by Steve Habrat
If the 1958 Cold War science-fiction film The Blob wasn’t gory enough for you, then you need to seek out the spiffed up 1988 remake immediately. Yes, there is a remake of The Blob and you’ll be surprised to know that this version goes right for the throat. Director and co-writer Chuck Russell and writer Frank “The Walking Dead” Darabont scrub away some of the innocence that could be found in the playing-it-straight ’58 version and makes things nice and gruesome for the crowd hungry for entrails. While it may not have as much on its mind as the original film did, the film still makes a compelling statement about how the American people could be expendable to their own government in the name of science, making the film worthwhile for those seeking out a heady experience. To me, The Blob ’88 is more concerned about updating the technical side of things and in the process, making our stomachs a little queasy. The Blob ’88 does hold up surprisingly well and the film is a wickedly self-aware little horror offering, but the climax ends up getting tangled in action excess that stalls the film.
After a meteorite crashes to earth and lands out in the secluded woods of Arborville, California, an elderly man begins snooping around the crash site. The elderly man ends up discovering a strange, jelly-like substance that suddenly attaches to his hand and slowly begins devouring the limb. Three high school students, bad-boy Brian (Played by Kevin Dillon), cheerleader Meg (Played by Shawnee Smith), and jock Paul (Played by Donovan Leitch), stumble upon the elderly man and rush him to the hospital. Paul soon discovers that the strange goo has gruesomely devoured the man’s stomach and then finds himself getting attacked by the substance. Meg narrowly escapes the hospital and meets back up with the skeptical Brian, who soon sees the blob in all its horrific action. The two begin trying to warn the local sheriff, Herb Geller (Played by Jeffery DeMunn), who refuses to take their story seriously and instead blames outcast Brian. As the body count racks up, a shadowy government organization led by Dr. Christopher Meddows (Played by Joe Seneca) appears in Arborville, looking to find the blob so they can trap it and study it. Brian and Meg soon discover that the government may not be there to protect them and that there is more to the horrifying organism than they could have ever imagined.
The Blob ’88 has an undeniably effective build-up that erupts in brutal encounters with the alien organism. You see arms eaten off, torsos dissolved, and other revolting injuries from the destructive force. While some of the effects may be showing their age, the gorier aspects of the film are still pretty well done. When the film is keeping the blob largely off screen, with only slight glimpses of it, Darabont and Russell manage to create a seriously creepy B-movie. Naturally, the ending of the film sees the organism in all its goofy glory, causing this shapeless terror to become unintentionally hilarious. The Blob ’88 is also aware of its teen appeal, having the viewer root for two teen heroes who, naturally, morph into barely legal superheroes by the last stand. This is what ends up throwing The Blob ’88 off, the typical 80’s staple of molding the protagonists into unstoppable heroes that can make it out of any situation thrown at them. Yet this teenage perspective also has a number of shining moments, especially an awkward encounter in a drugstore that involves condoms and the local reverend.
The Blob ’88 does have some mighty fine acting for a drive-in update, mostly from stars Kevin Dillon and Shawnee Smith. Dillon, who wears a magnificent mullet, is the stereotypical bad-boy who wears a leather jacket, works on motorcycles, and apparently never attends any school functions. It takes him some time to gain some momentum with Smith, who gets to have some fun as a tough cheerleader. They are a blast to watch in the final crazed moments of this romp. I also enjoyed Jeffery DeMunn as the local sheriff who has a crush on a waitress on the town diner. Things perk up even more when Joe Seneca takes to the screen as Dr. Meddows, who isn’t concerned with helping the townsfolk at all, instead hungry for personal gain. He ends up stealing the movie as a secondary villain who is willing to allow innocent people to perish so he can claim the ultimate prize: A new discovery. The final moments of the film belong to Del Close as the unstable Reverend Meeker, who gets his hands on a frozen sample of the blob and then threatens to use it to end the world.
Director Russell and Darabont refuse to tinker with the handful of iconic moments that made the original film into the classic that it is today. Still firmly in place is the movie theater sequence that features beefed up special effects that swoop down on fleeing audience members. Also, they stage the hospital sequence marvelously and blindside us with a ghastly reveal. Russell and Darabont smartly go ahead and create a few new classic scenes (the sewer encounter is awesomely grim, the sink death is nice and bloody) all while putting their own spin on that question mark that was stamped on the final frame of the original film. The end of The Blob ‘88 descends into full-blown chaos that ended up throwing the pace of the film off, a pace that I thought was utterly perfect and effective. The Blob manages to find it’s footing in a world that isn’t gripped by communist fears and nuclear tension, instead using fear of our own government in its place. There is obvious care for the original film as well as an understanding that the original was silly even if it didn’t want to admit that it was. Overall, I prefer The Blob ’88 to the ’58 version, one of the few remakes I like a bit more than the original film. I’m a sucker for that self-aware grin and its tendency to dump fake blood and guts all over me when I least expect it.
The Blob 1988 is available on DVD.