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The Blob (1988)

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.

Grader: B-

The Blob 1988 is available on DVD.

The 25 Horror Films That Have Scared Steve…Pt. 2

by Steve Habrat

Part 2 is here, boys and ghouls! Here are five more horror films that will have you dying of fright! They sure spooked me!

20.) The Mist (2007)

            To judge Frank Darabont’s 2007 creature feature by it’s cover and basic premise alone would be an incredibly gross error on your part. I am here to inform you that it’s like the 1950s best kept sci-fi secret! And it’s actually an A-list film masquerading as B-movie absurdity. Aiming its focus on a mysterious, otherworldly mist that floods the streets and traps a group of people in a grocery store, the mist brings with it insects that look like they have been spit out from the depths of hell. And these insects bring lots and lots of hell indeed. They dispatch the desperate citizens with incredibly savage brutality. As for the film itself, think Alien smashed with Dawn of the Dead with the artful approach of 28 Days Later. Do I have your attention yet? If that’s not enough to convince you to see it, it features an incredibly chilling performance from Marcia Gay Henderson as an end-of-days-is-here Bible nut who may actually be more dangerous than the man-eating bugs. It features an end so shocking and devastating, you will be shaken to your core. The bugs will make your skin crawl and then your muscles too right of your bones. And on the DVD, you can actually watch it in glorious black and white. If you’re not scrambling to add this to your instant-que on Netflix, you should be.

19.) Nosferatu (1922)

A word of advice for all you Twilight fans out there: If you LOVE vampires, like, so much, then you should do yourself a favor and seek out the roots of vampires in cinema!!! Oh, and you may actually discover a beautiful and haunting horror film in the process. F.W. Murnau’s German Expressionist silent film is the first portrayal of Dracula, but due to certain circumstances, it had to be renamed. Either way, Nosferatu will awe you with its gothic style (It’s like a Tim Burton flick, kids!). While I know most of you are already fairly familiar with the appearance of Count Orlok, it’s worth your time to seek the film out for it’s dreamlike imagery that will creep its way into your dreams. You may just keep your eyes on the shadows in your room in the middle of night! Actually scarier than Dracula, it’s does exactly what The Phantom of the Opera did, it forces you to fill in the sound effects. You paint the images in your head. And the images you are not left to create on your own are some of the most iconic in the history of film. Being a big fan of this film, I recommend you make it a double feature with The Phantom!

18.) Seven (1995)

Before EVERYONE was talking about that Facebook movie, The Social Network, David Fincher spun a film noirish nightmare about a serial killer who chooses his victims by their violations of the seven deadly sins. Bleak even in the landscape, which is an unidentified city where it rains more than it does in Seattle, it establishes and maintains the feeling that no one gets out of this scenario alive or untouched by evil. And this is all waaaayyyyy before its devastating conclusion. If you haven’t seen it yet, wait until you get a load of the climax. While the gruesome murders will keep you busy trying to keep the last meal you ate before watching this safely in your stomach, try to keep it on simply to marvel at Kevin Spacey’s unforgettably calm, cool, and calculating monster John Doe. It’s his performance alone that anchors this doom-drenched masterpiece confidently in the waters of truly unforgettable.

17.) Targets (1968)

Oh what a shame it is that many people have never heard of Peter Bogdanovich’s 1968 film that is loosely based off the atrocities committed by real-life serial killer Charles Whitman.  While ultimately an exploration of the death of the fantastical movie monster and the emergence of the everyday monster, the premise still manages to be alarming relevant in the world we live in today. And the film has aged with magnificent grace! Following two storylines, one follows Boris Orloff (played awesomely by monster movie legend Boris Karloff) who is starting to realize that his monster movies are beginning to be old hat. On the other side of town, All-American Bobby decides to murder his family and sets out on a killing spree armed with several sniper rifles and a number of other assorted firearms. Sound chilling? It is. Especially when Bobby casually eats his lunch while brutally killing innocent civilians. The film leaves the viewer with the unsettling feeling that every moment could be your last. The scariest part of all is that fact that there is no motive. That someone could simply entertain himself or herself by committing mass murder is one of the most chilling things imaginable.

16.) Halloween (1978)

I will give Rob Zombie credit, his remake of the John Carpenter classic and last year’s sequel where littered with his cinematic fingerprints and where truly his own visions. Splattered with his trademark hillbilly horror and copious amounts of blood, it definitely strayed from Carpenter’s original vision, which was an exploration of pure evil. But it’s the 1978 original that will forever stand as the crown jewel. Everyone is familiar with it and our antagonist, Michael Myers, would send both Freddy and Jason heading for the hills. Yup, he’s THAT scary. Dressed in a mechanic’s jumpsuit and wearing a whited-out William Shatner mask, Michael dispatches teens with surprisingly no remorse and shockingly little bloodshed. And the whole time you will be begging to know why. Carpenter gleefully turns the other way and leaves you right in the middle of Michael’s wrath. It’s what the film refuses to reveal that is truly terrifying and we are left to contemplate what this embodiment of evil ultimately means. Though it’s had countless imitators and sequels, it is still the undisputed king of teen slasher flicks.

15.) Audition (1997)

I can finally breathe a giant sigh of relief for two reasons: 1.)  Hollywood FINALLY realized that they are incapable of making good American versions of Japanese horror films. Sure, The Ring was pretty good, but seriously, every other one SUCKED! The Ring 2? Ummm, did you see that scene with the deer? The Grudge? Come on! The Eye? Yawn. The Grudge 2? You gotta be fucking kidding me. Pulse? No, you’re not even trying anymore, Hollywood. So, my point is that Hollywood seems to have moved on from defecating all over some fairly interesting horror films from another country. This leads me to my next reason: 2.) Audition was never plucked from the J-Horror pack to be remade. THANK GOD! A heartbreaking love story with some seriously dark and twisted stuff lurking beneath the surface, the climax of this film is like a sucker punch right to the gut. It will knock you right off your feet, and then proceed to chop them off with razor wire. Following an older Japanese man who in the wake of his wife’s death holds an audition for young women to attempt to grab his eye is quite a chiller indeed. If while watching it you’re thinking to yourself: “Steve, why on earth did you say this is scary?” Be patient. The climax is ranks among some of the most horrifying stuff ever committed to celluloid. Murder and torture are just the beginning. And it’s torture that will make you cringe. And possibly upset in ways you never thought possible. But most importantly, scare the absolute shit right out of you. If that’s not enough, wait for the man who’s kept in a sack, is missing an arm, leg, and a good majority of his fingers, and who laps up human vomit like a dog. ENJOY!

Tune in tomorrow, boys and ghouls, for more thrills and chills. In the meantime, click the vintage Halloween photo above and vote in our tiebreaker poll! Hope you are all having a ghastly Halloween!