The Blob (1988)
Starring: Shawnee Smith, Kevin Dillon, and Donovan Leitch
Directed By: Chuck Russell
Written By: Chuck Russell and Frank Darabont
As I have posted before (seen here), sometimes a movie is just there to entertai. That’s where the B-movie comes in. An example of this type of movie is 1958’s The Blob which starred a young Steve McQueen. Like most B-movies of that era, it was an allegory to the Red Scare, meaning the fear of Communists (be it from Russia or much closer to home). It’s pretty bad, as one would expect, but it still is a pretty entertaining flick. When it was determined that the world needed an update of The Blob 30 years later, some changes obviously had to be made. They definitely could have done worst.
The remake takes place in the small town of Arborville, California. From the opening shots, it’s a town that’s dying economically as it relies on ski resort tourism to survive. Unfortunately for them, the snow and tourists have skipped them for a couple of years now. It’s also a town that seems stuck in the ’50s. You can look at the storefronts and just imagine it being Mainstreet USA with a Platters song playing in the background. We meet the typical characters in these sort of movies: the pretty cheerleader Meg (Smith), the football star Paul (Leitch), the local badboy Brian (Dillon). We also meet a lot of the rest of the town, you know the cannon fodder, as they live their rather vacant lives in town stuck in a time warp.
That all changes when a meteorite lands just outside of town. Of course, it contains the titular Blob, a small mass of ooze with the primitive cognitive function of eating. it doesn’t eat just anything, naturally, it prefers to hunt human beings. To make matters even worse, it grows exponentially as it feeds. As it causes all sorts of chaos, including killing most of the authority figures, the government comes in to check on the small town. As we all know, their motivations may or may not be genuine. In the end, it comes down to the young people of the town to save the day. Shocking, I know.
It’s pretty obvious that they weren’t trying to do anything groundbreaking story-wise. Put a monster in a small town, add some shady government agents and some plucky kids, and see how it goes. Russell and Durabont (who would go on to direct and write The Shawshank Redemption) do bring in some interesting ideas and some rather imaginative death scenes. To overcome the original’s dated Soviet paranoia, they direct that fear to the US government. After all, when it comes to these sort of movies, what’s scarier than a government that’s possibly willing to risk the lives of it’s own citizens?
Again, there are some great death sequences found within the movie. We get some decent gore: arms being ripped off, faces imploding, and people being digested in front of our eyes. Ever wanted to see someone get sucked into a sink drain? Well, you’re in luck here! However, there is one death scene that’s talked about more than the rest. Usually in horror movies, no harm come to younger children (or dogs if you’re Roland Emmerich). Not the case in The Blob. I will not give away which kid gets it, but it’s equally bold and unsettling to see a child slowly disintegrate while screaming for help. I did not see it coming and fully expected one of the main characters to get offed in the scene instead.
The performances here are fine, even if laughable at times. Dillon, who would achieve greater fame on HBO’s “Entourage,” plays Brian as the typical outsider troublemaker. I think it should be noted that this is the one character that seems to live in the “present.” Smith’s Meg is your typical ’80s hot chick, but she also does a good job imitating old school scream queens. You might know her from the Saw movies, by the way. The rest of the cast are full of “Hey, it’s that girl/guy!” type actors…or at least, “Hey, that looks like so-and-so!” They all do a serviceable jobs for what they’re needed to do: mostly to die, of course.
Being that this is a creature feature, we must take a look at the special effects. For their time, and budget, they aren’t bad at all. It’s a mixture of stop motion animation, robotics, and other practical effects. The weakest of the bunch are the stop motion animation, it’s always glaringly apparent when it switches over to clay, even if it is necessary. The other effects are quite good, however. I love how we’re able to see the Blob ooze around when it’s smaller and some of the makeup effects are really visually intriguing.
Bottomline: To call The Blob a “good” movie would be a gross exaggeration. It’s not remotely thought provoking nor does it really do anything new (even at the time of it’s release). That said, I still had a good time watching the carnage unfold, laughing with the movie at the over the top deaths. I can’t honestly recommend it, but if you’re looking for a campy, “turn your brain off” horror movie, this isn’t a bad choice at all. Besides, any horror movie with the guts to kill a kid has to be somewhat okay, right?