Back in 1982, American audiences were enamored with the extraterrestrial. We were in a time where the prospect of aliens was cuddly and friendly, and we were capable of exploring vast new worlds. What with “ET” and “Close Encounters” and “Star Wars,” who didn’t want to visit new worlds? Then John Carpenter came along in 1982 with his version of “Who Goes There?” a short story about an amorphous alien entity that could consume human bodies, and America wasn’t too kind to it. John Carpenter’s masterpiece is notorious for not being welcomed by critics or the box office during its release date, but thankfully years later, horror fans and movie buffs alike have embraced “The Thing” for the sheer pitch perfect masterpiece it is. John Carpenter doesn’t provide us with a more positive outlook of an alien visitor as he did with “Starman.”
The alien in “The Thing” is formless, it’s perverse, it’s disgusting, and it’s mean as all hell. When we finally do get to see it in its somewhat final form, even our main protagonist MacReady screeches “Yeah, fuck you too!” This isn’t an alien that wants to meet us, or even be our friends. It likely has no knowledge of its own home world. All The Thing is is a traveler that was stranded on our planet and seeks only to survive. How it does so is by transforming in to a twisted version of us and it begins to take hold of its hosts one by one until it’s managed to take the entirety of its hosts. What it is and how many of it are present is almost always ambiguous because the Thing has a penchant for survival and wants only to survive, always slipping by our protagonists as they seek to destroy it before it reaches civilization.
John Carpenter’s “The Thing” is not just a pitch perfect horror film, but an essential template on how to remake a movie. With “The Thing,” Carpenter offers his own interpretation of “Who Goes There?” while also paying homage to the spirit of monster movies that the original Howard Hawks film celebrated. Carpenter’s film doesn’t trample all over its predecessor, but works as a wonderful companion piece and the films compliment each other as both are excellent examples of the sub-genres they work toward conveying on screen. Carpenter’s horror film is straight forward, to the point, and simplistic, but also impressive and epic, as he teams a slew of marvelous character actors to work off of one another and build this energy of tension and biting paranoia. It’s really hard to say something about “The Thing” that hasn’t already been said a thousand times by now since the eighties, but suffice it to say it hasn’t shown its age at all and is still a master mold of horror, and science fiction.
With this latest edition, Scream Factory pulls out all of the stops to give fans a royal treatment for John Carpenter’s masterpiece. On Disc One there a trio of Trailers for “The Thing,” and a TV Spot. There are also two minute radio spots, still galleries, a four minute behind the scenes, Lobby Cards, Press Stills, Programs, Posters, Film Storyboards, and Production Artwork. Finally there are three full length audio commentaries. One is with Dean Cundey, another with Co-Producer Stuart Cohen, and another with Director John Carpenter and star Kurt Russell. Disc Two brings on more bonus features with “Requiem for a Shapeshifter” a thirty minute interview with Carpenter held by Mick Garris. “The Men of Outpost 31” is a fifty minute interview session with the supporting cast of the film. “Assembling and Assimilation” is an eleven minute interview with editor Todd Ramsay, and “Behind the Chameleon” is a twenty five minute look at the shape shifting special effects with Special Effects Supervisor Peter Kuran.
Finally, there’s “Sounds from the Cold” a fifteen minute interview with Alan Howard who produces the special sound effects and excellent music, as well as “Between the Lines” with author Alan Dean Foster. Fans also get to view the Network TV Broadcast Version of The Thing, which is not high quality, but a great novelty. “John Carpenter’s The Thing: Terror Takes Shape” is a wonderful documentary about the background and production of Carpenter’s film, and its conception. “The Making of a Chilling Tale” is a vintage featurette, while “The Making of The Thing” is another vintage archive segment. There’s “The Art of Mike Ploog” with a tour of the storyboards, “Back into the Cold” is an eleven minute visit of the film’s location, and there’s a five minute outtakes reel. Finally, there are vintage featurettes, a vintage product reel, vintage behind the scenes footage, and finally an Annotated Production Archive clocking in at fifty four minutes.