are serious deaths and funny ones. There is tragedy and humour. You get the idea.

You get to meet SpongeJohn. No, not SpongeBob, not at all. Just to be clear. No lawsuits here. SpongeJohn.

I really enjoyed watching this film for a third time last night. I only meant to see a bit, but it really got to me, once again, how fun it is, while keeping the horror. It doesn’t really add much to the lore, just enough to remind you that these are possessed people, not zombies, and that religion/faith plays a part.

I should warn anyone who does watch this film that the ending isn’t funny. I mean maybe in a dark and tragic way. I don’t want to spoil, but this is a horror movie after all.

I admired how, in making a third of this franchise, they just went a different route. Reminds me of Gremlins 2. Let’s just get wacky and turns things up to 11.

I will add that this is the third film that comes to mind when I think of Spanish horror comedies that I’ve greatly enjoyed. I’m not sure if the titles stay the same but the other two films were Attack of the Werewolves along with Witching and Bitching. Both very funny. A SpongeBob gets gunned down early on in the latter, if that’s something you’ve ever wanted to see. Both I found to be very witty in dialogue and amusing in action, and pretty good on the horror too.

Rec is a very intense and scary film. I like it a lot. Seen it a number of times now and will likely watch it again in the future. Rec 3 is no match for it in terms of horror, but it’s very different, and certainly a better watch than Rec 2. For me, at least. So I’d ask anyone who didn’t like that film to not judge the third by it. Give Rec 3 a chance. Just remember, there’s a fair bit of wedding stuff to sit through, then you’re in.

Let’s hear it for the Bride and Groom!

Terminator Just Gets Worse

I watched Terminator Genisys last night. I previously thought that the third Terminator film was the worst, with Salvation not far ahead of it. Now I know we have a new low for the franchise. Honestly, this movie felt half romcom, half buddycop rather than reigniting the Terminator world. Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor could have been played by Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

I could bitch about the issues I had with this film, how I exclaimed several times at the stupidity of it and how fed up I was by the end. I kind of enjoyed it at first, but it lost me big time in the final third. A lot like Avengers: Age of Ultron. But I won’t bother ranting or whining. Won’t do no good, no how.

What I wanted to comment on was body type and look. Specifically, that of Kyle Reese.

In the original film, Michale Biehn played him. He looked like someone from a post-apoc world, a survivor, a scavenger and scurrier among the rubble. Basically, Biehn was scrawny while muscular. He looked like someone who ate little on a regular basis and was ripped in a natural way due to running, fighting and doing whatever else was needed to survive. He looked the part.

I’ll also mention that I loved his performance. He has wild eyes, bad dreams, sharp instincts. He draws you in as Kyle Reese, out of his time, possibly almost out of his mind, yet a tough, driven soldier.

But back to look. I have nothing against Jai Courtney. I like him and still feel the pain of Varro’s execution. But when I saw his body, and we get several nice body shots in this film, he never looked like he came from a post-apoc world of brutal existence. Sure he had some scars slapped on. But physically he looked like someone who eats well and works out. Which I’m sure the actor does in real life.

To me, this is common in films. They glamorise people and things too. When you watch a movie set in medieval times, you rarely see the natives with rotting teeth or lice, unless they’re depicting a group as much more mucky and loathsome than usual. When people die, their bowels are evacuated. That’s not something we want on the big screen. Movies sanitise reality for us. They also make it look fancy.

Kyle Reese looking this way isn’t a surprise. But it did highlight what I felt was wrong with the film overall. Sure, redo scenes from the earlier films. Reuse the famous lines. But the tone was never the same. There was a grim aspect to the first film. A realistic look, or at least as realistic as films can be.

Oh, I was also annoyed that Sarah Connor from the 80s sounded more like someone from today.

Anyway, Kyle Reese fitted the world I was being sold in the original film. Michael Beihn was a perfect choice. Humans living day to day, meal to meal, in a horrific war with machines should look like he did. Or the ones who could survive it would. It has often been how I imagine most people would look in a post-apoc world setting when I write fiction. Lean, tough, grizzled, wary. But this new movie gave me a nice looking chap who spent much of his time in witty banter.

I will say I did enjoy Arnie a lot and I thought the film did some new, exciting moves with the T-1000. Especially liked the cut a piece off, let it spin, catch and throw move.

But yeah, didn’t like this one at all. Important note: when selling people on a make-believe reality, try to not make it very obvious how make-believe it is. Fake yet realistic. Artificial but fitting. Characters should look the part, sound the part, act the way the time and role would have them be. I really don’t think it is too much to want.

Oh damn, just had one more thought I have to mention as I was going to end this. Reese stealing a homeless man’s trousers. In the original, this is done and, while it got a snicker from teenage me, it helps us to know and understand Reese. He has no problem taking the clothes from a homeless man. On the one hand that shows he has no qualms about getting dirty, and at the same time he is equally lacking in qualms at taking from others. Reese is a survivor and soldier, so he takes what he can, when he can, in order to complete his mission. Stealing from a homeless person is really low in our world, yet he is from another time and place, where he has to be ruthless to live.

In this new film, it becomes a running gag. Grrrr.

Cinema Experiences

I have never been a big cinema goer. I get engrossed in movies and feel far more comfortable doing so alone or with few others, without distractions. I want to think and analyse and soak it all in. I watched the Lord of the Rings at home on DVD and I wouldn’t want to change that. The first I watched alone and was utterly absorbed by it.

Mind you, my wife is a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings and one day soon we’ll watch it all in one day together. That should be great.

Last summer she and I went to the cinema a couple of times. It was a small one and quiet, about twenty or so people in there at best. We saw Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Guardians of the Galaxy. I enjoyed them both, even if my wife is loud when she sobs or glees over something.

But in my younger years my family went to a much bigger cinema and saw some big blockbusters. The place was packed and I hated going there and coming out, but once I got settled I felt secure and ready to absorb another story. Or at least have my eardrums pounded by the speakers.

We mainly saw Star Trek movies because my uncle and aunt were huge Trek fans and they loved going to see them with us. My dad and I were Trek fans too. This made me like the Next Generation films a lot more than I would have alone. The audience enjoyed the banter of the characters and some of the set-ups. As I have watched those films since, I’ve found myself barely able to tolerate them. Especially after watching some of Mr Plinkett’s reviews. The point about TV Picard vs Movie Picard was spot on.

Still, people had a good time and so I did too.

The same went for watching the Phantom Menace (speaking of Pinkett). I saw that in the cinema and, well, I had a good time. We laughed at Jar-Jar (don’t hate me, I was swept up with the crowd!) and the end fight was pretty cool. However – and this is an important moment for me as a movie nut that I only realised later on in life – as soon as we were in the car, I did start complaining about a few things to my younger brother. Small things, like the bigger fish bit being repeated. He looked at me and muttered: You take movies too seriously.

He was right, of course.

I still have a bit of liking for the Phantom Menace. Oh I know it is a poorly thought out plot with annoying characters. But I find the simple and direct story an okay watch. The other two films I had no enthusiasm to watch and only did so when I got round to it. Neither worked for me. Probably because they were more about the bigger picture, telling a tale I already knew the outcome to. I can give a crappy scifi film a pass if it keeps things more simple and focused. After all, I grew up on science fiction most would despise today. Cheap effects, stereotypical characters, goofy music. Still, I loved them. I watched Roger Corman’s Space Raiders not long ago. It was daft but I couldn’t help enjoying it. So many deaths! Fun times.

So back to the cinema stuff, I have to relate a story while watching the Phantom Menace. We were at the big fight and had just seen Darth Maul kill Quids-In Gin, or whatever. Obi is mad but then is hanging from that thing, whatever that was. Darth Maul is glowering and growling. Suddenly Obi flips up, catches the light saber and cuts Darth Maul in half.

This bloke a few rows back yells in a hushed voice: Yes!

Everyone around us heard him. Everyone laughed.

I know that film is poor and I’d much rather watch Mr Plinkett’s review of it than the movie itself, but I do remember that moment fondly. I love knowing someone was so into the film that they had to let that out. Just had to exclaim it, but still tried to keep quiet. Good for you, man.

I did see Return of the Jedi when I was very young too. I have no real recollection of viewing it though. I just remember my brother and I running about pretending to fly ships and shoot each other. We must have driven everyone around us mad.

Another vivid memory I have is watching the Mask. Us Brits had no idea who Jim Carrey was back then. I didn’t even know I had seen him before! Turns out I had seen Earth Girls Are Easy and a few others he was in. Oh, only recently I watched a vampire movie which was kind of a sex comedy too, and I found that was him. Oddly enough, my uncle and aunt had put this film on one time while we were staying with them. They chatted with my parents at the dining table as my brother and I watched it. Basically we were at that age where we didn’t get half the jokes and didn’t want to let the adults know we knew the other half. It didn’t really stick in the mind until I came across it on tv recenly, and I had to go: Is that Jim Carrey?!

So yeah, we sit and watch this movie (the Mask) we only know has this green faced loon in. I always remember the mood. Everyone was still and relaxed. Things were ticking along. We meet Stanley, Milo his dog, his best friend at the bank, etc. You could just sense people urging the movie forward.

Then he puts the mask on. Wow, the energy level leapt up in the cinema in a second. This was what everyone had come to see! People were laughing and buzzing as the madness was let loose. When the mask was off, people calmed down, but they had had a taste now and you could sense people were still excited for the next time. It came. People loved the big musical number.

What I will say about the strength of the movie was that by the end, I actually cared about Stanley as a character and not about him as the Mask. That other side was fun but ego-centric and reckless. I think the audience went that way too. By the end, everyone was giddy having laughed a lot and, I think, cared a lot. Not many movies I have been to see have left a crowd that way.

There are a lot of things about going to the cinema that still aren’t for me. I was annoyed at having to watch Guardians of the Galaxy in 3-D, and having to pay extra for something I didn’t want. But there have been some films that would never have got me without that crowd atmosphere. There are some experiences I’m glad I had.

Oh, but that time I threw up on myself in the back of my uncle’s car on the way to a film, not so good. Had to change on the side of the road and everything. No idea what that movie even was! Would have been fitting if it had been Star Trek: Generations.

Another Rotten Sequel

So a while ago I posted about movies that piss me off, which pretty much consisted of sequels and remakes.

Well now I have another to add to that list:

The Last Exorcism: Part Two.

Now the first one wasn’t perfect. I didn’t like where it ended up, for various reasons. But overall it was a really good film. The main character was a highly likable individual who you grew to care about. There was plenty of ambiguity, if you really suspect something is up so you lean toward genuine possession. The reveal for what is truly going on is a wonderfully subtle and simple one liner. The ambiguity is my favourite part of the movie, I was really guessing all the way, and then that is thrown out at the end. That’s mainly why I dislike the ending. Still, overall I really appreciated that film a lot.

I have just watched the second. Okay, so I didn’t expect it to be anything that good, but it is a feeble cashgrab with jump scares (well, attempted ones) and an ending that made the first film’s conclusion shine with ingenuity by comparison. It was good to see the actress back and she’s pretty good in both, but this film reminds me of those other sequels I despise because it feels so different from the original. Where the first film was an interesting and different horror film, driven mainly by the main character’s charm and likability, your concern for the girl and your questions about the situation overall, this is just spooky shit happens, then more, then some stuff, and then end. Noting new, nothing impressive. No interesting characters. It feels like exactly what it is, a bland addition to a strong movie for bucks. Which irks me. It was boring, it was obvious and it gave me no humanity to fear for or real threat to fear. So I felt it was worth mentioning along with the list I had presented before, although I don’t think it would make it.

It would sit well with the Descent Two. Pointless, bland, generic, lacking any of the first’s personality, and a sequel you really didn’t think the first would ever lead to.

Sneaky Zombies

So I’m a zombie fan. Well, the movies, not the creatures themselves. I have never gotten the fandom about them. They lack the personality of a vampire or the ferocity of a werewolf. A single zombie is pretty unimpressive. What works is the unstoppable sense of doom. That’s also why I prefer slow zombies to the newer, faster upgrades. When I see a character stuck somewhere and the zombies are slowly, slowly closing in, that is awful to watch. Death is inevitably coming, and taking its damn sweet time about it.

But what I really like about zombie movies is the breakdown of society. In that sense, zombies or mutants or cannibal humans – whatever it is that brings us down and sets us against each other – that’s what fascinates me.

Going back to zombies, however, I must declare a serious pet peeve of mine.

No one, no half decently aware human being, should be surprised by a zombie.

You see it all the time in films and shows, but it shouldn’t happen unless set in very specific circumstances. Zombies are not sneaky. They don’t see a human and start tiptoeing over. They grunt and groan on a regular basis. They stumble. They would also smell. I mean smell bad. They’re dead so that means an evacuation of the bowels has taken place, plus they are often rotting away. You should smell that bastard coming a mile off.

Okay, so there can be certain circumstances in which this would be overcome. For instance, if you were in a building which had a lot of dead lying about, the smell from them would blot out that of a single zombie. You could have a situation where there is a lot of noise to cancel out the stumbling stomping of the undead – such as the helicopter blades whirring in the Dawn of the Dead original. Trying to make your way through a world overrun by zombies, you would find yourself in moments of vulnerability to the usual warning signs.

Yet, if you were a survivor and fighter, tackling the every day dangers of a zombie-plagued world, you would soon learn to become more aware the more ways there could be for you to be attacked. If sound is blanked out by noise, keep an eye out. If the smell is overpowering, well, not sure how you could stand being near it but again, be alert. Essentially, if the senses that are your natural early warning system have any trouble, keep those peepers peeled. Even then, having sound and smell blotted out would be rare, and zombies are still stumbling buffoons. A human should not be sneaked up on unless they’re stuck in really bad circumstances or an idiot.

But the single zombie sneak up continues to be a thing. It bugs the hell out of me. I mean, I accept it. It is a cliched thing that is going to happen and keep on happening. It is a tiresome way of getting a quick scare. Just like the walking murderer somehow getting ahead of the running victim or the car that won’t start for no good reason. Even so, for some reason every time I see it my brain has to gripe. It just shouldn’t happen. It is a highly forced contrivance.

Oh, and so is the peripheral vision failure. That happens a lot in zombie movies too but also in other horror. A character looks one way, then another, then back and SURPRISE!! I mean, again, no way you don’t notice a zombie that close, but definitely you see it out the corner of one eye. Vampires can get away with it a bit, you might suspect there is something supernatural going on to make them stealthy, but it happens way too often.

Anyway, jump scares are annoying and it bugs me when they are forced on the audience in a dumb way. It isn’t anything to get worked up about beyond a random blog post, but if you do have a movie or tv show where a unlikely zombie sneak-up occurs, don’t expect me to feel for that character as they expire in your fictional post-apoc world. That character is either an idiot or you are lazy at your job. Perhaps both.

Movies that Piss me Off (Part Two)

Back for more:

Okay, so here we go. The Thing.

Actually, a pit stop. Right now I am watching the remake of the Evil Dead. I’m a big fan of the Evil Dead series and I wasn’t thrilled to learn of this film’s existence. Seventy minutes in and it has a bunch of lines from the original, copied scenes too, and other gimmicks you’d expect from a remake. But it is actually decent. The idea of someone trying to ‘cold turkey’ from drugs being a comparison with demonic possession is an interesting one. Yes, it is another remake I don’t think needs to exist, but seeing as it does, I don’t mind it too much. I won’t watch this one nearly as many times as I have the original, but hey, I won’t avoid it. Probably.

So back to the Thing. Oh how I despise thee. One of the main reasons being your name. They couldn’t even bother to use something else. So now, when I say the Thing is one of my favourite movies, I have to specify that I mean the John Carpenter movie, not the remake. Ah ha, someone might say. It isn’t a remake, it is a prequel. True, I would respond, but it is pretty much just a remake, and it was meant to be one at first. Maybe if it had been I wouldn’t have minded so much. But the fact it is a prequel…. Well, that just pisses me off to no end (Big Trouble reference).

Now the Thing, the first one, is a great movie. Claustrophobic. Paranoid. Scifi and horror. A cluster of characters who stand out, butt heads and play off each other. Childs, the hothead. Palmer, the weed-smoking conspiracy theorist. Blair, the scientist who sees it coming. Clark, the man who seems indifferent to anyone but the dogs. McReady, the loner in his shack who hates losing to his computer. The soundtrack sends shivers down me. I mean it really does. I love that …. dun dun … dun dun … that Ennico Morricone came up with.

When it comes to the new one, I have little idea of who and what the characters are. Lars stood out, who is a combination of Childs and Clark. But this movie isn’t interested in giving you a group of intriguing or appealing, or even unappealing, individuals for you to fear for as their numbers dwindle. No, it is Norwegian No. 3 getting killed. Then Norwegian No. 7 turns out to be the Thing and dealt with, yet maybe No. 4 and No. 8 are too. Who knows? Who cares?

We have a young American woman, an arrogant Danish man, and some others who are kind of notable, like a British bloke who is all British like. Plus Lars. But none of it matters. This movie is a copy of the first with none of the atmosphere or characters. Much like the other remakes I have mentioned. We get an attempt at the brilliant testing scene with people being checked for fillings. As much as I did like Lars a bit, seeing him shove a flamethrower in men’s faces was just comical. Surprised he didn’t singe his own beard. Also the filling thing doesn’t make much sense. Wouldn’t the Thing have gaps in the teeth to put them back in? Couldn’t it reshape itself to do so? Shouldn’t it know, having absorbed someone and knowing what they know, what those things are or even maybe think about removing evidence?

Or maybe the fact I have no fillings makes me biased against the test. Damn dental bigotry!

This is a dumb movie that does nothing but throw random jumps and deaths at the audience. The main character cannot carry it either. Her rise to leadership is poorly executed. She, a young American female, ends up telling this bunch of beardy Scandinavians what to do. No. You need to earn that. I almost bought her team up with Lars, although her being sent off with the single person who spoke no English was daft, not mentioning how risky it was to go somewhere with just one other. I’m pretty sure they had even declared not to go anywhere with someone else.

Going back to the proper Thing, we see McReady take charge. Why? Well there is a command structure there but it is quickly overthrown by suspicion and paranoia. Garry was a weak leader anyway, while the scientific minds of Blair and Copper are deemed unreliable for different reasons. So we have three alpha males enter the fray: McReady, Childs and Clark. Yet Clark is too introverted to take charge; the strong, silent type. Childs wants it, he reaches for Garry’s gun. Clark stops him, threatening him with his knife. MacReady takes the gun. Mac is a loner and often seems fed up with being asked questions or to do things. But now someone has to take charge, and it is not going to be Childs. If anything, Mac’s and Clark’s issue with Childs settles the matter, and they’re not fond of each other either. Mac becomes the new leader due to others being set aside, his own qualities and the group dynamic. Even then, his authority is challenged and he only gets to oversee the test thanks to a bundle of dynamite.

In the prequel (remake!) there is none of this. She just starts calling the shots. Why? Maybe because she’s the American and we need American audiences to cheer someone on, and who could cheer on foreigners? Maybe because she’s the recognisable star (kind of)? Maybe it was a feminism thing? Doesn’t matter. It could be all three or none. You need it to work within the world you have set, within the group, due to character development and interaction. None of that occurs. There is more reason for the others there to not listen to her. But the foreigner they don’t know starts giving orders because why not? Just like the movie overall. Things happen because things have to happen. Who cares about originality, creativity, character development or believability?

However, as I mentioned earlier, this movie would be a mere annoyance – much like other Carpenter remakes such as Assault on Precinct 13 and the Fog – if it was just a remake. The fact they moved it to being a prequel is what bothers me. If you have never watched these movies, if you’re young or new to scifi/horror, and you feel like checking out the Thing, you might want to watch them in order. You may sit down, check out the prequel, then the Carpenter version. If you do, you lose out. You’ll watch an average movie and then sit and watch something special, only by then it will feel like deja vu. You’ll see the same shit. What’s worse, the eerie visit to the Norwegian camp made by Mac and Doc won’t mean anything. That section is something that was never meant to be told. That visit is foreshadowing, warning the characters as well as the audience of what is to come, and yet it is also meant to baffle. They see a dead man, wrists and throat slit, and ask themselves what could have driven him to it, and so do you. They see something weird, almost human, and cannot fathom what it might be. As do you, the audience. But with the prequel watched, the characters’ shocked confusion is not echoed by us. You know what this is all about, and yet nothing in that prequel really explained anything. The Brit character who slit himself open, well, no idea why he did that. The visit to the Norwegians is meant to set up the rest of the tale. It is foreshadowing. This prequel robs a first time viewer of that, as well as hampers the film overall.

So fuck the Thing prequel. Again, I don’t hate this miserable work. It is shallow and dull and predictable, but nothing more. But I do resent, strongly, the damage it has done to a film I revere.

Oh, and Scary Movie 5 was really bad. I’m a sucker for spoofs and can watch the others, but that one was just shit. Shit, I say!