The best movie about a visiting alien in 1982 is now one of the best Blu-rays in 2016.
John Carpenter’s The Thing is many things. It’s a horror/sci-fi masterpiece, the director’s best film, a rebuttal to the argument that all remakes suck, and as terrifically terrifying and bleak an exploration of paranoia as Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers. And thanks to the folks at Scream Factory, it’s also one of the year’s best Blu-ray releases.
Winter brings the promise of cold to many places, but winter in Antarctica is its own special frozen hell. A group of American researchers holed up in their base camp are surprised to see a Norwegian helicopter circling, taking shots at a loose dog they’ve chased across the snow, and then landing to finish the job. They fail, leaving the Americans with a dog, a charred helicopter, and a ton of questions, but the answers come soon enough. A shape-shifting alien has infiltrated their camp, and one by one the men fall prey to its design. The outside world is next.
Carpenter’s greatest film is also one of his most-maligned. Well, most undeservedly maligned, because let’s be real… Ghosts of Mars deserves every bit of shit it gets. The Thing opened rough in 1982 against Steven Spielberg’s E.T., and critical assessment at the time knocked it down even further. Time has been much kinder to it though as those critics have either come to their senses or in some cases died. The point being The Thing is a terrifically atmospheric and engrossing tale of isolation, paranoia, and terror.
The film highlights Carpenter’s direction at its most precise and effective, and every other element falls in perfect place beside it. Ennio Morricone’s score offers a chilly minimalism, the cast (including Carpenter favorite Kurt Russell) embodies normal guys forced to confront the abnormal, and Dean Cundey’s camera captures both the mundane and the horror beautifully. The centerpiece to it all though are the masterful practical effects from Rob Bottin. He melds the familiar and the alien together to create things wholly new to our eyes, and the results are unforgettable.
In addition to a gorgeous 2K restoration of the film, overseen by director of photography Cundey and absolutely the best the film’s ever looked, the disc features two new commentary tracks ‐ don’t worry, the classic Carpenter/Russell one is still here too ‐ including one with Cundey and another with producer Stuart Cohen. A second disc comes packed with special features new and old.
- *NEW* Requiem for a Shape Shifter [28:39] ‐ An interview with John Carpenter in conversation with Mick Garris. They discuss Ennio Morricone’s score, Rob Bottin’s effects delays, filming locations, and more.
- *NEW* The Men of Outpost 31 [51:14] ‐ Interviews with Keith David, Wilford Brimley, David Clennon, Thomas Waites, Peter Maloney, Richard Masur, and Joel Polis. The men who aren’t dead or Kurt Russell discuss their casting, the film’s production, and how Carpenter showed them Howard Hawks’ The Thing from Another World. (Don’t tell Carpenter, but most of them aren’t fans.) There are some great anecdotes here of cast squabbles and fun times on set, but David steals the show with brief stories about being black in a tiny Alaskan town, why his left hand is missing from much of the film, and more.
- *NEW* Assembling and Assimilation [11:09] ‐ An interview with editor Todd Ramsay.
- *NEW* Behind the Chameleon: The Sights of The Thing [25:26] ‐ Interviews with visual effects artists Peter Kuran & Susan Turner, make-up effects artists Rob Burman & Brian Wade, and stop-motion animators Randall William Cook & Jim Aupperle.
- *NEW* Sounds from the Cold: The Sound Design of The Thing [14:53] ‐ Interviews with longtime co-composer/sound effects designer Alan Howarth and supervising sound editor David Lewis Yewdall.
- *NEW* Between the Lines [15:58] ‐ An interview with novelization author Alan Dean Foster. He describes the difference between writing a novel and adapting an existing screenplay (something he understands as the author of Alien Nation, Starman, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and many more) delves into John W. Campbell’s history, and why his novelization of Alien never describes what the alien looks like.
- *NEW* Back Into the Cold: Revisiting the Filming Location of The Thing [11:16] ‐ A narrated slideshow of a 2003 visit to the town in British Columbia where the cast/crew filmed part of The Thing.
- *NEW* The Art of Mike Ploog [12:21] ‐ A slideshow gallery of Ploog’s drawings and storyboard work.
- John Carpenter’s The Thing: Terror Takes Shape [1:24:03] ‐ A still-fantastic, feature-length making-of doc on the film.
- Network TV Broadcast version [1:33:45] ‐ This TV edit runs fifteen minutes shorter than the theatrical cut.
- Outtakes [5:19]
- Vintage making-of featurettes [1:43:46]