Entertainment

John Carpenter responds to Fathom’s botched Thing screenings

Kurt Russell and John Carpenter

Kurt Russell and John Carpenter
Photo: Emma McIntyre (Getty Images for TCM)

“I know I’m human. And if you were all these things, then you’d just attack me right now, so some of you are still human. This thing doesn’t want to show itself, it wants to hide inside an imitation. It’ll fight if it has to, but it’s vulnerable out in the open. If it takes us over, then it has no more enemies, nobody left to kill it. And then it’s won.”

As uttered by the character MacReady (Kurt Russell) in John Carpenter’s 1982 classic The Thingthose words reveal a world where one cannot trust their neighbor, where all humanity is lost, and where a soulless copy can replace anyone. Much like Ronit’s a world gone wrong.

Those words could also be used to describe Fathom Events’ 40th-anniversary screenings of The Thing, which, by all accounts, were an imitation of the real thing. Advertised as presenting the film’s brand-spanking-new 4k restoration, the Fathom screenings reportedly did not. Instead, on Sunday night, the company, known for movie theater simulcasts of sports, opera, and RiffTraxplayed poorly projected copies of The Thing in the wrong aspect ratio. If only the Thing had a tell like that.

Mick Garris, a certified master of horror (in fact, he created the distinction), known for, among other things, directing Critters 2 and writing Hocus Pocusconfirmed on Twitter that the screenings went about as well as trying to get any research done at US Outpost 31. Garris tweeted“I just got back from seeing John Carpenter’s masterpiece at the Fathom Events 40th-anniversary screening at the Universal Citywalk AMC… and I will never EVER see a Fathom Event again, and I recommend that you avoid them like the plague.”

Garris explained that Fathom played the film in the wrong aspect ratio, 1.85:1, instead of the original’s 2.35:1 aspect ratio, cutting a third of the picture. And what he could see wasn’t much better. “The picture was soft-focus, low-resolution, and the digital image was out of registration, so all objects were rimmed in red on one side and blue on the other,” he wrote. “Also, all movement all the way through the movie stuttered, like trying to watch Netflix with a really bad wifi signal.”

Another person not too happy about this: The Thing directorJohn Carpenter. Speaking to IndieWireCarpenter called the situation “distressing, it’s horrible.”

“My visual collaborator was Dean Cundey, he and I had worked together before, this was the fourth time. I trust his lighting, it’s just gorgeous,” Carpenter said. “Widescreen is something I’ve done since the mid-’70s. I love widescreen, I’ve always loved it. Composing a movie in widescreen is tricky, but it’s beautiful.”

Producer Stuart Cohen echoed Carpenter’s sentiment on the importance of showing movies in the correct aspect ratio, which makes sense considering he, Carpenter, and the cast and crew of The Thing worked very hard at making one of the best movies of all time.

“It was always about the big screen, and the biggest screen imaginable, and we fought for those privileges. We fought to get 70mm prints made for that purpose,” said Cohen. “It was particularly galling, after the film unceremoniously left theaters 40 years ago, that for its return to the big screen, they played it in 1.85 — which John called a ‘bastard ratio,’ because you really couldn’t compose with it because the sides were too wide and there was too much headroom.” Playing it in the “bastard ratio” is the coup de grace. What happened to humanity? Can’t we trust anyone anymore?

For its part, Fathom conceded that the screenings were not up to snuff and that this was “an isolated incident” that only happened at 730 screenings.

“Your patronage and trust are of utmost importance to us. We know you come to theaters expecting the very best experience possible and we pride ourselves in being the provider of that experience,” a statement from Fathom reads. “We are aware that the recent showing of The Thing wasn’t shown in its original aspect ratio and the disappointment it caused. Wednesday’s scheduled event will be shown in the proper aspect ratio, so you can see the film in theaters, as it was meant to be seen.”

Some good came out of the story, though. IndieWire reports that Carpenter’s happy people still want to see The Thing in all its horrific glory—at a minimum. “I’m happy that people want The Thing to be presented at a minimum—at a minimum, man—in the way we made it,” Carpenter said. “I’m delighted by that.”

Whatever we can do to delight John Carpenter must be done—even if that means screening movies properly.

[via IndieWire]

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