All Better Now
“Still buzzing with remnants of the Red Scare and propelled by a heart beating electronic score, The Thing’s dwindling sanity takes hold of its otherwise casual Antarctic crew. Kurt Russell’s stable leadership weakens the greater the threat, bleeding into carefully composed tension. Wrung tight, The Thing wastes nothing, paced by perfectionist editing. The static rawness of early ‘80s cinematography only helps.”
Universal delivers the definitive transfer of The Thing, even when up against the already spectacular efforts from boutique labels. Properly chilly but without any notable digital alteration, color looks splendid. Vibrancy in flesh tones, the blood, and on-base objects like the pinball machine’s yellow all glow from this flawless deep color application. What needs to dazzles, while the pale grays and greens on the interior walls look properly hopeless.
A precise, fine grain structure maintains consistent levels, and held in check by the encode. This allows detail galore, and the sharpness needed too. From the outset, it’s obviously pure 4K mastering to even untrained eyes. The precision is ridiculous, and The Thing readily joins a number of catalog efforts from the era that produce superlative upgrades from Blu-ray. Facial texture is only one element. Gooey puppets ooze fine detail, glossy and icky in the best way.
Flames (and flares) pop when against the dominating blacks as night falls. Lanterns and flashlights peek out from the shadows, the HDR used where needed, but properly preserving the source. Added brightness isn’t unnatural, and retains the filmic feel. The Thing is nudged into the UHD era, not forced, and better for it.
An elegant effort by the studio sends The Thing out in DTS:X, preserving the moody design, then amplifying the potential directional touches. Bullets fly between speakers. Helicopters pan perfectly, while making the extra trip into the overheads. It’s smooth enough to sound as if this were always part of the track. Fidelity belies the age, much like the rest of this mix. Hearing the winds howl outside the base drive tension, plus keeps the surrounds and stereos working in full, even during downtime. As the creature roams, it does so in each speaker effectively, keeping its presence known.
Fireballs and explosions add range-appropriate low-end rattle, also unusual for an ’80s era upmix. Like the rest, the addition is flawlessly considered to match the original effort. Occasionally, the score pushes an electronic hum far enough to build up (down?) to a sustained throbbing. The Thing isn’t a subwoofer-killing, modern action movie, rather one carefully considered as to not draw any unnecessary attention to itself.
Sadly, Universal doesn’t bring over the extras from previous editions. Instead, it’s the 73-minute making-of Terror Takes Shape, deleted scenes for four minutes, and a John Carpenter/Kurt Russell commentary, all of these shared on the UHD and Blu-ray.
A gory classic and perfect horror film, The Thing is a genre masterpiece that hasn’t lost anything from the intervening decades.
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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 60 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: