Viewed – 24 October 2017 Blu-ray
Growing up I must have seen this movie on TV several times, and always marvelled not only at the atmosphere and setting, but those incredible creature effects by makeup artist Rob Bottin. Over the years CGI has taken over considerably, the recent ‘prequel’ being a noteworthy example of CGI not able to replace decent practical effects, and so despite this being over thirty years old, how does it hold up compared to today’s offerings?
Kurt Russell leads a cast of characters which bare at least thematically a resemblance to the crew of Alien’s Nostromo. These guys, working at a remote research facility in the Antarctic are not marines, but simple blue-collar workers, not unlike what you’d find of an oil rig … who are about to get an unexpected and unwelcome visitor. Director John Carpenter took inspiration from 50s b-movie The Thing From Outer Space, but brings his own personality and considerable directing chops to deliver probably one of the stand out horror movies of the 80’s. Colourful characters bring a realism to the movie that works well and the cast all do a fine job with Russell proving a great lead. The setting is also claustrophobic and well filmed; combining a mix of traditional cinematography with hand-held camera work. Once the ‘thing’ starts imitating various characters, tension ramps up and it became pretty disturbing and scary, especially with how the characters convey their paranoia and fear for those they once called friends. However the star of the show is the creature itself and it’s transformations and gory appearances are stuff of cinematic legend by now – and all these years later still impress. The scenes with tentacles, spiders legs and all sorts of other things still sent shivers my way. Yet Carpenter sensibly chose to make this as much a character piece as a creature feature and for that reason it excels.Arrow Video once again deliver a stunning package with the movie’s latest treatment on Blu-ray, improving immeasurably over the previous Universal release which suffered from lip-sync problems. Here we get a 4K restoration boasting a clean, detailed image free of dust or damage and in fine shape, even if it’s not the most vibrant movie you’ll see. All those gory details certainly get showcased however. Add to this a choice of original 2.0 Stereo, 4.1 and also DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio, and along with Ennio Morricone’s ominous score and clear dialogue – this is impressive stuff. Now as usual Arrow don’t shirk on the special features and here we get two audio commentaries; firstly an archive Kurt Russell & John Carpenter one which feels like two old time buddies watching a movie together, complete with laugh-out-loud reactions to certain scenes. The other is a commentary by a trio of podcasters that’s well worth a listen for endless titbits and geeky knowledge. We also get several featurettes, some archive, some new that are well worth dipping into if you’re a fan (and let’s admit it, if you’re reading this you already are). The Blu-ray limited edition I picked up also comes with a fold out poster, art cards and a detailed booklet as well as fancy slip case packaging. Which makes this edition essential.
(the movie) 5 /5
(the Blu-ray) 5 /5