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Title: The Thing

Movie: :4.5stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :5stars:

HTS Overall Score:88

John Carpenter’s “The Thing” is one of the most seminal sci-fi/body horror movies of the 1980s. Back in the day Carpenter was a god and Kurt Russell was riding on the peak of his career, so a collaboration between the two was almost a foregone conclusion. A fantastic film in any generation, “The Thing” works as a both a science fiction classic, but also as an incredibly creepy and horrific body horror film at the same time. While it hasn’t gained the popularity of the “Alien” franchise, I am kind of glad it didn’t. The prequel (of the same name) was never needed, but still an entertaining piece. However, any more popularity and the guaranteed sequels and prequels and spinoffs would very well may have tarnished the good name that the original has carried over the last 34 years.

Carpenter is a man of many talents. Many successes, but also many failures. For every “The Thing” or “Vampires” is another ‘Ghost of Marks” or “Vampires Los Muertos” to balance out the man’s genius in the genre. He has a fantastic mental capacity for coming up with some of the most crazed and whacked out stuff imaginable, but he also sometimes goes a bit overboard in a few of his films. Luckily “The Thing” is not one of those. In fact I would have to say that “The Thing” is his shining achievement of perfection. A movie that really needs no prequel, no sequel, or introduction as well. It has garnered critical and fan praise in equal amounts over the years and it acts as one of the best sci-fi/horror films of the last 30+ years, despite advances in CGI and special effects over my lifetime.

The film opens deep in the Arctic. A Norwegian chopper is flying overheard as it tries to hunt down and shoot a sled dog that seems to be escaping. Heading right over into the United States camp, the crazed Norwegians try to blow the dog up, only to end up icing themselves as well. Taking the dog in, the U.S. encampment is in for a big surprise. The dog is actually carrying an alien parasite who has taken out the entire Norwegian encampment and is about to destroy theirs as well. Desperate to find out what is going on, pilot RJ MacReady (Kurt Russell) and a few other team members go over to the Norwegian base to find out what is going on. Bringing back a “thing” that looks half human, the group soon realizes that what they have let into their encampment may be the end of the world as they know it.

With the creature being able to hide INSIDE any living thing and mimic its features, the entire crew is at each other’s throats. No one can trust anyone and soon it’s every man for himself as the infighting and back stabbing takes a vicious turn. MacReady has a plan to get the men out alive and weed out the alien invaders, but mistrust and fear may keep the men at each’s others’ throats long enough for the creature hiding to do what it wants to do and get out alive. Something which the survivors can’t allow if they want the rest of humanity to live.

I’ve actually had friends mention to me that the old prosthetic special effects make the movie laughable, but as a child of the 80s I can’t really agree with that analysis. They aren’t as fluid or seamless as high end CGI work, but the amount of love and care that went into each and every transformation scene is nothing short of amazing. This new transfer is razor sharp and I still have a hard time seeing where the prosthetics end and reality begins. The gore and ooey gooey bits of alien matter was part of the incredible charm of the film, but that still is only window dressing. The grotesque transformations and the red goo that emanates everywhere on the creature just goes to push along the narrative of a being so horrific that it threatens of the entirety of the world.

A John Carpenter film is not a Carpenter film unless the score is absolutely mesmerizing, and “The Thing” is no different. Ennio Morricone’s electronic and synthesized score pulsates throughout the entire film, adding a sense of dread and uncertainty every second of the runtime. The well-known “dom dom, dom dom” that makes up the theme is chilling and terrifying, and almost as recognizable as the “Jaws” theme song is to this day.


Rated R by the MPAA

Video :4.5stars:
“The Thing” has had a slightly checkered past on Blu-ray. The Universal Studios of the first days of the HD format wars was not known for putting out the best quality catalog titles. The HD DVD was put out first and looked pretty decent, but suffered from some DNR and an aging master. The Blu-ray came out a few years later and it was sadly WORSE than the HD DVD, with even MORE DNR and heavy filtering applied to the already aging master (a reason I kept on to my HD DVD for many years). This time Scream Factory has gone out and got director of photography, Dean Cundey (who also did the remastering work for Shout’s release of his film “Road House” a few months back) to come in and oversee a brand new 2K master of the classic film. The results are nothing short of amazing. The color grading is very obviously a tad cooler than the old release. The look is decidedly bluer and very silken looking, with a slight purplish tinge to the soft blues. The grain structure appears to be tighter and more consistent, and I am very pleased to announce that the heavy filtering and DNR that was present in the old Universal disc is no longer an issue. There are still a few flaws with the mastering, mainly some telecine wobble near the beginning as well as a few bits of debris and dirt that are still on the print for some reason. Otherwise the disc is amazing with wonderful fine detail and excellent black levels (although I noticed a few blips of purple in the blacks due to the cooler color grading). For those of you who were wondering if the video upgrade is worth it. Then yes, it most definitely is. My old universal disc is going to the pawn shop.

Audio :4stars:
Instead of just giving us the same 5.1 DTS-HD MA track that is on the Universal disc (which IS included by the way), They gave us a brand new 4.1 mix taken from the original 70mm six track Dolby material from the theatrical printings. I swapped between the two tracks quite a bit and from my findings I can’t really tell that much different between the two once they are level matched. I personally like the 5.1 a LITTLE more than the 4.1 due to the fact that I can tweak the center channel a bit to aid in dialog, but overall they are very similar to each other. LFE is tight and clean, adding many deep bass hits (especially in the “dom dom” main theme) to the score as well as the crashes and bangs that occur during the encounters with the alien.

One thing I will point out is that this release was scheduled for last month, which is why you’ll see some reviews up last month for the film, but reviewers discovered a mastering error in the 4.1 track and Shout stepped up to the place and recalled all those discs and fixed the error. Shout has made no bones about this error and from what I have been told none of those discs ever made it out to retailers. Only the press and other reviewers ever had to deal with it, so be at ease when wondering if you have a problematic disc.

Extras: :5stars:

Disc One
• 4.1 Audio Mix Created From The Original 70MM Six Track Dolby Stereo Soundtrack (5.1 Audio Mix Also Included)
• Audio Commentary With Director of Photography Dean Cundey
• Audio Commentary With Co-producer Stuart Cohen
• Audio Commentary By Director John Carpenter And Actor Kurt Russell
• Teaser Trailer
• Theatrical Trailers
• TV Spots
• Radio Spots
• Still Gallery (Behind-The-Scenes Photos, Posters And Lobby Cards)
Disc TWO
• Requiem For A Shape Shifter – An Interview With Director John Carpenter In Conversation With Filmmaker **** Garris
• The Men Of Outpost 31 – Interviews With Keith David, Wilford Brimley, David Clennon, Thomas Waites, Peter Maloney, Richard Masur And Joel Polis
• Assembling And Assimilation – An Interview With Editor Todd Ramsay
• Behind The Chameleon: The Visual Effects Of THE THING – Interviews With Visual Effects Artists Peter Kuran And Susan Turner, Special Make-up Effects Artist Rob Burman, Brian Wade And Stop Motion Animators Randall William Cook And Jim Aupperle
• Sounds From The Cold – Interviews With Supervising Sound Editor David Lewis Yewdall And Special Sound Effects Designer Alan Howarth
• Between The Lines – An Interview With Novelization Author Alan Dean Foster
• Back Into The Cold: A Return To The Shooting Locations Of THE THING – An Animated Photo Gallery Narrated By Todd Cameron Of Outpost31.com
• The Art Of Mike Ploog Gallery
• John Carpenter's The Thing: Terror Takes Shape – A Documentary On The Making Of THE THING Featuring Interviews With John Carpenter, Kurt Russell, Special Effects Make-up Designer Rob Bottin, Legendary Matte Artist Albert Whitlock Plus Members Of The Cast And Crew
• Network TV Broadcast Version Of THE THING
• Outtakes
• Vintage Featurettes From The Electronic Press Kit Featuring Interviews With John Carpenter, Kurt Russell And Rob Bottin
• Vintage Featurettes – The Making Of A Chilling Tale And The Making Of THE THING
• Vintage Product Reel – Contains A Condensed Version Of The Film With Additional Footage Not In The Film
• Vintage Behind-The-Scenes Footage
• Annotated Production Archive – Production Art And Storyboards, Location Scouting, Special Make-up Effects, Post Production

Overall: :4.5stars:

I love “The Thing”, and have loved the move ever since I was young child. It is the pinnacle of Carpenter’s career (yes, I’ll put it above “Halloween”) and has become a beloved cult classic for many over the decades. A creepy body horror movie, a science fiction thriller, it works seamlessly as both and has created one of my most watched films of all time. Scream Factory has gone all out on this special edition version of the film and created a collector’s edition truly worth having. An upgraded 2K master supervised by Dean Cundey himself, a TON of extras (the most extras I’ve seen on a disc in quite some time) and a fantastic new audio mix taken from the original six track Dolby recordings and we have a sure fire winner. When all is said and done, this version is a definite step above the old Universal disc in every way, shape, and form. Definitely a must buy for fans.

Additional Information:

Starring: Kurt Russell, Keith David, Wilford Brimley
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: Bill Lanncaster, John W. Campbell Jr.
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 4.1, English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Studio: Scream Factory
Rated: R
Runtime: 109 Minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: October 11th, 2016

Buy The Thing On Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Well Worth the Purchase

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