John Carpenter's The Thing (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Universal Pictures
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (15th October 2008).
The Film

Remakes, re-imaginings, re-boots, whatever you want to call them these types of films have had rollercoaster receptions of late, in a time when critics and film fans are blaming Hollywood for running out of ideas or not taking risks on more original films, it's hard to believe that once upon a time remakes didn't generate so much buzz (positive or negative), it was neither here nor there... horror legend John Carpenter remade the classic 1951 b-movie "The Thing From Another World" into a cult hit that stands among one of the best horror films of all time. Carpenter's remake was different in almost every respect (aside from the basic premise), the film's tone and style was distinctly unnerving, matched by Ennio Morricone's haunting score and the brilliant 80's era special effects made for a horror film fan's wet dream. "The Thing" remains a favorite of mine and many other horror fans out there and finally makes its debut on Blu-ray.

"The Thing" follows a bunch of American Scientists based in the Antarctic, when one day some Norwegians from another base are seen shooting at their dog, clearly having gone mad, the Americans defuse the situation and investigate what happened to the Norwegians. They discover a disturbing scene at their base and bring back a burned mutated corpse. Unknown to them the corpse houses an alien creature that uses animals to incubate in and imitate (this includes humans). The thing in question runs amok throughout the base taking out man after man, imitating a human as they try to survive.

Upon initial release the film did rather poorly, the dark tone of the film matched with the direct competition of another alien film ("E.T.") proved a significant opponent at the box office. The lighthearted "E.T." would become the biggest hit of 1982 and unfortunately "The Thing" languished in it's path... despite the poor reception during its theatrical run the film's audience would grow in video and develop a cult status among horror fans. It's also a film that can be appreciated by many audiences not just those of the horror persuasion. To begin with the characters take hold of you, especially R.J. (Kurt Russell), an every-man stuck in a extraordinary situation, furthermore there are a host of other characters which are as equally interesting and relatable including the doctor (Wilford Brimley, who's looking nearly unrecognizable without a mustache!) and one of my favorite characters, Childs (Keith David) the cool headed mechanic. Carpenter provides audiences enough time to get to know the characters and introduces their quirks as the film progresses.

"The Thing" follows a basic horror film structure, characters set in an isolated place, a threat is introduced and we watch as they try to survive and in an interesting move Carpenter reveals the film's monster in all its glory, considering the most effective horror films are those which hide the creature and leave most of the horrific elements to the viewer to conjure up in their own mind, "Alien" (1979) is one such example. Now, although Carpenter shows us the goods, the film still retains it's scariness because what makes this film different is the pace, sense of dread and uneasiness the filmmaker's created over the course of 1 hour 49 minutes. This in essence is what makes this film work so well.

The effects are dated by today's standard, especially the optical effects used in the film's opening, the matte paintings are wonderful in scale but obvious and the creature itself is an animatronic puppet, which adds a sense of realism, the skin looks real and alive, something that can be achieved in CGI today but many cases CGI aliens still look fake. I love the organic feel of the creature here and it's a technique that's sadly phased out now with the use of CGI...

"The Thing" is an awesome film, pure and simple, if you're already a fan and have a Blu-ray set up then this is a no brainer as a purchase. If you're discovering this film for the first time, then enjoy it, as it's bound to become a favorite. Every person I've introduced this film to has embraced it, which shows how incredible the film is and it's staying power after all these years.

Video

Presented in the film's original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio, this transfer is presented in high-definition 1080p 24/fps and has been encoded using VC-1 compression. This image transfer is the same used on the previous HD-DVD edition, the results are very good for a film that's 26 years old! Although there are still specks and occasional dirt still evident in this print, overall it's a nice image, which is as close to how it originally looked than ever before. Sharpness is not always maintained, some shots appear softer than others but the majority of the image holds up well. Furthermore colors are well saturated, skin tones look good and black levels are deep and bold. There's a nice layer of light grain that adds texture to the print, overall this is a fairly decent image for an excellent film.

Audio

Two audio tracks are included on this disc, one in English DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 surround mixed at (48kHz/16-bit) as well as a French DTS 5.1 surround track. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its DTS-HD track. Dialogue was clear and distortion free, the film's music is well rendered throughout the space and creates an appropriate sense of dread. The film's ambient sounds are limited to wind and Antarctic environment sounds, which place the viewers in the location. The sound design is rather subtle, and it's not as aggressive as most people would think, some audio elements feel broader than they should be but overall it's a fine track that feel natural enough.
Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish.

Extras

Universal has revealed this disc with an audio commentary and an interactive picture-in-picture commentary. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up is a feature-length audio commentary by the film's director John Carpenter and actor Kurt Russell as they provide an informative and entertaining track for fans. They talk about the films in which they worked on together, from their interaction you can clearly see these two like each other's company and as a result made some great films. They talk about the production, working with the actors, the effects among other things. The tone is light and fun and they provide anough information for fans to soak up. I was very pleased with this track, and was happy to listen to again (I've listened to it on DVD prior to this several times).

Next up are some "U-Control" features, these features requires a profile 1.1 player or greater to access the picture-in-picture commentary which is essentially the 83 minute 56 second documentary "John Carpenter's The Thing: Terror Takes Shape", although I do not have a profile 1.1 player and cannot access this feature, I have seen this documentary and it covers the entire film's production, features incredible interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. It's a brillaint feature which is unfortunate that Universal did not include it as a viewable extra on the disc, additionally I was dissapointed that the majority of the DVD and HD-DVD extras were also dropped from this release.

Finally you can bookmark your favorite scenes of the film with the "My Scenes" feature.

Overall

The Film: A Video: A- Audio: B+ Extras: B- Overall: B+

 


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