Dr. Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) brings the heat in "The Thing".

Dr. Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) brings the heat in "The Thing".

These days, there are two words that can strike fear into the hearts of many movie goers: “horror remake” – especially if those words are immediately followed by the words “from Platinum Dunes.” Usually, these words mark yet another pointless, vapid journey into tedium, 90 minutes that add nothing to the original story and are often worse than what they were trying to improve upon. However, there are rare occasions when Hollywood puts out a remake out that successfully updates and adds to the original.

Such is the case with “the Thing”.

“The Thing” is a prequel to the 1982 film by John Carpenter of the same name, which itself was a remake of the 1954 movie, “The Thing From Another World”. In it, paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is asked by her friend Adam (Eric Christian Olsen) to join a Norwegian science team in Antarctica that has made a remarkable discovery. With little details and even less time to decide, she accepts the offer and travels to the bottom of the world to see what the scientists have found. The secret hiding beneath the ice is a spaceship thousands of years old. And an alien. While Kate advises caution in regards to the alien, the head of the Norwegian team, Dr. Halversen (Ulrich Thomsen) insists on getting invasive tissue samples. Things seem okay for a time but soon the dritt really hits the fan when the alien escapes.

Director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr’s first foray into feature film territory is a fine one. Perhaps it’s a regional trademark, but the feel of the movie reminded me a lot of the Swedish film, “Let the Right One In”. The colors are cool and the exteriors are beautifully shot. In close, he did a great job of creating a tense and claustrophobic atmosphere. The actors are solid across the board. Winstead – a new favorite of mine since her turn in “Scott Pilgrim vs the World” does a top-notch job as the paleontologist forced into a heroic, leader role. Joel Edgerton – last seen in the MMA-drama “Warrior” – is a serviceable stand-in for Kurt Russell-like pilot. A good chunk of the rest of the cast are Norwegian actors that I’m not terribly familiar with and, to me, they add a nice yet subtle layer of realism to the film. Early on, as they are setting up the story, all of the dialogue is in Norwegian. Big deal, you may say but it’s not a far stretch to imagine them doing the entire sequence in heavily-accented English. I happen to think it makes a positive difference.

If there is anything that I’m on the fence about, it would be the amount that this film cribs from Carpenter’s version. As a prequel that takes place immediately before the events in his film, it’s understandable that the feel is similar and that Heijningen went to great lengths to recreate it. However, there were points in the film where they not just copied the look, but also the scenes. It occasionally felt like a disappointing stumble as this film walked a fine line between paying homage and outright copying from what came before it. Genre fans will probably have a good time picking out all the nods to the Carpenter version and non-fans will just have a great movie to watch.

“The Thing” is a lot like finding a great hangout in a seedy looking little bar or a four star meal in a little mom and pop joint. Maybe you’re not expecting much from the first glance but if you take the time to investigate, you may just find yourself a real gem.