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The Thing

Mary Elizabeth Winstead, left, and Joel Edgerton star in "The Thing." 

This is the third time I've watched the John W. Campbell Jr. story "Who Goes There?" unfold. I have to admit the monster in this one is the most disgusting and thereby the most fascinating of all three.

The first incarnation, from 1951, actually was called "The Thing From Another World," and it starred James Arness (the star of television's "Gunsmoke") as the title character. It's creepy and smart - a must-see if you haven't already.

The second version, starring Kurt Russell, has more modern special effects because it was made in 1982 and deftly directed by John Carpenter. The latest version is actually a prequel to Carpenter's film, although it is much like the other two movies.

A team of Norwegian researchers discovers some sort of huge device in the Antarctic ice. Dr. Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) takes a team to investigate. The group includes Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a paleontologist, who comes along because some kind of "body" has been found as well. The alien, which appears to be dead, is excavated and brought back to the research camp.

We all know it's not going to stay "dead" for very long. The warmer air apparently resuscitates it and that's when it goes on a killing spree. This results in the height of paranoia for the small group: Just who is harboring this "thing" and from whom will it emerge next?

The ghastly way the entity kills and how it takes over its human hosts is a sight for science-fiction fans to behold. You're bound to utter "Eww!" more than a few times as you wonder who's going to get it next.

This is what I refer to as a "microcosm" movie in which a small bunch of people represent the world at large. You have the skeptic, you have the scientist who wants to preserve the creature for the sake of research and you have a woman, Kate, whose common sense makes her a leader.

Bettendorf's Eric Christian Olsen has a nice role here. It's a more dramatic part than what he usually plays, and it's good to see him in an interesting part that's more serious and allows him to show what kind of solid performer he is.

The finale is a fizzle. You won't know what's going on unless you remember how the 1982 film began (and there's a plot hole even if you do). Still, as science-fiction movies go, this isn't monstrously awful.