The Thing

Director – John Carpenter

Cast – Kurt Russell, Keith David

Country of Origin - U.S.

Discs - 2

Distributor - Scream Factory

Reviewer - Scott MacDonald

Date - 09/22/2016

The Film (5/5)

   I imagine there were a few people that weren't on board with Scream Factory out of the gate reading this. The now famed horror themed sub-label of pop culture excavators Shout! Factory had released horror on Blu-ray before Scream existed, namely Takashi Miike's Audition and a line of Roger Corman films on DVD and Blu. However, they had started the Scream Factory line with 8 Universal titles to test the waters of the genre. One of those titles was John Carpenter's iconic Sci-Fi actioner "They Live". And so the question to the Scream Factory folks for years after become "When will you be doing the Thing?" They obviously had occasional access to the Universal library, and the prior Blu-ray edition had a transfer which was coated in DNR, and lacking in extras (the wonderful Terror Takes Shape Doc was relegated to picture in picture status on that Blu).

   It's fairly common for the modern horror fan to complain when a remake is announced. The horror remake has practically become a subgenre of the horror film itself as any horror title with a remotely popular connection to the genres past gets remade for modern audiences. It wasn't always like this. While titles that were connected to literary monsters like Frankenstein and Dracula were brought out in new forms every few years, actual original horror films rarely saw remakes in the first decades of horror cinema. In the 70's we began to see the remake culture as it is, but it was spearheaded by directors who had a new vision for previously created material. During this period we got excellent remakes like Philip Kaufman's Invasion of the Body Snatchers (recently given an SE by Scream Factory), David Cronenberg's the Fly, and of course, what is arguably the biggest and best of them all John Carpenter's THE THING.

   John Carpenter's film of the Thing is now legendary, and is arguably the man's finest film. This last part is quite debatable due to the amount of classics Carpenter directed between Assault on Precinct 13 and In the Mouth of Madness, but I will say it ranks quite highly in his filmography. Regardless, the film upon release was Carpenter's biggest film. It was made for Universal Studios after the director had parlayed his success into the chance to direct a big budget horror/sci-fi film for the studio. 

   Sadly, the film opened in the summer of 1982 opposite Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, and 3 weeks after Steven Spielberg's E.T. showed the world a cuddly alien that would do viewers no harm. The Thing would bomb, both financially, and critically, and it would take a long time for Carpenter to recover. However, film fans who rarely focus on the bottom line would work to recuperate the film in the years after renting and buying VHS copies, and watching them repeatedly discovering that while the general public may not have wanted a piece of "The Thing" the film was indeed a masterpiece of paranoid horror/sci-fi.

   The film takes place during the first week of winter in 1982.  A group of American scientists and military officials are stationed in Antarctica over the season, when a Norwegian helicopter invades their airspace with a gunman hanging out of the aircraft shooting at a dog that is heading toward the American camp.  The Norwegians are killed, but the dog survives, and is put in the camp’s kennel. It turns out that this is a terrible idea. As it turns out the dog is the host of an alien parasite that kills its host, and then takes the shape of the victim perfectly. The parasite ("thing") begins to take over the residents of the camp one by one destroying each person, and taking on their shape in order to escape Antartica where it has been trapped for 100,000 years and possibly take over the world.

   The Thing is a remake of the Christian Nyby/Howard Hawks film The Thing from Another World and based off of John Campbell's Who Goes There? The original film involved an alien who once unfrozen would copy itself. The remake by Carpenter which goes back to the original Campbell short story involves a creature that copies the total person. This gives the Carpenter film the edge as a paranoid thriller. We have 12 characters trapped in an isolated location far from civilization and none of them know who among themselves is an alien bent on destroying mankind from within.

   The performances by the Kurt Russell led cast are phenomenal, and though the characters show a certain amount of distance from one another they have a certain collective chemistry. Carpenter directs the film with a certain sense of style that is unmatched, and between his visuals, and the score which is composed by Ennio Morricone, Carpenter, and Alan Howarth creates a true atmosphere of suspense, claustrophobia, and dread.

 

Audio/Video (5/5)

   The Thing is presented by Scream Factory in a GLORIOUS 2:35:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer preserving the films OAR. The original Universal disc was an upgrade from my decade old letter boxed DVD, by just being 16x9, but it was smeared with DNR and from the first viewing I knew The Thing could look much better. Scream in working with cinematographer Dean Cundey and restoring from the interpositive have done fantastic work here. The Blu-ray has excellent color reproduction, deep inky blacks, and excellent detail throughout.

   There are 3 audio options present on the release a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track, and as the default audio option there is a DTS-HD MA 4.1 track in English. This track is The Thing like you have never heard it before. The dialogue comes through clear, as does the score. It is separated nicely, with the thick sounds of the films score pulsating through loud and clear. This track was truly tremendous.

 

Extras (5/5)

   The DVD and Blu-ray release just had a Carpenter/Russell commentary and the Terror Takes Shape doc in various forms. Those were great for their time, but what Scream has done here is truly next level, and is not likely to be surpassed in this home video generation, or possibly ever. There are 3 commentary tracks on the first disc. In addition there are galleries of various promo materials, posters, and more. There are radio spots, TV spots, trailers. The 2nd disc is where most of the extras are kept. Some of these are archival, others are newly created. There are half a dozen interview featurettes created just for this release one with Carpenter and Mick Garris, others with the actors, more with Crew, one with Alan Dean Foster who wrote the films novelization.  There are multiple featurettes some are older EPK style things, some are new and discuss things like the art of the film. We then get the full Terror Takes Shape doc, the TV broadcast version of the film, and MORE.

 

Overall

   John Carpenter's The Thing is a classic. This Blu-ray looks and sounds better than any release before it, and is loaded up with extras. If you are a fan of this film, you owe it yourself to add it to your collection. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.