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Blob (1988), The
The late 1980s saw the real glut of remakes of classic '50s science fiction films, after the reasonably successful Richter/Kaufman Invasion of the Body Snatchers in 1978. That film updated well because it had the wisdom to show how society had changed. Now it was even harder to distinguish between humans and pod people. Likewise, John Carpenter's The Thing had the good idea of going back to the mostly unfilmed source story that Howard Hawks had ignored thirty years before. Finally, David Cronenberg took the 1958 The Fly, a film already made trite by two repetitive sequels, and re-invented it from top to bottom. His 1986 remake stayed true to the George Langelaan concept, yet provided the ideal framework on which to hang Cronenberg's obsessions with disease and decay.
But soon thereafter came remakes with little apparent reason for being, except to recycle one famous title or another. Invaders from Mars all but buried the good name of the 1953 original it copied. This big budget, effects and gore-laden remake of the 1958 The Blob may have its heart in the right place, but everything about it is just too obvious.
An attractive cast and good production values can't hide the fact that this Blob re-tread is a fast attempt to update the original film with modern special effects, and little else. After introducing 6 or 7 characters, the show soon kills off the three or four we care about the most. One in particular exits in almost a Psycho - like surprise scene, but the rest of the killings come so fast and predictably that they just don't carry any impact. Each attack is of course accompanied by in-your-face gore effects of partially dissolved and dismembered humans, that swiftly become a joke. It's almost as if the Blob weren't actually killing the humans, but instead revealing them to be made of Pla-Doh.
The earlier part of the movie is actually the best, although the very opening is so close to the Theodore Simonson original that it hardly seems to happen at all. For about ten minutes, particularly in the Hospital scenes (with a bit from David Lynch regular Jack Nance) there's an actual sense of horror. But when the loveable waitress and the reasonable sheriff are dispatched just for the sake of some quick thrills, the heart goes out of the show. The remaining characters are stock teens stretched to become action heroes. Our cheerleader heroine goes from innocent pom pom, to sewer commando, shooting machine guns, the works. The town thug, actually a pretty boy with a dark attitude, transforms into a combination Captain America and Archie Andrews. Gee, the Blob really helps people sort out their lives, doesn't it?
The commercial underpinnings of The Blob show far too clearly. The cameraman is from The Fly. The trailer apes Alien's portentious mood and taglines. The gore cheerfully outdoes the slasher subgenre, and the monster itself behaves more like the shape-shifting The Thing than Jack H. Harris' original tub of red silicone.
The original Blob was frightening in its simplicity. It was a quiet, oozing, colorful kind of universal solvent, come to cleanse Earth of all that bothersome animal and human population, anything with flesh and bones to dissolve. This new creature is more complicated but less convincing, appearing to be a cross between an partly-cooked omlette and the tripe-and-trimmings creature glimpsed at the end of The Quatermass Xperiment. It's just jelly in some scenes, a churning mass of protoplasm in others, but it also shows the ability to make itself as rigid as a ton of asphalt, or shoot out tentacle grabbers. The original creature just crept along, perhaps guided by heat or movement, but this thing is so dextrous and intelligent in its actions that it begs more explanation. Since we know that the only explanation is convenience, there's not much interest to be had. Despite its low budget and few onscreen appearances, the original The Blob had pretty much used up the possibilities of its original concept. 1
The plot, which drags out the overworked idea from Alien that the sinister government would purposely bring a horrible monster here for use as a biological weapon, is simply asinine, providing some really dumb guys in white suits as Blob-snacks, and as targets for the dauntless teenage heroes. The nice lawman gets killed, but he has a deputy (Paul McCrane, notable from RoboCop the year before) who starts out a jerk, just like in the first film. He transforms into a good guy by, of course, taking the side of the 'teens against the G-Men. Naturally, the filmmakers choose to waste him too. The body count here is high, and the many gruesome melted people on view seem totally gratuitous. The Blob is dispatched basically identically as in the first picture, which provides a particularly unsatisfying non-ending, complete with a coda indicating the possibility of a remake with an apocalyptic theme. Richter, Carpenter, and Cronenberg did the right thing when they re-invented their respective remakes instead of simply reiterating the originals.
Effects-wise, The Blob is an encyclopedia of what could be done in 1988, one year before The Abyss ushered in digital effects. Dream Quest Images worked on both pictures, and handles its chores here with gusto. There are mattes, matte paintings, stop motion animation and lots of shots that Savant has just no clue at all how they were done. Some effects are more successful than others but almost all of them make an impact. The scene in the phone booth, and the graphic image of the unlucky dishwasher going 'down the drain', were standouts.
Columbia TriStar's DVD of The Blob is very handsome and makes the most of the show. The sometimes hard to follow fast action is aided considerably by the widescreen picture, and only fairly narrow pan'n scans were available before. There's the trailer mentioned above, and that's it for extras.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
The Blob rates:
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: September 8, 2001
1. The original Blob was probably inspired by The Quatermass Xperiment. Savant's seen The H-Man, which isn't bad, but the best variant by far is Riccardo Freda's Caltiki The Immortal Monster, for sheer invention and chills.