The Blob (1988) – WTF Happened to This Horror Movie?

The new episode of the WTF Happened to This Horror Movie video series looks back at the making of The Blob (1988)

Last Updated on May 31, 2024

The episode of WTF Happened to This Horror Movie? covering The Blob (1988) was Written by Cody Hamman, Narrated by Jason Hewlett, Edited by Joseph Wilson, Produced by Lance Vlcek and John Fallon, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.

When the Blob first appeared in 1958, the creature was presented in very simple ways. It was just some silicone that had been dyed red. For some shots, it was a balloon that had red silicone smeared on it. But when The Blob was remade in 1988, the creature got a substantial upgrade. The special effects artists working on the remake were able to make the Blob even more dangerous and frightening. And that helped the film become one of the most popular remakes ever made. So let’s look back at the making of The Blob ‘88 (watch it HERE) and find out What the F*ck Happened to This Horror Movie.

The story of The Blob began when film distributor Jack H. Harris decided to produce his own independent monster movie. The concept was inspired by a 1950 police report about a pulsating, glowing purple glob that fell from the sky near Philadelphia. Then evaporated as police watched. In the film directed by Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr., the Blob comes to Earth in a meteorite. When an elderly man pokes the meteorite with a stick, it splits open and the Blob emerges. It envelopes the man’s hand, gradually covering and absorbing his entire body. The Blob proceeds to ooze its way around a small Pennsylvania town. Consuming every living thing it comes across. Growing larger with every person or animal it eats. Teenager Jane and her boyfriend Steve, played by a pre-fame Steve McQueen, know what’s going on. But they can’t convince the authorities there’s a man-eating blob rolling around town. It doesn’t help their credibility that Steve and his drag-racing friends are often getting in trouble. It isn’t until the Blob disrupts a movie theater’s screening of a horror movie that the whole town realizes what’s going on. Then they have to figure out how to stop something that just seems to be a ball of slime. Here’s a hint: this thing doesn’t like the cold.

Made on a budget of around one hundred and twenty thousand dollars, The Blob was a hit. It earned four million dollars at the box office and became one of the most popular horror movies of the 1950s. It was so popular, in 1972 TV star Larry Hagman decided to direct a sequel: Beware! The Blob, also known as Son of the Blob. For that film the Blob was again played by red silicone and balloons, as well as red plastic sheeting and red powder blended with water. But ‘70s audiences weren’t impressed by the return of the Blob. The sequel was a financial failure. Following that letdown, Harris wasn’t interested in producing any more Blob movies. But then in the 1980s, Chuck Russell got in contact with Harris, hoping to secure the remake rights.

The Blob 1988 WTF Happened to This Horror Movie

Russell had experience as a production manager, an assistant director, a producer, and a writer. He wanted to direct, but the studios didn’t show much interest in his original ideas. So he thought a remake of a well-known property would be the perfect way to get his directing career going. The famous property that was the most appealing to him was The Blob. As he explained to Fangoria magazine, “The original Blob was a special film, and I got obsessed with doing my version of it, of updating it and using some of the expectations from the original. I think it shook people up so much because it’s so primal. … It’s a monster in its simplest form. There must be something about this thing that can slide under your door or squeeze through an air vent, or quietly dissolve somebody in the next room, that’s very elemental. It just makes monstery sense. It’s a fear of the worst death: being eaten.”

Harris agreed to let Russell remake The Blob. So Russell wrote a screenplay for the remake with his friend Frank Darabont, who had met when they were both working on the slasher Hell Night. They kept the set-up from the original film. The Blob falls from the sky, an elderly man sees it hit the ground. He pokes the meteorite with a stick, the Blob emerges and covers his hand. Some local teenagers find the man and take him to the hospital – where the Blob consumes his entire body. As the Blob proceeds to ooze and eat its way through their small town, the teens take it upon themselves to stop this thing. But Russell and Darabont added in their own twists and turns, so even viewers who were familiar with the original Blob wouldn’t know where this one was going. All of the characters in the remake are new; they basically split the Steve McQueen character into two different people. There’s clean-cut football player Paul Taylor, who goes out on a date with cheerleader Meg Penny. And there’s long-haired, motorcycle-riding Brian Flagg, who is often running into trouble with the law. Paul’s role is sort of like Janet Leigh’s in Psycho. He’s built up to be a major character who will be involved throughout the movie. Then turns out to be one of the Blob’s first victims.

Russell and Darabont also made changes to what the Blob is. Making it even more dangerous. They envisioned it as being like an inside out stomach. It’s acidic, corrosive. Any living thing it touches begins to melt and gets absorbed. It starts out with a lighter color, but becomes redder as it fills with the blood of its victims. And this Blob has tentacles that it can reach out and grab people with. It also comes from a different source. The original Blob was just some slime that rode to Earth on a meteor. In the remake, we learn that this Blob is an experiment in biological warfare. A virus that was created by the government and sent into space on a satellite. Conditions in space mutated it, turning it into a plasmic life-form that hunts its prey. It became so active, it knocked the satellite out of orbit. That’s what falls to Earth here; not a meteor, but a crashing satellite. And a team of heavily-armed government agents, a biological containment team, show up to take the Blob back home to their lab. Any civilians who get in the way are deemed expendable.

With the script in place, Russell pitched The Blob to various studios. One company that rejected the project was New Line Cinema. But they could see that Russell was a promising talent. They hired him to direct A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, and to rewrite the script with Darabont. So the Elm Street movie ended up being Russell’s first directing credit. The Blob remake found a distributor along the way, and Russell was able to start working on it as soon as he was done with Freddy Krueger.

The Blob 1988 WTF Happened to This Horror Movie

Russell assembled a strong cast for the film. Shawnee Smith plays the heroine Meg, who goes from being a demure cheerleader to firing an M16 at a monster and blowing stuff up. Donovan Leitch was cast as the ill-fated Paul. Kevin Dillon plays Flagg. He hated the hair extensions he had to wear and a lot of viewers make fun of the character’s hairstyle. But that’s the way Russell wanted Flagg to look. The three young leads were given a supporting cast that’s filled with interesting character actors. Jeffrey DeMunn, Joe Seneca, Beau Billingslea, Art LaFleur, Candy Clark, Jack Nance, Bill Moseley. Comedic improv teacher Del Close had already appeared in the ‘70s sequel Beware! The Blob, but that didn’t stop him from being cast in the remake.

Of course, the real star of the movie is the Blob itself. And this time the creature was brought to the screen by a large special effects crew led by Tony Gardner. CGI was an option for the Blob effects, but it was decided that it wouldn’t look good enough. The movie would need to feature old school, in-camera practical effects. And the crew used every trick imaginable to make this Blob look impressive. A lot of tests were done with different slimes and methacil, a food thickening agent that’s often used in fast food milkshakes. There was so much methacil on the set of this movie, it put Russell off of drinking milkshakes for decades. Gravity tricks were put to use, where the camera would be tilted as slime slid across a surface, making it look like it was crawling on its own. For some shots, clear acrylic spheres were placed in slime to give it mass. Sometimes the Blob was a sculpture coated in urethane, with methacil dressing. Sometimes it was launched from air mortars. There were foam tentacles and animatronic ones. There was miniature work and even some shots of stop-motion that Russell wasn’t satisfied with. For many shots, the Blob was played by silk quilts that had pockets filled with methacil in them.

Since Paul is the first person we actually see the Blob consume, Russell knew his death had to look amazing. And the crew definitely pulled that off. There were some complicated elements involved in the creation of the death scene. Rotating rigs, Plexiglass, bladders. But a lot of it was accomplished by pulling layers of nylon and silk over the crew member sitting underneath it all.

The Blob 1988 WTF Happened to This Horror Movie

Russell had been impressed by the remake of The Fly, and even hired that film’s cinematographer Mark Irwin to shoot The Blob. Irwin described the challenge of working with the title creature during an interview with Fangoria: “The biggest problem was to make the Blob look the same from beginning to end, because it’s made of radically different things all the time. There are miniatures, half-scale and full-scale sets. The lighting is geared toward the ingredients, shooting it underwater, shooting it at night, on glass, in a tank. It’s propelled and puppeted and air-driven and motorized and moved in many, many different ways. It’s hard to get it to look exactly the same each time, and yet so far we’re succeeding. It also changes color throughout the film.”

Although the budget of The Blob was reported to be nineteen million dollars, Russell has said that it was actually under ten million. And yet they were able to accomplish all of the special effects and deliver a film that turns into a large scale adventure by the end. Most of the filming took place in Abbeville, Louisiana, a small town location chosen because Russell wanted the town in the movie (Arborville, California) to have one main road. Filming began on January 11th, 1988, aiming for a summer release. Production wrapped up on May 26th, but second and third units were still shooting Blob footage during the editing process. Russell had to bring on two editors to get the footage cut together more quickly. There was a bump in the road when distributor Cinema Group Pictures went bankrupt. But TriStar Pictures swooped in and got The Blob into theatres on August 5th, 1988.

The film got middle-of-the-road reviews. And given how popular it is now, you may be surprised to hear that it was not a hit when it reached theatres. In fact, Screen International wrote that its box office was disastrous. The Blob ended up earning eight million dollars during its theatrical run – an amount lower than its budget, no matter which number you go by. Russell understood that part of its failure was due to it being released in a hectic summer and not having a good ad campaign. Still, its underwhelming reception was enough to make him question the approach he had taken to the material. Maybe making The Blob in this way had been a mistake. But the film reached its audience soon enough, and its reputation improved. Russell would go on to say that while The Blob could have done better at the box office, he still considers it to be a hit because it’s so well known. This remake of the 1958 classic ended up being considered a classic in its own right.

Russell wanted to make a movie that would allow the concept of The Blob to reach its full potential. In that way, the film was a huge success. And decades later, genre fans are still enjoying its wild ideas and sickening, mind-blowing visuals. You can’t have any greater success than that.

A couple of the previous episodes of WTF Happened to This Horror Movie? can be seen below. To see more, head over to our JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!

Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.