Saturday, September 18, 2010

THE BLOB (1988) Movie Review

THE BLOB (1988)

In a small sleepy town in Colorado, a giant meteor has crashed in the foothills only to be discovered by a homeless hermit, who learns the hard way not to poke a gelatinous goo seeping out of a rock. The town's sole rebel Brian and the high school's star cheerleader Meg also get a taste of what this blob can do when they come across the ever growing Jell-O Mold From Hell. With each victim that it dissolves and consumes, the Blob grows in strength and size. When Brian decides to make a self-preserving dash on his motorcycle, he crosses paths with a military containment brigade that seems to have arrived on the scene too quick and too well prepared to be just a coincidence. Meanwhile, the townsfolk are being rounded up under the pretense of a bacterial outbreak, and The Blob, growing stronger still, has made its way into the sewer system. And it is pissed off!

Like a younger and often ignored sibling to John Carpenter's THE THING, this remake of a cheesy 1950's b-movie has a distinct privilege of expanding upon and improving the original source material. Coming from director Chuck Russell (NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3, THE MASK) who also wrote the screenplay along with Frank Darabont, the communist-allegorizing original film is updating for a cynical anti-authoritarian and anti-government 1980s audience with an additional warning against the Cold War arms race thrown in for good measure. Unlike the original, in which a mysterious "red" entity comes from the skies and threatens America's heartland, here Russell and Darabont provide an origin to the beloved goop that is much worse than any external force could hope to create.

Continuing with the connection to Carpenter's creation, Russell out does the original monster as he makes his Blob faster, more dangerous, more powerful, and perhaps unstoppable. Along with a horde of special effects creators, Russell employs just about every trick available at the time to bring the Purple People Dissolver to life. Surprisingly, aside from a few just a layering shots, the effects hold up quite well over twenty years later, with miniatures, puppets, and matte shots all coming into play. On top of the Blob itself, the creature's new way of "eating" leaves some quite gory and gooey messes in its wake, and as it grows bigger and gets deeper into the town, the new ways it learns to find victims leads to some quite over-the-top ends to the secondary characters.

Speaking of characters, THE BLOB gets a few actors early in their career as they cut their acting chops in the horror field. Kevin Dillon steps into the shoes of Steve McQueen as Brian, whose rather wooden and goofy turn here is right at home with the b-movie styling, though it was probably not conscious on his part to play it off that way. The wardrobe choice, fitting somewhere between Bon Jovi and Adam Ant, definitely does not shout "rebel", but boy can he throw a half-empty beer in anger! Watch for future Baywatch babe Erika Eleniak as a potential date-rape victim, Bill "Chop Top" Moseley as a soldier, and is that everyone's favorite female torture prodigy Shawnee Smith getting second billing as cheerleader Meg? You bet it is!

For whatever reason, and perhaps it is because this came out before the "everything must be remade" mentality in Hollywood, Russell's re-imagining of the 1950s drive-in sci-fi film is often forgotten in the argument to defend or defame remakes. THE BLOB is a highly entertaining piece of 80s schlock that has fun with the source material, takes time to poke at the then current cookie-cutter slasher films, and makes sure that you know none of the characters are safe by employing my favorite expect-the-unexpected tactic of killing a kid. While no masterpiece in any sense, Russell's sophomore effort in the horror/dark-humor hybrid genre certainly deserves more than it is has gotten and should be used whenever possible as an argument of how a movie should be remade, and more importantly what should be remade.


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