The late 80’s were a special time and were square in the middle of the golden generation of horror effects. We hadn’t quite gone into the complete tailspin that CG brought along and as such there were quite a few movies that arrived featuring powerhouse practical effects in what seems like it was a really fun time to be working in the genre. The Blob, directed by Chuck Russell, is one of those truly amazing spectacles that has to be seen to be appreciated. If you haven’t yet laid your eyes on this one then check out the trailer before heading down to the review and consider taking the plunge in full before jumping into our spoiler-filled review.
Reviewed by: Jake
There’s a little mountain town in the Sierra Nevada’s that needs some snow in a bad way, but hey, at least it has high school football and incompetent referees that have no idea what an illegal shift is. Touchdowns are scored, concussion protocols are ignored and ribbed condoms are awkwardly purchased. Friday nights, amirite?
Anyway, a meteorite crashes into the woods outside of town and is discovered by a transient who decides to poke at its gelatinous interior with a stick when he notices it moving. Naturally, it jumps up and attaches itself to his arm. A mulleted rebel named Brian (Kevin Dillon) who rides Triumph bikes around like he’s Steve fuckin’ McQueen tries to save him but he’s promptly hit by a car driven by one of the football players, Paul (Donovan Leitch), while he’s on a date with cheerleader, Meg (Shawnee Smith). They get him to the hospital where he melts into half the man he once was. Brian discovers his body and is promptly attacked by the blob, which engulfs him and melts his face off of his face in front to a horrified Meg.
The blob then slinks away and begins a full-blown rampage against the townsfolk. Meg and Brian do the classic popular girl/outcast schtick where they sort of team up and you can tell there’s some sparks before Brian seemingly selfishly abandons the whole ordeal to look out for himself, much to Meg’s chagrin. Meg continues to look for and collect her family members, namely her younger brother, from the local movie theater, where a now massive blob eviscerates a bunch of people and chases Meg & co. into the sewers.
Meanwhile, the military has arrived to quarantine the town. Turns out the blob is actually a biological weapon that was shot into space because it was too dangerous. Too bad they fucked it up. Unable to escape, Brian is able to help Meg and her younger brother get out of the sewers, but only after the little kid’s friend is murdered HARD by the blob.
The blob take out most of the military presence including their leader Meddows (Joe Seneca) and the townsfolk attempt to barricaded themselves from it and to kill it with fire before realizing that it is neutralized from the cold. Meg uses a fire extinguisher against it to figure it out and Brian drives a truck with a bunch of liquid nitrogen in it into the blob, which they use to freeze it into about a billion little pink crystals. Threat neutralized. The outcast is a hero. 80’s.
In an odd footnote, the creepy town pastor is seen delivering some sort of a sermon in a tent in the desert to people who don’t seem to have any idea what they are doing, and it’s revealed that he has kept a part of the blob in a jar. Do you smell a sequel?..
What the Movie Does Right
Effects, effects and more effects. This was a $20 million movie that used about half of its budget on practical effects, and it shows. Like several of its 80’s horror kin (The Thing and The Fly to name a couple), The Blob is a remake that flexes its visual muscle and does so in extremely gory fashion. The kills in this movie are amazing. Whether it’s Paul being melted or a high school girl looking like a balloon with the air let out, or a dude getting sucked straight down a pipe, The Blob works hard to earn the grotesque amusement you see on screen and it really rests its hat on the spectacle you get from a giant pink sack of pus roaming around a town melting the shit out of people.
The other, less obvious thing that this film does right is working as a great example of what a horror remake should be. We see plenty of examples in the genre where a movie is remade in a fashion that at best feels simply like a rehashing of the same story due to lack of inspiration and at worst, like a flat-out cash grab based on cache with the brand. The Blob is a movie about a fucking gelatinous monster terrorizing a town. It’s simple. You could say it didn’t need to be remade and I would agree with you, BUT what it does is interesting because it is a movie made for it’s time. Sure, the gore is awesome because it’s cool to look at, fun, and very, very 80’s. The writing and acting follow suit in campy glory. But there are things here made for the audience of the time that are truly unique. The Cold War biological warfare backstory to the blob is one, and it really works despite putting a pretty definitive time stamp on the film (if there wasn’t enough of one already). Additionally, Brian’s character is the quintessential 80’s style of hero. He’s more anti-hero than hero, and his role presents a very solid appreciation for counter-culture and a general “stick it to the man” mentality that really goes against what you would see if you watched the original version starring McQueen. It’s both a worthy remake and a good film in its own right, and one that is perfect for group viewing.
What the Movie Does Wrong
For as good as the effects are in general, there are a few instances where the stop motion animation on the blob looks a little sub-standard, and there are a few instances where this is coupled with some obvious green-screening to make for a visual experience that is downright haggard.
On a similar note, the writing and acting in the movie are generally campy and engaging in a fun way, but there are instances where poor lines, deliver or a combination of both can leave a bad taste in the mouth.
There’s also plenty that can be picked apart with the military presence in the film. Their whole blob recovery operation is hamfisted and woefully inept. They don’t set a perimeter, they give too much intel away, and they don’t have any idea of how to deal with the monster that they ostensibly created. Don’t think about it and you’ll be ok. Spend any time diving into this plot element though, and you’re going to be shoving your head through a wall pretty damn quickly.
Story: 4 - You aren’t watching this for the story. It’s a pink, fleshy ball of goo terrorizing a town. People die until they freeze it. The end.
World-Building / Immersion: 3.5 - There’s some camp here and I think it’s either going to hit you well and pull you in, or you’ll have an experience like I did with the movie where I find it extremely easy to tune out of until the next gory thing happens on screen.
Scare-Factor: 4 - Gore hounds will have plenty to enjoy here but it’s not an overly scary movie as evidenced by the general plot.
Effects (or Judicious Lack Thereof): 8 - Awesome, glorious, amazing, gooey practical effects are on display throughout this movie. Rejoice. Some of the audio is a bit wack though.
Overall: 7 - this is a highly recommendable group watch that is best enjoyed with copious amounts of beer and a big ol’ screen. Fun times for all.