Recent news announcing Simon West as director of the upcoming remake, as well as his intention to give the Blob a full on CGI makeover, only furthered the need to wax poetic about this under seen gem. It’s easy to see why the Blob would be a prime candidate for a remake; what’s not to love about an amorphous space creature that devours all in its path, growing larger as it digests its victims? The 1958 film starring Steve McQueen earned a whopping $4 million at the box office, whereas decades later this version only managed just over $8 million. As the budget was twice the amount that was brought in, it was considered a flop. Judging by the bare bones home video releases thereafter, the 1988 version of the Blob failed to gain traction with audiences. Why it failed is still a bit of a mystery, as this remake holds its own against its predecessor.
In this outing, a homeless man from a small town dependent upon ski tourism investigates a meteor crash in the woods. He finds the meteor cracked open with a gooey substance in the middle. Opting to poke the strange jelly from space, it latches onto the man’s hand, sending him straight into the road and path of high school protagonists Meg Penny (Shawnee Smith), Paul Taylor (Donovan Leitch) and Brian Flagg (Kevin Dillon). Rushing him to the hospital, this sets an endless buffet of unsuspecting town folk straight in the monster’s path.
This remake was fortunate enough to be shot in the golden age of 80s practical effects, following a string of solid sci-fi horror remakes. The beauty of well executed practical effects is that the film still holds up well decades later. The amorphous creature from space looks and behaves akin to a massive stomach; the pink form growing in mass with every new victim the creature devours. Not only is it delightfully scary, digesting its prey with acidic precision, but it provides most of the film’s jump scares. As if it’s not terrifying enough to be liquefied in quick succession, the creature has the capability of shrinking under doors or extending tentacles for grabbing. Not many places exist within the small town setting that the blob can’t get to, making it very difficult for anyone to hide from its grasp.
Creature design effects and gruesome deaths aside, the remake boasted an excellent screenplay by Frank Darabont and director Chuck Russell, both fresh off of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. The pair gave flourish to a simple concept. Their screenplay fleshed out the main characters, giving them a sense of depth and realism. These teens behave like actual teens, making it believable that all of the adults dismiss them right off the bat. Brian Flagg, complete with leather jacket and bike, fills the stereotypical troubled teen role. He’s the loner that everyone avoids, and he plays up that tough guy act even though it’s obvious he has a heart. Shawnee Smith perfectly balances vulnerability with strength, arching Meg’s sweet, good girl into badass with a gun with plausibility.
Then there’s the twists. One of the blob’s first victims is the very person setup as the hero, the one in which lead heroine Meg had romantic intentions. His early demise paves the way for the anti-hero, Brian Flagg, to fill the gap left behind by the shocking death. Killing off a major character so early on is a ballsy move. It set the tone early on that no character is safe, even the likable ones. Look for longtime Darabont pal Jeffrey DeMunn as endearing town Sheriff Herb Geller and Bill Moseley in a small role as a soldier.
The reveal of the creature’s origins may not surprise horror vets, but it does pose some interesting questions about the very people sent in to aid the town. While it may have been done before and many times since, having the government send in help with ambiguous motivations does make for a more compelling, layered story. Which is more than the original can say.
If there is a flaw in the film, it lies with Kevin Dillon’s mullet. Sure, the mullet was all the rage in the 80s, but still. It’s unfortunate. But that’s ok, because everything else about this remake makes up for this cringe-worthy hair style in spades. Characters worth rooting for (hair aside), amazing practical effects, and gruesome deaths. Kitchen sink drain death, anyone? How about the phone-booth? Anyone having doubts about the effectiveness of a well made remake, look no further. This should be requisite viewing for any fan of 80s horror, practical effects, or any fan of plain ol’ fun.
What’s your favorite horror remake? How do you feel about news of the new remake?
Rating: 9 out of 10 (minus one for mullets)