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The Blob (1988) – film review

February 12, 2015

THE BLOB

This ain’t yo mama’s blob.

The-Blob-1988-movie-theatre

Directed by Chuck Russell. Screenplay by Chuck Russell & Frank Darabont. Starring: Kevin Dillon, Shawnee Smith, Donovan Leitch Jr. and Candy Clark. Year of release: 1988. Running time: 95 minutes.

As much as fans of 80s genre fare complain about their favorite films being remade today, there is an irony in that several of these films were themselves remakes of earlier classics from the 1940s and 50s – most notably John Carpeneter’s The Thing and David Cronenberg’s The Fly. Other examples include Philip Kaufman’s unsettling Invasion of the Body Snatchers from 1978, Paul Shrader’s sexy Cat People from 1982 and Tobe Hooper’s affectionate 1986 remake of Invaders from Mars. The last entry in this cycle of 50s remakes was Chuck Russell’s reimagining of the 1958 Steve McQueen-starring B-Movie classic The Blob released in 1988. It was the emergence of a generation of filmmakers who grew up on these earlier films, combined with major advances in practical make-up and creature effects (by such artists as Rob Bottin, Chris Walas, Tom Burman and Stan Winston) which really allowed this trend to happen when it did.

Director Chuck Russell (fresh from helming A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors) actively pursued The Blob as his follow up project; pitching the original film’s producer Jack H. Harris the idea to remake it. “It’s actually the archetype for     a lot of films since the original” Russell told Fangoria Magazine back in 1988, “and it is a simple film, with a simple monster. It shook people up so much because it’s so primal. I’m making this movie because I want to see it. I’m in business and want it to make money, but I really just want to the see The Blob done by today’s standards and with some of the wild ideas we came up for it.”

Following closely the premise of the original, Chuck Russell’s The Blob takes place over a single night in a small town setting, where the town delinquent Bryan Flagg (the role originally essayed by Steve McQueen and here played by Kevin Dillon)     must settle his differences with the local police in order to save the town from being completely absorbed by a rapidly growing mass of protoplasm which has arrived     from outer space inside a meteorite.

There is something inherently unnerving about creatures from outer space which lack anything resembling what we would term a face. The single-eyed creature from It Came fom Outer Space and the eyeless xenomorph from Alien spring immediately     to mind. But to have a creature which doesn’t even remotely resemble anything we can reason with is perhaps the most disquieting of all. Special makeup effects supervisor Tony Gardner described his take on the Blob to Fangoria as “A giant inside-out vampire stomach. It’s got a strong acidic content, it dissolves organic material. At the end when it’s at full-strength and it bumps against somebody, they turn into this translucent pile of goo.”

The-Blob-1988

The main difference between this remake and the original is the origin of the creature. In the original, the Blob is an entirely alien entity. While in the remake, the creature is a biological government experiment run amok. And unlike the slow-moving monster of the original (said to be a metaphor for the Communist menace of the 50s) – this Blob strikes out with great agility and speed.

There is a nice on-screen chemistry between Kevin Dillon’s bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks and Shawnee Smith’s high school cheerleader – thrown together over the course of one night in order to save their town from the outer space menace. And the off-season ski resort town setting of Arborville is beautifully captured by cinematographer Mark Irwin (who had also lensed many of David Cronenberg’s early features including The Brood, Videodrome, The Dead Zone and The Fly). While the gruesome make-up effects do betray their rubberyness at times, the gloopy creature effects supervised by Lyle Conway and Tony Gardner are far more convincing; with the standout scene being a recreation of the movie theater attack from the original. And the body count for this type of film is surprisingly high, with characters you would normally expect to survive being bumped off without a second thought – which is kind of refreshing in light of the safer less risky fare of today. One character in particular (a child no less) – bites it big time towards the end; a death which Chuck Russell was told by the studio to cut – but refused.

Despite the fact Dillon’s mullet tends to date the film somewhat, much of this 80s Blob still holds up remarkably well. And while a new remake is reportedly in the works, I very much doubt it will be tackled with the same degree of care and     affection shown here.

3.5 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4 – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos     and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies. Greg can also be heard on the Blu-ray commentary track for the 1980 sci-fi thriller Saturn 3, out now from Scream Factory.

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8 Comments
  1. Screenplay by Frank Darabont? Really?? Huh! You’ve really made me want to watch this again – not seen it in years but quite liked it at the time. Great review! 🙂

    • gregory moss permalink

      Thanks! Yup – it’s Darabont’s second collaboration with Chuck Russell after having worked with him on Elm Street 3. And there is definitely a Stephen King vibe to the small town depiction and characters going on here – which is no surprise really – considering Darabont’s love of King. 🙂

      • Now that you say that, yes – I can see the King vibe! A bit like The Mist. Well, I love Darabont (and King) & Elm Street 3 RULES so I’m definitely watching The Blob again now to refresh my memory of it!! 😉

      • gregory moss permalink

        Yeah Darabont rocks! He apparently has a brief cameo during the theater scene – but I didn’t catch him this time round. I’d be keen to hear what you think. 🙂

  2. Saw this back on its original cinema release, it blew me away. Fantastic film. I recall it didn’t have very positive reviews at the time (maybe some backlash over how graphic it was, similar to what befell Carpenters The Thing?) so it really surprised me how good it was. When it eventually turned up on VHS I devoured it all over again. And again. And again. Haven’t seen it for quite a few years though. Would love to see a Blu-ray release here in the UK.

    • gregory moss permalink

      That’s odd … looking back over reviews in various genre mags of the day, it seemed to garner mainly positive notices … maybe it was different with the mainstream press? I know it didn’t do particularly well at the box office – must have been up against some stiff competition.

      • I had the impression that negative reviews kept audiences away (the cinema screening I attended was pretty much deserted). You could be right about the genre mags though, but of course it was in the pre-internet era and those genre mags were far from the mainstream. Remakes weren’t as common as they would be later of course, so perhaps people weren’t ready for a remake of a cheesy b-movie.

      • gregory moss permalink

        I dunno, the original THE FLY was pretty cheesy! But you may be right; perhaps auds had grown tired of 50s remakes by this stage.

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