Title: The Blob Director: Chuck Russel Writers: Theodore Simonson (earlier screenplay), Kay Linaker (earlier screenplay), Irvine H. Millgate (story) Stars: Shawnee Smith, Kevin Dillon, Donovan Leitch Jr.
Some movies speak to you at a deeply personal level. After over a year of living in a world with closed gyms and working from home, 1988’s The Blob is that movie.
During a dark night, something falls from the skies. That something is found. That something devours. It grows into a gelatinous alien mass. It eats, growing in size after each feeding, threatening to consume everything in its path.
The original story was a simple one, and it was first released as a film back in 1958. After the original’s success, a remake, directed by Chuck Russell, would be released in 1988. It is that remake we’ll examine today. And for convenience and the sanity of our readers, we’re going to ignore the existence of 1972s Beware! The Blob/Son of the Blob.
It slithers. It EATS!
The origins of the original The Blob are almost as strange as the movie itself. The film distributor Jack H. Harris wanted to break into movie production. He turned to a small Pennsylvania-based studio called Valley Forge, a small religious film production company. Neither party had any feature movie experience, but somehow, they got filmmaker and methodist minister Irvin S. Yearworth to direct. According to legend, they wanted to make a kind of horror movie that was not about a guy in a rubber suit, but something they hadn’t seen before. Take that idea, throw in film legend Steve McQueen, a whole lot of silicone, and a red dye – and you end up with a surprise box office hit.
Thirty years later, and it was time for a remake. It was the 80s, a golden age for horror movies. Like The Blob, horror classics like The Thing and The Fly were both remakes and better than the originals. They all belonged to a new subgenre of horror: Body Horror.
Fear of the Blob!
Caught between respect for the movie I was about to watch and fear of becoming a shapeless blob myself, I opted for seeing this movie while walking on my treadmill. When it comes to horror, fear should always win.
Already in the first few minutes, we are treated to a warm sense of humor. Meet our main characters, all stereotypes from small-town Americana. We’ve seen them many times before. The jock, the good girl, and the rebellious bad boy. There’s also the honorable small-town cop and the kindhearted waitress. There is the priest, who embarrassingly meets the jock when he’s out buying condoms with some a friend. Hilarity ensues. Two kids are slurping red jello. The bad boy falls from his motorcycle trying to jump a broken bridge. All scenes foreshadow the horrors to come.
Speaking of red jello, a homeless man goes to investigate a crashed meteor, poking it with a stick (note to self, never poke anything with a stick!). The slimy reddish organism that emerges launches itself at him, enveloping his hand within its gelatinous mass. He stumbles through the woods, first meeting the rebellious teenager Brian Flagg (Kevin Dillon) before being hit by the car driven by the jock Paul (Donovan Leitch Jr.) and his girlfriend, good girl Meg Penny (Shawnee Smith).
Fighting the Blob!
Here the movie hits a chord with me. Nearly all characters are good human beings, behaving with empathy. They drive the homeless man to the hospital, making sure he gets the treatment he needs. The Blob does not care if you are nice or naughty. The Blob consumes.
The slimy organism rapidly starts eating its way through the local population, growing larger and larger as it does so. The prosthetics here effects are first class, clearly inspired by Rob Bottin’s creations in The Thing. The scenes are also superbly shot, such as when the slimy red mass engulfs the waitress in a phonebooth.
The army shows up, led by shadowy scientists dressed in white protective HAZMAT suits. However, they are not the heroes here. There is a conspiracy afoot. The army has its own secrets and plans for what to do about the Blob!
As we learn that the Blob is a bioweapon developed by the American army, I get flashes to the dark interweb corners with covid-conspiracy theories:
“I want that organism alive!”
“What about the civilians?”
“The civilians are expendable.”-Dr. Meddows (Jon Seneca) to a white suited soldier.
Saving the day is left to Brian Flagg and Meg Penny, which requires that they both come to each other’s rescue. I love seeing that Meg is not shoehorned in only to fulfill the role of the damsel in distress; she gets to be both clever and heroic.
Sadly, The Blob never spends enough time on character growth and development. Shawnee Smith and the other actors have little to work with here, resulting in a somewhat lackluster performance from most of the cast. Kevin Dillon is the clear exception. His marvelous portrayal of the rebellious teenager is, without doubt, one of the film’s highlights.
Director Chuck Russell and writer veteran Frank Darabont created a movie steeped in the 50s original and joyful 80s gore. Scenes are shot with superb attention to detail.
As the end credits roll, I notice that I have walked just over 6 km, and just like re-discovering this classic horror movie, that too feels good.
This review was originally posted on www.filmlore.no.