The Thing Blu-ray Review
Nobody trusts anybody now.
John Carpenter's 1982 masterpiece The Thing is a fantastically atmospheric sci-fi horror thriller chiller and likely one of the greatest films of all time.Redefining and transcending the horror genre, The Thing was a fantastic confluence of magical ingredients, with Bill Lancaster's adaptation of John Campbell's novella - which could have easily made for a Twilight Zone episode - picked up by horror maestro John Carpenter just as he was hitting his stride. Carpenter had a superb run after his Dark Star debut in 1974. He stormed cinemas with Assault on Precinct 13 in 1976, and did a horror double-bill with 1978's Halloween and The Fog in 1980 (although Assault could easily be included as one of his 'survival horrors'). Then he wowed audiences with one of his best films, 1981's Escape from New York, marking the latest of many collaborations with Kurt Russell. Russell would take centre stage again for 1982's The Thing, but it was far more of an ensemble effort, with the clever plot charting a Borg-like alien that's landed from space with the ability to assimilate any living creature into its collective being. The twist is that 'The Thing' can replicate whatever it assimilates, leaving the crew of an Antarctic weather station gradually losing all trust in one another as they realise any one of them may have been replaced.The Thing's psychological core plays with the same excellent themes of rampant paranoia that define the story of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, alternating scenes of tremendously grotesque body horror (the creative effects, fusing body parts and insect-like creatures, are still spectacular decades later) with inner conflict within the group of friends and colleagues, suspicious that any one of them may have been 'turned'. The snowbound Antarctic setting is wonderfully claustrophobic, and blisteringly oppressive, whilst Carpenter-esque synth-driven score actually works for once (mainly because it was actually done by the great Ennio Morricone, with Carpenter 'supervising'), giving the film its own eerie heartbeat. The cast are spot-on - you'll have a hard time remembering who is human and who is not - with Russell growling through another gritty little lead. Carpenter never quite managed to recapture his early glory years working with Russell on Escape, Big Trouble and this, and, for many, The Thing was the director's tour de force masterwork; perhaps the only one from his catalogue that would regularly make Best Films of All Time lists.
Picture QualityArrow deliver The Thing on a Region B-locked UK Blu-ray complete with a very impressive looking 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen.
The film has been privy to a completely new 4K remaster (cue screams and shouts about why we don't have an Ultra HD Blu-ray release to make the most of it) from the original camera negative, supervised and approved by director John Carpenter himself, as well as his director of photography Dean Cundey (who previously supervised the 2K remaster from earlier this year, oddly enough). It's looks every bit as impressive as you'd have hoped for.
A great remaster job, looking better than ever
Detail remains excellent throughout, picking out lettering and wording up close, fine snow furring on objects in the ruined base, and the minutiae of the creature itself in its various incarnations. The extensive facial hair is impressively layered, as is dog hair and the fur on coats, with clothing weaves and texturing excellent. At the mid range there is still a hint of softness, but only a hint, and you can really tell the difference in quality on this presentation between, for example, the long shots of the helicopter in flight (which have more grain and can only provide a certain amount of detailing) and the closer images, both indoors and out. Indeed the almost complete lack of grain may concern some, but it doesn't appear to have affected skin textures or detailing to any great extent, leaving a wonderfully 'new' image that belies the film's 35 year vintage.
The colour scheme has been finely tuned, with strong skin tones, and hues of blue and purple depending on lighting, as well as fantastically vivid blood reds, and a few nice vibrant primaries peppered across the increasingly monochromatic blizzard-scape. Black levels are strong, and hold up to scrutiny, with fine shadow detail and no signs of crush; indeed no signs of any overt defects, digital or otherwise. It's a great remaster job, looking better than ever.
Sound QualityThis new Arrow release of The Thing also comes with a number of different audio options, including a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, a DTS-HD Master Audio 4.1 track and the original mono track. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track has been around for a while, on previous releases, and the original mono track isn't necessarily anything to write home about; it's the DTS-HD Master Audio 4.1 track that's the more notable addition. Previously available on Scream Factory's Region A-locked US release from earlier this year, the DTS-HD Master Audio 4.1 track has been mixed from the original 70mm six-track soundtrack.
It's doubtful that The Thing will ever sound better than it does now
Either of the remixed tracks make for the best options for aural accompaniment to this classic, with the 70mm-based 4.1 track a technically unusual offering which has some distinct atmospheric flourishes and more nuanced dynamics putting a slightly different slant on your experience of the movie. Either way, however, you get a fantastic audio presentation that makes the most of Carpenter's simple but magnificent, haunting score, the eerie, creepy effects, and the howling wind that ignites into an outright blizzard. The score sweeps you into the proceedings, and the surrounds keep you there, and whilst it's still a dated production that won't ever be able to escape the inherent limitations of its vintage, it's doubtful that The Thing will ever sound better than it does now.
ExtrasArrow's new release boasts a boat-load of new extras, headlined by a feature-length Documentary Who Goes There? - In Search of The Thing, which has a slew of historians and production members chatting about the history of horrors and sci-fi films, the Cold War tension, and the timing of The Thing; it's short story inspiration and what they developed it into. This tremendous background effort is followed by another new Documentary offering, 1982 - One Amazing Summer, which takes an overview of all the great films (Wrath of Khan, Blade Runner!!) released in the Summer of 1982 including, of course, The Thing. Additional new material, which doesn't appear to be listed on the promo, includes No Thing Left Unsaid, the 35th Anniversary Q & A panel at the 2017 Texas Frightmare Weekend, which has the DoP and some of the supporting cast chatting about the classic, as well as The Thing: 27,000 Hours, a neat little 6 minute Short Film by Sean Hogan made as part of a series of John Carpenter tribute Shorts for the 2011 London FrightFest, playable with optional Commentary. It's quite an effective Brit offering. There's also a selection of fan-based extras mostly focused on the Outpost #31 website which has been running for years, as well as some great fan art, and a short Featurette following a dedicated fan's arduous trip to the actual location of the film.
Arrow's new release boasts a boat-load of new extras
The Production Archive contains all the old Production Archive snippets, Photos, Artwork, Storyboards, Effects Featurettes, Outtakes and Post Production offerings, and, of course, the Audio Commentaries. The most familiar one with Director John Carpenter and Star Kurt Russell is accompanied by a relatively new one with Mike White, Patrick Bromley and El Goro, podcast commentators and huge fans of the film.
Aside from this plethora of material, somewhat worryingly housed on a single Blu-ray disc, the package itself is offered up in several guises, including a limited edition which reportedly comes with a lavish book.
Blu-ray VerdictWhether you already own it or not, you have to pick this set up
John Carpenter's seminal 1982 sci-fi horror classic, The Thing, gets the deluxe treatment courtesy of Arrow, who deliver up a lavish set packed to the gills with extras, both old and new, and boasting a brand new 4K-remastered video presentation and a great choice of soundtracks. Whether you already own it or not, you simply have to pick this set up.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £16.99
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