I wonder if at any point during the making of this film anyone went “why are we doing this? Like, isn’t this just a complete waste of everyone’s time?” But, I bet people are just happy to be working making a film, and those questions will only come out when the finished product is revealed. But, we’ve not got to that yet!
The 1982 version of the film is one of my favourite horror films ever – I still fondly remember my friend Dave, when he worked at the local cinema, getting them to show it one Halloween. I’ll try and avoid making too many comparisons between the two films, although towards the end I think it’s going to become inevitable.
A guy who looks weirdly familiar to me interrupts the science-y work of Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and asks her to come to the South Pole. Turns out some mining fellas have found a buried spaceship which has been there for 100,000 years or so, and they need her paleontological skills to identify…an alien! One of the blighters managed to escape from the stricken UFO but has been frozen in place for god knows how long. Well, 100000 years, minus a day or two, I suppose.
So far, so good. Who is that boss scientist fella? Never mind. They bring the alien back to their base and have a debate – Winstead says they should leave it and take it back to civilization to study it, boss scientist says they should take a tissue sample right now. Drilling into it evidently wakes it up, slowly, as a few hours later, while the “we found an alien” party is in full swing, it smashes out of the block of ice, and the main part of the film is ON!!!!
Part of the genius of the 1982 film was the sense of dread, along with the groundbreaking-for-the-time special effects. The alien could transform itself into anyone, so there was always that tension when someone left the room, or the group got split up. Hey, I tried not to compare things too much, but I couldn’t help myself. This film has the same alien, obviously, but he seems to be a lot less clever. I’ll give you an example. Later on in the film, there’s a helicopter which is taking a sick guy back to McMurdo, and one of the people on the helicopter is alien-ed up. Rather than just not alerting people to the fact he wants to eat their entire race, he transforms into his alien self and attacks them, destroying the final method of transportation out of the remote ice-station. Seems a bit stupid to me.
The film then gradually works its way through its multi-racial cast. We’ve got a British guy, a bunch of Norwegians, some Americans, and…the boss scientist! It’s Ulrich Thomsen, from “Festen”! The original Dogme 95 film and one of the most entertaining arthouse films of all time. That’s an interesting career arc for an actor, and the problem that was irritating my mind for an hour or so was solved.
The ending is really silly. One of the alien-infected runs off to the spaceship, to go back to his home planet. Luckily, after 100,000 years buried in the ice, it starts up first time. My mind rebelled at the daftness of this, so I started wondering what the alien’s friends would say when he turned back up at home. “Hey, Vexnarg, remember that 7 space-bucks you owe me?” The poor chap’s wife would give him a hard time, and his boss would probably sack him for crashing the car. The humans manage to prevent the ship from taking off, but one of the survivors is…you’ve guessed it, infected himself! So, the alien changes his mind for some reason (if he infects two people with “alien”, are they both the same person? Dunno) and that brings us to the final confrontation.
It’s difficult to spoil the ending of this film, as the last scene of this film is the first one of the 1982 version (give or take). But even though the makers of the film did their homework, and there’s plenty of careful continuity between the two films, it all seems a bit…silly. It’s another film which relies on people acting stupidly to drive the plot along; and I’m not just saying that as a viewer. If I was in that situation and I was surrounded by people behaving like they did, I’d be all “what? Really?”
So, it’s part-prequel, part remake of one of the most fondly remembered horror films of all time. Is it any good? I think the main thing to say, really, is that it all seems a little pointless. The special effects are pretty fantastic, with the monsters reminding me of “Society”, the upper-classes-are-mutants film from the late 80s. But, absolutely no-one will ever say “well, the 1982 version was good, but 2011’s really knocks it into a cocked hat”. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is lovely, everyone tries their hardest, but the sense which is impossible to shift is that everyone’s time would have been better spent doing something else.
Rating: 2 ice-mutants out of 5