The Birthday Series – The Blob (1988)
Well, here we are again. I was a wee child of 10 when this movie came out, and I can safely say it was not on my radar. In fact, I’ve never see this one before now. Basically because it seemed a bit shit. But rules are rules, and this series has demanded that I watch it. So here goes nothing…
In the 50’s there were a spate of horror films that were otherwise thinly veiled stories alluding to the Cold War, the dangers of nuclear weapons or Russian spies infiltrating the home of the brave, the land of the free, and all that jingoistic bollocks. Somewhere in the midst of these political allegories, a schlocky horror movie starring a young Steve McQueen was released. This film was called ‘The Blob’, about a gelatinous (yep, you guessed it) blob from outer space that crashed to earth and proceeded to slink it’s way around town devouring all who would happen to stop and patiently wait for it to blob it’s way over to them and feast on their screaming carcass. Years later, the film was primarily known because Steve McQueen became a huge star. And to capitalise on the fact that people recognised the evocative title, the powers that be decided to remake it in the late 80’s.
In the woods near a sleepy backwater town of Arborville (why do these things always seem to happen in small rural towns?) a meteorite crashes to earth. The town drunk witnesses the incident and investigates. The meteorite has cracked open and a pink, gelatinous substance is oozing out. Using the kind of sense and expertise one usually associates with the town drunk, he pokes it with a stick. Obviously pink, gelatinous substances from outer space don’t like to be poked by sticks, because it becomes enraged and attaches itself to his hand. Local bad boy Brian (an impressively mulleted Kevin Dillon) encounters the old man running screaming through the woods, and gives chase, but the drunk is hit by a car carrying Lance (Donovan Leitch) and Meg (Shawnee Smith), local high school kids on their first date. All three kids take the old man to the local hospital, but when Lance goes in to check on him he sees the old man has been devoured from the chest down. The Blob from outer space is feeding, and it is growing at an exponential rate!
This is an inherently silly movie, and it’s strongest asset is that’s it’s made in exactly the right tone. Director Chuck Russell and writers Russell and Frank Darabont understand the premise is preposterous, and play it tongue in cheek. There’s a sense of humour running throughout the film, as in a scene that has fun with a sleazy kids efforts to cop a feel, or when the blob (giant by this time) pancakes a poor townsperson who unfortunately stumbles at the wrong moment. The highlights of the film are definitely the impressively gruesome kills. The Blob has the uncanny ability to suck humans through portals much too small, as when a kitchenhand gets pulled head first down the sink, or a deputy is broken in half and sucked out of small hole in a barricaded door. It’s funny stuff, and there were many moments where I was laughing out loud.
Russell and Darabont also add to the story of The Blobs origins, making it slightly more than simply “It came from outer space!”, and in turn adds a second villain (and more cannon fodder) to the mix. It’s always a good moment in these types of horror films when the creature turns on the master, and this one is no exception. There’s also an impressive dedication to the “no one is safe” policy, with an early exit by a character I expected to survive. This added to the fun, because even though you thought you knew who would survive, that early kill allowed a little doubt to creep in.
The special effects are very impressive, and understandably so. Much of the practical effects were created by Tony Gardner, and are simply superb examples of make-up and practical special effects. Gardner was the person responsible for the effects in ‘Three Kings’ which resulted in him being investigated by the Arizona State Police because they believed he had used a real human cadaver to capture the close up shots of a bullet entering the body. The visual effects are equally impressive for the time. These were handled by Hoyt Yeatman, who won an Academy Award for ‘The Abyss’. The shots of the massive Blob, blobbing down main street and devouring townsfolk is on of the highlights of the film.
The acting in ‘The Blob’ is nothing special, but at the same time everyone plays their part. Shawnee Smith and Donovon Leitch are the standard young, clean American kids (we know this because she’s a cheerleader and he’s a football star, they’re always the nicest kids in school right?), and Kevin Dillon is the not-so-bad boy who’s spent his life looking out for numero uno. We instantly know that he’s a bad boy because he rides a motorbike, wears a leather jacket and smokes. There are some entertaining hamtastic turns by Joe Seneca as the mad scientist and Del Close as Reverend Meeker, and a young, pre boob job Erika Eleniak turns up briefly to unknowingly exact revenge on the sleazy kid.
All things considered, I had substantial apprehensions about ‘The Blob’, and can enthusiastically say that those apprehensions were misguided. This is a very entertaining and enjoyable slice of schlock and much better than I ever expected.
For Droids a jolly good fellow!