Soundtracks on Vinyl - The Thing

There are only two composers in the horror genre who were able to create pure unfocused dread with two musical notes: John Williams and John Carpenter.  With both Spielberg’s Jaws and Carpenter’s Halloween, the two Johns created unforgettable horror movie theme songs which once heard are forever remembered and strike terror into the hearts of all listeners within an earshot.  Where the two composers differed of course was their approach, with Williams channeling classical instrumentation while Carpenter forged his own synthesized electronic minimalist score and subtle dissonance in ambient musical notes.  All in all, their signature sound is unmistakably their own.

In 1982 however, in a rare break with tradition that is still debated among horror fans and Carpenter aficionados alike, the Halloween director stepped out of the music composer’s chair save for a few additional tracks co-written by Alan Howarth for his first mainstream Hollywood directorial effort: a big budget remake of Howard Hawks and Christian Nyby’s timeless 1951 science fiction horror classic The Thing from Another World.  Reduced in title length to The Thing, Carpenter instead turned to Italian spaghetti western/giallo maestro Ennio Morricone to create what is now regarded as ‘a landmark musical composition that is cold, dark, minimal and effective’. 

While Carpenter and Howarth were preparing additional electronic pieces for the film, the director contacted Morricone saying the composer’s music played during his wedding night.  Much like the collaboration between Dario Argento and George A. Romero for Dawn of the Dead, Carpenter and Morricone operated under a language barrier that kept the exchanging of ideas separate despite being able to read each other’s tone and mutual intentions.  After showing the film to Morricone, the composer created the orchestral/electronic score for The Thing on his own before turning the work over to Carpenter who left out a few tracks which would later show up on the soundtrack album and find their way into Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight.

Though Still debated over which tracks fully belonged to Carpenter/Howarth and Morricone respectively, what is agreed upon is that the film opens and closes with an ominous repetitive electronic musical note that leaves viewers soaked with dread and unease well after the film’s closing chapters have ended.  Like Carpenter’s Halloween, the music doesn’t let the viewer off the hook.  While it may seem like the demonic forces of darkness populating Carpenter’s films have been vanquished, we already know the nightmare is far from over based on the music alone.  Morricone’s score is also as a standalone album a decidedly bleak and unsettling listen with notes that never scream but are just dark enough that we never find comfort in the listening experience. 

After the film’s less than admirable critical and commercial reception, the soundtrack album was released by MCA Records in 1982 before being re-released on compact disc in 1991 by Varese Sarabande.  While The Thing has since gone on to become a cult classic veering towards mainstream best seller on home video with many, many special collector’s editions of the film being released on everything from laserdisc to DVD and now blu-ray, the soundtrack has curiously remained out of print for the last twenty years.  In collectible markets including but not limited to eBay or, prices for the discontinued score skyrocketed up into the $100 range and beyond, making it a highly sought after piece of horror film music which only dedicated collectors with money burning a hole in their pockets could possibly afford.  Until now…

Around February 15th of 2017, niche cult-horror vinyl label Waxwork Records announced they would be re-releasing a digitally remastered limited 180 gram repressing of Morricone’s now iconic score for John Carpenter’s The Thing.  Working on the project for almost two years to ensure the best possible release edition of the highly sought after score would make it’s way to vinyl, Waxwork Records struck a new digital master directly from the original master tapes and issued the album in two editions.  

The standard “snow” edition” on ‘true white’ vinyl with a satin coated gatefold and an 11” x 22” poster retailing at $32.  Further still a deluxe “trapped in ice” edition was prepared with a heavyweight breakaway ‘ice’ slipcase’, pressed on deep blue vinyl with a white haze, and a booklet feature a new exclusive interview with John Carpenter, retailing roughly around $75.  As expected, both release editions instantly sold out and are only now making their way into the hands of vinyl collectors.

Having only been able to hear the complete score on YouTube for many years outside of forking over a fortune to obtain a used copy from 1982, hearing this remastered vinyl of one of my all time favorite soundtracks has been a revelation.  Never has it sounded this crystal clear, this rich, this heavy on the bass levels and above all this clean.  Every note is audible to the listener without distortion, crackling or dropouts and for fans of The Thing, the sleeve design easily outdoes what initially came out before it.  

Though it took a long time to make this album a reality and remaining copies were likely grabbed up by scalpers intent on jacking the price range up, those lucky enough to have obtained a copy of this indelible musical contribution to the science fiction horror genre hold in their hands one of the most important soundtrack releases of the year.  To say Waxwork have truly outdone themselves in this department is an understatement.  If you have the means and are, like me, a die-hard fan of what is arguably John Carpenter’s greatest film, buy this remastered vinyl with confidence!

- Andrew Kotwicki