The more things change the more they stay the same in this horror hybrid
Let’s get this out of the way up front – John Carpenter’s The Thing ranks alongside Singin’ in the Rain and Casablanca as one of my all-time favourite movies. That said, while I wasn’t exactly delighted at the prospect of this prequel/remake (premake?), the fact that Carpenter’s film was itself an update of the 1951 sci-fi The Thing from Another World meant that I would have been a hypocrite to be opposed to the concept on principle alone. I was happy to approach the film with an open mind. Not that it helped in any way…
Matthijs van Heijningen’s film purports to tell the story of the creature’s attack on a Norwegian research station, the aftermath of which is witnessed in Carpenter’s movie. However, it’s status as a prequel is diminished by the way in which it slavishly follows many of the story beats of the earlier film (right down to recreating entire scenes). Indeed, the only fresh elements it brings to the story are an overt reliance on rather ropy CG visual effects and the decision to turn the titular alien into a bog-standard movie monster that seems far happier rampaging around the screen than hiding in the shadows.
Picture: The one area where this version of The Thing trumps its predecessor is its Blu-ray encode. As is so often the case with Universal’s catalogue releases, Carpenter’s film was subjected to some over-zealous filtering when it had its hi-def release. The same cannot be said of this ‘premake’. Any softness in Universal’s VC-1 2.40:1 1080p transfer is clearly down to post-production processes rather than the BD encode itself, meaning that what you’re left with is an accurate rendering of the film’s intended look. It’s not the sharpest image you’ll ever see, but close-ups are particularly strong, edges are crisp, colours are stable and the shadowy blacks are solid.
Picture rating: 4/5
Audio: Given the many scenes of monsters running amok, it’s hardly surprising that The Thing’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack isn’t particularly subtle. From start to finish it delivers a cavalcade of dynamic surround effects including piercing screams, spooky echoes and the ever-present wind that batters the Antarctic setting. It’s ear-bashing stuff, aided by thumping bass and clear dialogue presentation. An impressive work out for your system, but I much prefer the understated atmospherics from Carpenter’s movie.
Audio rating: 4/5
Extras: A commentary by director van Heijningen and producer Eric Newman makes you realise how much worse things could have been if early story elements hadn’t been ditched during pre-production (MacReady’s brother, really?). Also worth checking out is the U-Control picture-in-picture track, which covers 15 of the film’s 20 chapters and showcases many of the excellent physical effects that were replaced by lousy CGI. Also included are seven deleted/extended scenes, a 14-min Making of…, a featurette about pyrotechnic effects, My Scenes functionality and a Digital Copy of the film.
Extras rating: 2/5
We say: This muddled prequel looks and sounds the part in HD, but lacks the smarts to live up to its spectacular predecessor
Universal Pictures, All-region BD, £25 approx, On sale now
HCC VERDICT: 2/5
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