Man is the warmest place to hide
Well, it was Halloween last Sunday and The Thing is probably in my top 10 movies of all time! There is no denying that it’s a classic and I was excited to get my hands on a copy of the new 4K UHD remaster. I treated myself to the collector’s edition which includes the 4K UHD, the Blu Ray, The Thing (2011) Blu Ray and the Soundtrack CD alongside art cards, a poster and a booklet containing storyboards, photos, and a script excerpt. It’s a nice package and Monkey was very happy to model it.
I am not going to review the movie, that has been done a thousand times before and we all know this is a belter. It currently sits at 8.1 on IMDB which is a damn good score for a horror film! I just wanted to talk about the experience of watching the 4K release and about sharing one of my favourite horrors with the kids! I saved the first viewing of the new disc until Halloween so I could share it with them, and all enjoy it together. They both sat silently through it, glued to the screen, so they either loved it, were terrified into silence or, hopefully, a little bit of both!
The odd minor spoiler may appear from here on in but, as we are talking about a 40-year-old movie, hopefully you won’t hold it against me!
We all know the premise. A bunch of guys holed up at an Antarctic Research Station fall foul of an alien being that has the power to move between and replicate hosts, so no one is ever quite sure who is still human. As they fight back the bodies inevitably pile up in some of the most amazing and memorable set-pieces ever in a horror movie. The blood test scene is still a favourite and the tension that builds is amazing, even for someone who has seen it countless times. I can safely say that my wife nearly went through the roof with that pay-off which was worth the price of the disc in itself!
So how does the film stack up after all these years? Has it buffed up well on 4k UHD? For someone who has had it on multiple formats, including VHS, DVD, BLU RAY and now 4K I can safely say that yes, yes it does. It has never looked this good. The Arrow Blu Ray that I bought most recently already looks great; the picture is a big step up from the DVD and has a great soundtrack, but the 4K disc just pushes things a step further.
4K isn’t just about increased resolution, however. Although that helps tease out details that you have never noticed before, it is the remastering and HDR image/colour presentation that can make so much difference as well. I won’t pretend to know about all the different formats and differences between them, but the HRD 10 presentation on the UHD disc was an eyeopener on The Thing.
I am a bit sad and enjoy watching videos like the one below that compares various formats of films to show how things have changed over the years. The differences are subtle, but you can see how the 4K images just feel warmer and clearer, despite sometimes appearing to be slightly darker. Even so, there is an increase in clarity and detail that can only be appreciated by watching it on a 4k display. The video below won’t do full justice to the image, but they do give you an idea.
A lot of it will, of course, be down to personal preference, but the detail in the image and the HDR presentation certainly made The Thing even more of a joy to watch than usual. There were a couple of scenes which looked a little soft and the image retains much of the grain that was in previous versions, but these do not detract from the film as a whole, and many scenes look just as fresh as the day they were originally shot, even if the technology in the film is looking a little dated!
I have found some of the monster scenes, such as with the dogs at the start of the film and in the climactic scenes, to be a little dark in previous versions, making it harder to make out what is going on, but the UHD version improves on this immensely. I am convinced I was seeing new details in many scenes. If anyone is still wondering about whether Childs is breathing in the final moments of the film, the 4K presentation will clear up any confusion!
The proof of the step-up in quality was tested a few minutes before the end of the film when the UHD disc decided it was going to be corrupted and we lost image stability and sound. I had to switch over to the Blu Ray and, while the image was still good, the step back in quality was marked. The images of the monster in the tunnels under the research station were lost in darkness and the detail disappeared in the aggressive shadow.
Amazingly, I put in a return request to Amazon and a new disc arrived the next day, which is great service… and I have been able to check out the last few minutes in 4K! And they don’t disappoint.
So it looks great, but how does it sound? Again, in short, it sounds fantastic. While the Blu Ray has an excellent DTS Master Audio soundtrack, the UHD includes a DTS X soundtrack which I pushed through the amp into a 7.1 arrangement. The sound of the Norwegian chopper is handled very well at the start of the film and the gunshots and grenade explosions were suitably punchy and spatially distinctive. It was just as effective in the quieter scenes and the Ennio Morricone theme sounds fantastic whenever it comes on. Obviously, you won’t get the full advantage of this without the additional speakers, but if you do have them, use them, you won’t be disappointed. The aforementioned blood test scene switches effortlessly from tense quiet to a cacophony of yelling and shouting as the alien’s blood is discovered, and the great sound design is what helped almost give my wife a coronary at the same time! Interestingly the kids were unfazed. Although my youngest jumped a little at the blood test scene, I think she was mostly shocked by her mother’s reaction.
One of the most impressive things about The Thing are the effects from Rob Bottin. For a 40-year-old film full of practical effects, it holds up extremely well. Some of the stop-motion effects look a little dated but, as a fan of Harryhausen films growing up, I love that sort of thing and, most importantly, the kids didn’t bat an eyelid at them. A few other older films we have watched recently, don’t hold up so well and, while I see them as classics, the kids tend to laugh at them when the poor effects get shown up by HD/4K remasters. The Thing has no such trouble, and the effects are still wonderfully visceral, shocking, and gory; Norris’ head sliding off the table is still an amazing set-piece.
The Thing is an incredible film, and I don’t think I will ever get tired of watching it. If you have a UHD display and player, then it is a no brainer to own a copy and a “normal” version is available if you don’t want the full-on collector’s edition. There are a lot of special collector’s editions arriving as new films are remastered in 4K and they can be a bit expensive. However, at £40 this package is decent value as you do also get The Thing (2011), the soundtrack CD and the other visual treats, so a good package all round and worth buying the film for the umpteenth time. The normal version is around £20
If you have never seen The Thing, I can’t recommend it enough and it is a treat whatever format you watch it on, so go out and get a copy or stream it now and experience the ultimate in alien terror.