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Now playing: Reproduced horror film is no ‘Thing’ of beauty

Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press.

As anyone who's ever used a Xerox machine can attest, making a copy of a copy of a copy rarely results in something worthwhile.

Considering the agenda of the creature in "The Thing," that lesson seems especially appropriate.

Columbia University paleontology graduate student Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has just been approached with a very unusual offer, of which she only knows two details: it involves traveling to Antarctica and it could change the face of the world. The high level of confidentiality alone is intriguing enough, leading her to accompany a Norwegian scientist (Ulrich Thomsen) to a site where something astonishing has been found by a research team.

The discovery is an enormous spacecraft that looks to have been embedded in the ice for millennia. What's more, a lifeform frozen in the ground may be the first alien contact with Earth.

The team's extraction of the chunk of ice proves they're dealing with something never seen on their world, but the creature doesn't stay in its frigid prison for long.

However, even once the group subdues and kills the extraterrestrial, the threat is just as high when they realize the invader has the ability to replicate other bodies and could be impersonating any one of them.

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After playing the helpless girl of "Death Proof" and "Black Christmas," Winstead pulls a 180 as the take-charge scientist who has to contend with a faction of people who, in typical horror film fashion, refuse to acknowledge the ugly truth before it's too late. Thomsen's emotionless Dr. Halversen typifies scientific hubris, demanding a tissue sample from the unknown being against Kate's better judgment.

Joel Edgerton and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje have an imposing presence as a pair of helicopter pilots whom everyone suspects of being the alien incognito, but anyone could be hiding their true identity. It's more than necessary to keep your back to the wall and suspect everyone, whether it's Halversen's timid assistant Adam (Eric Christian Olsen), former soldier Lars (Jørgen Langhelle) or virtually any of the few people within the frozen landscape.

When you're in a part of the world that by its very nature is terrifying in its stillness, adding in the hazard of the people around you possibly being not what they seem increases the tension tenfold. There's already an invisible line drawn in the snow at the onset separating the Americans from the folks of other nationalities, but once the Thing is out and about, even the dearest friends would shoot each other on sight.

The sense of paranoia that drove John Carpenter's original vision of an imposter in the tundra, as well as 1951's "The Thing from Another World" — both of which were inspired by John W. Campbell's classic science-fiction story "Who Goes There?" — is present in this newer redo, as are traces of Ennio Morricone's memorable musical score from Carpenter's version. What's lacking is a greater sense of self, as Dutch director Matthijs van Heijningen, Jr., does little to differentiate his film from that of Carpenter.

Though this is presented as a prequel, the storyline is almost identical other than a few tweaks, relying on souped-up visual effects in the monster's presentation and the gory aftermath of its activities.

Featuring an Ellen Ripley-like female presence rather than the all-male cast of Carpenter's movie is a notable change, but van Heijningen's main interest appears to be setting up the opening of his predecessor's movie and doing less to make his own all that impressive.

Like the revisions of "Halloween" and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" before it, "The Thing" clumsily tries to answer questions that horror nuts have been wondering about for years. But, you may as well save your money since the prevailing message here is the same one audiences took away in 1982: when an alien is on the loose at the South Pole, a fully prepped flamethrower is invaluable.

At the movies:

“The Thing”

2 out of 4 stars

102 minutes

Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen and Eric Christian Olsen.

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