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The Test of Time: The Blob (1988)

07.12.2018by: Jake Dee

We all have certain movies we love. Movies we respect without question because of either tradition, childhood love, or because they’ve always been classics. However, as time keeps ticking, do those classics still hold up? Do they remain must see? So…the point of this column is to determine how a film holds up for a modern horror audience, to see if it stands the Test of Time.

DIRECTED BY CHUCK RUSSELL

STARRING KEVIN DILLON, SHAWNEE SMITH, JACK NANCE, JEFFREY DEMUNN, JOE SENECA

Damn, 1988 was a great year for horror movies. It really was. If you don’t believe us, look no further than the roster of kickass horror flicks showcased in the Summer of ’88 Tuesdays of Terror event thrown by AITH and Alamo DraftHouse Brooklyn. Shite’s dope! We’re talking FRIDAY THE 13TH VII, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4, WAXWORK, PHANTASM II, and these are just movies that dropped in the summertime. Hell of a year indeed!

The fifth and arguably finest film on the itinerary is Chuck Russell’s remake of THE BLOB, which turns 30 years old on August 5th. Not sure about all of y’all, but even as a fan of Steve McQueen and the glorious Technicolor B-movie OG, I feel the remake is an overall more satisfying movie (peep our original vs. remake article on the matter HERE). Of course, feeling that way as a teenager is one thing…the question at hand remains, how has the BLOB ’88 faired over the past three decades? Does the FX-driven gore still impress the way it did in 1988? Does the action, tempo and pacing hold serve? Does Kevin Dillon’s revolting semi-perm metal-mullet still nauseate? Let’s find the f*ck out below when we officially pit THE BLOB up against only the Test that matters: Time!

THE STORY: Adapted from the 1958 screenplay by Chuck Russell and Frank Darabont, the conceit of THE BLOB could neither be more efficient, nor faithful to the B-movie tableau of its predecessor. That is, much like the movie TREMORS (itself an homage to 50s sci-fi horror), the action starts fast and furious. Even better, when a meteorite crashes into Earth and delivers our titular terror – a homicidal, amorphous blob of viscid pink goop – very little fuss ensues about why it came, where it come from, or what need be done about it. The main characters, Meg Penny (Shawnee Smith) and Brian Flagg (Kevin Dillon), more or less accept the threat immediately and deal with it accordingly. I love the simplicity in a setup like that. And for a movie called THE BLOB having very little excess fat is a delicious bit of irony never lost on me when I annually revisit the flick.

Anyway, you already know the deal. When The Blob first attaches itself to the arm of Can Man (Billy Beck), it devours that old sumbitch in short order, leaving his lower body a gruesome pile of eviscerated pink-pulp. Shite’s gnarly! Brian Flagg (said to be a play on Randall Flagg, a recurring Stephen King character…just as Meg Penny is said to be a nod to Pennywise), the leather-donning badass biker in a god-awful mullet, witness the attack and follows the old bastard into town. He gets run down by Meg and her jockstrap boyfriend Paul Taylor (Donovan Leitch…son of the “Atlantis” folk singer), who in turn bring the old man to the hospital. One of the great things about THE BLOB that works just as well today as it did in 1988 is the misdirected protagonist. At first we wholeheartedly believe Paul will be the primary good guy, rather than Brian. Uh uh. Paul’s shockingly unexpected death – replete with perhaps the nastiest FX in the movie – not only works on a purely visual and visceral level, but in terms of the story, we’re left uneasy and unnerved by not knowing who to put trust and faith in to carry us through.

As the blob continues to pillage the town and gorily subsume its delirious denizens, governmental scientists show up speaking about biological weaponry. But whether or not the government is responsible for cultivating the blob, it doesn’t change shite for Meg and Brian. They must evade the marauding mass gooey of pink bilge, save as many mofos in the process, and ultimately fell the sinister substance once and for all!

WHAT HOLDS-UP: The duration. The entirety. The whole mother*cking branzino! That’s what holds up regarding THE BLOB 88. Seriously, the consistent entertainment value of the whole movie – the pacing, tempo, late 80s MTV editing, the undying one-liners and wryly humorous tone – all of these facets keep THE BLOB eminently watchable, and we haven’t even addressed the horror elements yet. There isn’t a dull moment in the film, which is a direct credit the aforementioned, yes, but more crucially to the following aspects. Straight up, we posit that the reason why THE BLOB has retained its potency over the past 30 years is because of Frank Darabont’s genuine love of the horror genre, reflected by the heartfelt homage of his deftly attuned screenplay. Darabont’s intangibles coupled with his working relationship with Chuck Russell (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS) and the expensive, eye-widening visual and practical FX rendered by the great Tony Gardner…these are the two biggest reasons for THE BLOB’s 30 year reign of terror!

Let’s start with Darabont. We know this guy is an Oscar-nominated writer who has made a living off of adapting the works of our preeminent horror scribe, Stephen The King. Therefore, his love of the horror genre is genuine and unforced. This goes a long way in giving fellow horror lovers a movie he would enjoy also, lending a kind of authorial fandom that naturally understands what horror fans want to see, what works, how to go about it, etc. Darabont’s writing ability and love of horror is the starting point, but when considering how he just worked with Russell the year before on a bona fide horror franchise, the two men have an obvious rapport and fertile working relationship that carried right over to THE BLOB. This can’t be overstated or undersold. Having a loving comfort level with the material and proven camaraderie with their collaborators definitely set the stage for THE BLOB to flourish.

Really though, don’t front, we all know the most unassailable aspect of THE BLOB 88 when seen now, through fresh eyes, is the gore-sodden violence and profligate FX work that renders the maximum of optical poptitude! No lie, of the movies $19 million budget, roughly $9 million of that was expended on the FX budget. And not only does it show, it’s worth it! Hall of Fame Makeup and FX man Tony Gardner oversaw the production, which, if you know his work, makes all the sense in the world.

Beginning with the first major deathblow, Paul’s fatality, Russell and Gardner pull out all the stops. Not only are we stunned to realize Paul is not the protagonist, when his body is engulfed by a blanket of baleful pink-plasma, we’re left doubly arrested. Triply when we see what becomes of his face - a drip-melted, grue-leaking puddle of puss! It’s an absolute showstopper and a tone-setter at once, informing how the rest of the movie promises to play out.

Russell, Darabont and Gardner up the ante with Scott’s death. Never mind the radiant presence of Playboy model Erika Elaniak, but when this Scott asshole gets a little too fresh when Vicky is passed out in his car, a repercussion takes hold even the #MeToo movement would be proud of. Just as Scott criminally slides his hand into Vicky’s blouse, he’s suddenly struck by the Blob’s terrifying tentacles and evilly enveloped. This f*cker not only gets what he deserves, the facially imploded grue of what is left of Vicky scares the piss out of him right before his demise. Good stuff!

Of course, there’s that gnarly scene where the dishwasher dude gets sucked into the drain and disgustingly splayed over the ceiling. That in turn is followed by the equally memorable and just as durable phone-booth sequence involving Fran (Candy Clark). You know, when the blob cocoons the phone-booth with Fran inside, she not only has to deal with claustrophobia, but the crushing force of the blob closing in on her as well. Worse, when the Neon Slime (That’s a shout out to you, Wings Hauser) fully coats the booth, the deformed corpse of Sheriff Gellert (Darabont regular Jeffrey DeMunn) slides into her purview, threatening to give Fran a heart attack before the blob can even strike. Splendid!

Set piece after set piece stands out and holds strong, including the basement ceiling scenario and the sewer-set finale. But the last instance we want to call to mind is the one that perfectly blends the two crowning feats of the BLOB – the inviolable FX and Darabont’s wonderfully written ode to horror of yore. Yup, we’re talking about that kickass movie theater scene!

There’s so much to like with this scene it’s difficult to know where to start. First, we have Russell playing to his own image as a slasher film director, as the film showing at the local movie theater in THE BLOB is a joint called the GARDEN TOOL MASSACRE. Hell if that isn’t a movie I want to see already. Then, in a well-drawn subplot, Meg’s little brother Kevin (Michael Kenworthy) sneaks into the movie with his pal Eddie (Douglas Emerson). Already, we have a love of the horror genre on full display, reinforced by Russell’s cameo in the movie theater when the blob attacks. But then, Russell and Darabont raise the stakes in a big bad way, doing something often thought to be a major no-no in a horror flick: killing kids! But that’s exactly what we’re given with the staggering demise of Eddie, who after fleeing the raucous theater invasion, gets unceremoniously blob-zombified in the connecting sewer sequence. This scene not only honors the original with a genuine tip of the cap, it escalates the material through heartfelt writing and eye-popping FX.

WHAT BLOWS NOW: Little, very little. We could besmirch a few clunky FX shots that play more like a Ray Harryhausen stop-motion film than anything else, but so be it. Far more good outweighs the bad in this department, so let it ride!

THE VERDICT: The jury’s in, THE BLOB is still a tremendously effective piece of late 80s horror entertainment. What made the movie so successful in 1988 still endures today, namely the craftily knowledgeable screenplay by Russell and Darabont and pricey practical and visual FX that pay off with orb-popping, heart-stopping horror.

STREAM THE BLOB HERE

GET THE BLOB ON DVD HERE

GET THE BLOB ON BLU-RAY HERE

Extra Tidbit: Rock salt dyed purple was used to create the crystallized blob in the finale!
Source: AITH

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