Throwback Thirty – The Blob (1988)

the_blob_28198829_theatrical_poster 5_star_rating_system_3_and_a_half_stars So, I couldn’t find an appropriate film with the word “Return” in the title to review this week but, as I’m still on this October high, I have picked another great horror film. Last week I watched a parody of a classic B movie from the 50s. This week we’re celebrating a remake of one of them. The Blob was first released in 1958 starring Steve McQueen. 30 years later it was remade with Kevin Dillon. The original was a low-budget, independent film that went on to become a surprise hit. It helped that McQueen, appearing in one of his earliest roles, stood out as the star he would go on to be. The original film is everything that the science-fiction films of the 50s were known for. It became a classic horror film and it’s obvious to see why it would be on the cards to be remade. As we have seen, the 80s was a big era for horror films. The zombie uprising was still in full swing and cinema audiences were keen to be scared. It makes sense that one of the granddaddies of the genre would be near the top of the list for a remake utilising the improved special effects of the time… and that guy from Entourage.

In the original film the titular Blob is some sort of alien being that falls to Earth in a meteorite before rampaging through town and devouring the people it comes across. For the remake, things get a bit more conspiratorial. Instead the Blob is the consequence of a failed scientific experiment by the army to create a biochemical weapon during the Cold War. When it is let loose on the unsuspecting town, the Blob is followed by soldiers and scientists dressed in bio-hazard suits who are willing to dispose of anyone who might reveal everything to the outside world. Thankfully, there are two teenagers on the case. After her first date with fellow student Paul gets interrupted by the Blob, Meg (Shawnee Smith) tries to inform the town of their impending doom. Unfortunately, the only person willing to listen to her is the town bad boy, Brian (Kevin Dillon). The pair try to investigate the creature whilst avoiding the army.

In terms of quality and basic film making, I guess you could definitely say that the remake is the better film. The story pays more attention to the little details and there is far more gore and terror to be had. And, though they seem pathetic 30 years on, the special effects allowed the audience to see people disintegrate and witness the face of its victims inside the pink goo. Compared to the original, the 1988 remake is a bloody terrifying film. Heads turn to goo, the Blob forces its way into phone boxes, and kitchen workers are pulled head first down plug holes. It’s quite disgusting in a quaint 80s kind of way.

However, there is something about it that means it was never destined to be the classic that its 1958 counterpart was. It lacks a Steve McQueen figure that you really care about. The entire cast here feels like the rest of the cast in the original: forgettable. It’s not really possible to care about any of them. Even when young kids are threatened by the Blob. I didn’t really mind if anyone survived the onslaught. In fact, there were points when I was genuinely championing the Blob itself. Although, I do applaud a film that kills off one of its nicest characters in the first stages. Instead of leaving us in the hands of the all-American teen hero, we are left to follow the young criminal with his leather jacket and motorbike.

This is a film that is brimming with that all too familiar 80s cynicism. It’s what makes the plot feel so plausible. It is showing us a scenario in which listening to authority figures isn’t going to end well for you. This is the B movie of the conspiracy theory era where nobody can be trusted and only those who go against the grain will survive. It’s an interesting vibe that adds some fun to the original concept and, added to the look of the thing, means that the remake of The Blob is largely successful. It’s just a shame it missed that extra spark to take it over the edge. It’s a film that, a few key scenes aside, won’t really stick with you. It starts to drag a bit and there are a lot of ends to tie up before we see the creature destroyed. And even that momentous occasion isn’t far more pedestrian than it deserved to be. It’s a decent film but you can see why it didn’t make much of a mark in its own day.

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