John Carpenter’s The Thing is my all-time favorite horror film. But to be quite honest, it used to be that I qualified this statement a little bit. “Probably my favorite horror film”, “Easily in my top five horror films”, “One of my favorite horror films”… it’s always easier to include qualifiers just to avoid being pinned down. My reservations have little to do with the film itself, which is a virtually perfect cinema going experience, but rather with the competition. Carpenter competes with himself in this discussion as his own Halloween also vies for that top spot. Then there’s, say, Jaws. That’s a great film, right? But is it primarily a horror film? It scares me to the bone, but I have trouble viewing it through the lens of horror. It’s just too Spielbergian. Regardless… I’ve traditionally been loathe to stake the claim and declare The Thing as my all time favorite until now.
And yes, this new Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release of The Thing has more than a little to do with that. I also think time has settled the score as well. I first saw The Thing in college and I’m not even sure I liked the film. But as my admiration for John Carpenter grew, and my habits as a cinephile matured, The Thing moved into regular rotation. The visual effects as created by Rob Bottin became more than just incredible gross out moments… they became art to me. And speaking of art, that Drew Struzan poster for the film began to stand out as an iconic cinematic image even as my understanding and appreciation of Struzan took form. Then as my affection for Ennio Morricone grew over the years, his score to The Thing kept me coming back. Makeup effects, artwork, and musical scores aren’t generally the kinds of things that constitute a “favorite movie” status… but they are elements that distinguish a film from the pack. Those elements all build up a film into a cohesive whole.
The more traditional elements that make a film a favorite, such as story/script, direction, and cast all stand the test of time with The Thing as well. As the titular Thing slowly achieves its biological creep, taking over more and more characters in its quest to survive, the human elements of paranoia take center stage and build an unparalleled tension in the film. Carpenter’s mastery of pace combined with the grand visuals of this arctic tale create a viewing experience that is never less than stunning, no matter how many times you watch the film. And then there’s that cast. With “name” standouts like Kurt Russell, Keith David, and Wilford Brimley blending flawlessly into a cadre of character actors and less well known talent. Their characterizations feel lived in, human, and always entertaining. They never feel like fodder for a monster, which is a failing of so many creature features.
The Thing feels like a perfect movie. An embarrassment of riches all concentrated in a single feature film that stands the test of time in a way that few stories do. It’s intimidating to even attempt to tackle the film in writing, which is why I took a more personal track and shared the many reasons the film has won me over as my all-time favorite horror film. I suspect the same may be true for many horror fans and cinephiles, however, and that’s where this Scream Factory Collector’s Edition comes into play.
Scream Factory knows The Thing is beloved. They know how intimidatingly great this film was upon release, and how well it has settled into its place as an all time great. As intimidating as it was for me to write about this film, I can only imagine how intimidating it was for Scream Factory to release this classic as a Collector’s Edition. I won’t spend any time really getting into the image quality of the film as our own Austin Vashaw has done an amazing job breaking down the new scan of the movie and how it compares to the previous home video release.
Let me just say that Scream Factory has taken my all-time favorite horror film and made it into one of my all time favorite Blu-rays. Packed with more hours of content than I was even able to take in, this disc offers value above and beyond the asking price. Since I’ve seen the movie dozens of times, my first click on the new release was the new commentary track with cinematographer Dean Cundy. This track drops juicy pearls of wisdom throughout, most notably a fascinating discussion of how the eyes of each character are lit in certain key scenes which may allude to whether or not that character has become “the thing”. This release also retains the John Carpenter/Kurt Russell track which, if I recall correctly, involves those two old friends laughing uproariously at one another for virtually the whole runtime of the film.
The second disc of the package contains multiple newly-produced documentary shorts from the kings of these types of featurettes, Red Shirt Productions. One feature interviews almost the entire cast of the film today and it’s quite entertaining to see these guys as they look in 2016. Their set stories make you want to circle around a campfire with some s’mores. There’s also a new interview with Carpenter and just a ton of ported over supplemental material from previous releases including a whole other cut of the movie for alternate footage that seems to be some kind of television version.
Perhaps the most endearing bonus feature follows a couple of fans as they road tripped up to the shooting location of the film some 20 years later in order to get pictures and salvage some props. They take home blades from the crashed helicopter and secure their status as alpha nerds. It’s very geeky stuff.
When you find yourself immersed in hours upon hours of supplemental content for a film released in 1982, it’s time to drop the qualifiers and just embrace that film as your all-time favorite horror movie. This release is a film lover’s dream, a collector’s gold mine, and a Carpenter fan’s most must-own release of 2016.
And I’m Out.
The Thing Collector’s Edition Blu-ray is now available from Scream Factory.