Talk to any number of die-hard horror fans, and inevitably, when they list off their absolute all-time favorites, John Carpenter’s 1982 remake of the Howard Hawks sci-fi classic THE THING will come up very high on their list. Usually when you narrow down the conversation to just Carpenter films, it’s either THE THING or HALLOWEEN that stands out as most cinefiles’ favorite of his filmography. 3 decades later, there’s no arguing that THE THING is a horror masterpiece that many imitators (and even a prequel that shares the same name), have failed to come even remotely close to.
At this point, you’ve read dozens of stories about how it wasn’t well received upon release and that it lost out at the box office to that other friendly alien movie, E.T., But who cares about that now? Scream Factory has yet again stepped up to the plate and delivered a 2-disc set worthy of our adoration of this film. We’ve all owned it multiple times, either on VHS, laserdisc, DVD or that mostly-bare-bones first Universal release on Blu-Ray. So, do you really need to buy it again?
This is hands down the definitive version of John Carpenter’s THE THING on Blu-Ray and it totally deserves to be on your shelf. Here’s a few reasons why.
New 2K Scan Supervised By Dean Cundey
Considering the upgrades in televisions over the last several years, and in particular with the introduction of high definition Blu-Ray’s, I always like the latest and best possible looking version of my favorite horror films. There was nothing wrong with Universal’s previous Blu-Ray. It looked quite terrific and there were details I picked up when I first watched that Blu that I’d never noticed before. (Like Copper’s little nose ring!) But, here, Scream Factory has gone back to the drawing board and put together a new 2K scan from interpositive with the supervision of the director of photography Dean Cundey. Much like with his supervision on HALLOWEEN, who better to make sure the picture looks perfect than the guy that freakin’ shot it?! So, THE THING looks and sounds better than it ever has. And speaking of Dean Cundey…
Commentary Tracks Galore!
I love commentary tracks. And when it comes to a movie like THE THING, there are many perspectives and people worth hearing from. Producer Stuart Cohen for example, provides a new track and reveals a lot of the challenges Carpenter faced, primarily with his actors on THE THING. Anytime John is paired up with his old friend Kurt Russell, you know that that’s going to be a great commentary track, and sure enough, that commentary from all previous versions of THE THING has been carted over. Also new is a commentary with cinematographer Dean Cundey! Now, to be fair, it’s moderated by myself, but even so, it’s amazing to hear Dean talk about some of the subtle tricks that he and John put into the film, regardless of my presence there. I wrote a piece about a lighting gag they used for the “blood test” sequence, which came from this commentary chat, and that article took off like mad; having been re-published and widely embellished on other websites! Another fun tid-bit is how he revealed exactly who “the shape” is that the infected dog visits in the first act. There’s so much great behind-the-scenes insights provided throughout the span of these 3 feature length commentaries!
Mick Garris’ Candid Interview With John Carpenter
If you think John Carpenter is finished talking about THE THING, there’s still a bit more to cover! And who better to chat with him about the film now in retrospect than his old friend, colleague and fellow “Master of Horror” Mick Garris. Mick was working publicity at Universal Studios at the time that John had made THE THING and they’ve maintained a friendship ever since, so it’s fun to hear John look back at the film and its place in genre history while shooting the shit with someone he genuinely trusts and likes. Also, because Mick is both a filmmaker himself and a huge genre fan, he’s able to ask great questions that give context to a lot of the main principles involved in the movie, such as working with “that kid” Rob Bottin, working with Kurt and choreographing the shoot with Dean. It’s just a great chat between two buddies that we’re lucky enough to sit in on.
The TERROR TAKES SHAPE Documentary Returns!
This was a big incentive for me. Normally, when I buy a Blu-Ray, I will sell my DVD version back to a used video store. It wasn’t until after my DVD copy of THE THING was long gone that I realized Universal’s Blu-Ray of THE THING did not have the feature length documentary TERROR TAKES SHAPE, an extensive retrospective look at the making of THE THING from 1998. Thankfully, like with all other Scream Factory releases, they’ve carted over the full feature doc and all the older special features. TERROR TAKES SHAPE pretty much talks to everyone involved from the film, including Carpenter, Rob Bottin, the screenwriter, the editors, producers and crew and it perfectly complements the other new featurettes present here.
TV Broadcast Version & Other New Special Features
The other thing I love is when multiple versions of a movie are available. I never realized that the TV broadcast version was different from the theatrical cut, but it is and it’s presented here, even if the quality isn’t as pristine as the main film. It’s still cool to have it here, along with a ton of vintage mini-docs made around the time of the shoot. There’s also a vintage product reel that condenses the film into a 19 minute version with alternate footage. All the brand new interviews also provide different aspects from the production you wouldn’t expect, like the “sound design” featurette interview with Alan Howarth on how they re-worked Ennio Morricone’s score, and a chat with supervising sound editor David Lewis Yewdall. One of my favorite things on here is a chat with Alan Dean Foster, a well known author of novelizations who adapted the script for the 1982 THING movie into the novelization book, even though it was originally based on a short story. Very rarely do we get insight into how novelizations come to be, but as a kid, I collected a lot of them!
Believe it or not, despite all the things (pun intended) I mentioned above, I still haven’t scratched the surface on the content provided over the span of these 2 discs. It’s going to take a while! But I can easily say this is probably going to stand out as Scream Factory’s best release of 2016.