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Howard Hawks's original 1951 production of The Thing from Another World can be glimpsed playing on a TV that fateful October evening in John Carpenter's blockbuster hit, Halloween (1978). A few years later, Carpenter reteamed with his Escape from New York star Kurt Russell to do a remake. But while the first movie version of The Thing was in atmospheric black and white, Carpenter's 1982 version is in widescreen, full color, and features some of the most revoltingly explicit, surreally imaginative special effects (courtesy of FX-meister Rob Bottin) that have ever been seen on the screen. Researchers in the remote Antarctic dig up the remains of a spacecraft that has long been frozen in the ice. But the alien life unthaws and infects the living (not only humans but sled dogs too), living and gestating inside them. (This horrific concept was also explored in the two versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the Alien movies.) This Thing is chilling in every sense of the word, with plenty of terrifying, adrenaline-pumping moments that build it to a powerful and shockingly nihilistic conclusion. It's a harsh and uncompromising movie (hewing more closely to the original 1930s story "Who Goes There?")--so much so that it probably never would have been given a green-light by any studio in the more cautious and doggedly upbeat 1990s. --Jim Emerson
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Terrific thrills, chills and flat out shocks fill this frosty fright flick to the icy rafters. John Carpenter gives us what many consider to be his very best film. (I'd modify that statement and say it's his best science fiction film. His best horror work is still the original HALLOWEEN, while his best action film is ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13. As always, IMHO/YMMV.) I am among those that love THE THING. I've been an enthusiastic fan of this film and John Carpenter since I first caught it during its debut on cable way back in the day. The barren, brutal and bloody frights of THE THING were unleashed into theaters a mere two weeks after the snuggly hug-fest of Steven Spielberg's E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, and I think a lot of film goers back then were simply not prepared for the senses-shocking visceral horrors that Carpenter and his crew were set to spring on them. In fact, even without ET's cuddly competition, I'm not sure THE THING would have been a box office hit. THE THING was just too far ahead of its time. 25+ years later and it has lost none of its power to shock, make you jump and squirm in your seat. SPFX artist extraordinaire Rob Bottin's incredibly twisted creature designs and disgustingly awesome motion-controlled props & make-ups still physically and psychologically repulse and fascinate the viewer all these decades later. This film is stuffed to the gills with some of THE best examples of beautifully grotesque movie effects ever seen. Give me wonderfully-realized practical effects like the ones on display here ANY day over the ocean of computer-generated stuff.
Every cast member gives us a top flight performance; no half-hearted acting to be found here. Kurt Russell makes you instantly forget there ever was a Dexter Riley, with his subtle yet most definitely in-charge role as laconic chopper pilot R.J. MacCready. Charles Hallahan, Keith David, Richard Dysart and especially Wilford Brimley all turn in A-list work in their various supporting roles. Establishing himself as an acting force to be reckoned with, Brimley gives us an unforgettable, multi-layered performance as the slowly disintegrating Blair. And a special call-out to long-time character actor Donald Moffat as the bewildered, beleaguered and undoubtedly in over his head Antarctic outpost commander, Garry. Moffat gives us what is arguably the greatest line reading in the history of talking motion pictures with his "couch" speech. His vocal firepower is the equivalent of a howitzer in this scene and once you've heard it you'll never forget it. LOL.
This 1982 remake, based on John Campbell's fantastic 1938 short story "Who Goes There?" hews much closer to the source material than the previous movie incarnation, the classic Howard Hawks 1951 version of THE THING (FROM ANOTHER WORLD). Carpenter's film is every bit as impressive and iconic as Hawks' version is, though for drastically different reasons. Hawks' THING combines a fantastic cast of characters who, despite initially being at-odds with one another on how best to deal with their alien visitor, eventually band together to battle the terrifying extraterrestrial, (a super-intelligent plant-based lifeform that could conceivably pollinate the entire planet with its deadly spores, instantly knocking mankind to the bottom of the food chain). Hawk's THING = US against THEM. The fear in Carpenter's version, (much like INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS), comes from being unable to know for certain just exactly WHO or WHAT the enemy is; no person, (in fact no living thing), can be trusted. Carpenter's THING = ME against EVERYTHING. Carpenter's remake remains one of THE best on-screen examples of paranoia-fueled terror ever lensed, pure & simple. The 1982 version of THE THING is one of those rare occurrences when the remake of a classic movie is every bit as good as the original. Both versions are absolute "must-owns," fully deserving a spot on every movie (and especially sci-fi/horror) fan's video library shelf.
The Universal Blu-ray of THE THING is a major let-down. None of the excellent bonus features from the previous Collector's Edition DVD have been ported over to this Blu-ray version, save the audio commentary by John Carpenter & Kurt Russell. Nothing new was produced for this Blu-ray either. That's a damn shame no matter how you look at it. Instead of an ultimate, reference-quality release, you just get a new format version that in all honesty isn't any better than the previous format. Neither the picture nor the sound are much improved from DVD. Universal really dropped the ball with this release. A travesty for Carpenter fans and basically the home video equivalent of a kick in the nuts to those, like myself, who were hoping for at least a worthwhile picture & sound upgrade even if no goodies were included. As I say, the audio & video are somewhat better but not THAT much. If you already own Universal's "Collector's Edition" DVD then I cannot recommend double-dipping for this Blu-ray.
UPDATE>>> Forget the craptastic Universal Blu-ray. Pick up a copy of Shout!Factory's new Blu-ray and see how this SHOULD have been handled by those knuckleheads at Universal. The Shout! Blu is a terrific 2-disc offering that is worlds better than Universal's. The transfer, first & foremost, is amazing. Super sharp focus, bringing out a ton of details not seen in any previous format release. The picture looks clear, clean and is free of artifacting, pixelation, edge enhancement, and only the slightest amount of crush (video noise). The crew at Shout! affected a 2k scan of the film's interpositive, overseen by the Director of Photography, Dean Cundey. It looks amazing. The blacks are solid & inky and the mid-tones are firm and strong. Audio is clear, clean and the soundmix is level. There is a wealth of superb bonus content for fans of this great film. Shout! knows how to please. In addition to the best original stuff ported over from previous versions, there are lots of new goodies; some on Disc #1 (Feature Film) and the rest spread out over Disc #2 (Special Features). Bravo! This is the release THING fans have been clamoring for. Wait no longer. Order yours today!
The thing that I hear most people talk about when it comes to this movie is the special effects. Even this long after it's release the special effects are some of the best you're going to find. The creature always looks amazing and different.
As amazing as the effects are what stands out to me is the overwhelming sense of dread and desperation. I attribute this to Carpenter's direction and his use of the bleak setting, The actor's performances also help create feelings of dread and desperation. They really pull of the distrust between the characters.
I would recommend this movie to anyone, but more so to John Carpenter fans and people who like sci-fi horror.
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