Blob, The (1988)
Why the hell do they produce remakes? In the last few years we've been subjected to lackluster remakes of classics like Psycho, The Haunting, and The Mummy. Now, to be fair, this is not a new practice by any means, but just why does it even happen? Maybe it's because on a few occasions, someone does it right. In the 80s, John Carpenter and David Cronenberg created fantastic new versions of The Thing and The Fly, respectively. The show horse in this trifecta of quality 80s remakes is Chuck Russell's retelling of the camp classic The Blob. It's finally out on DVD, oozing onto screens of horror lovers everywhere.
It's late autumn in the sleepy Northern California town of Arborville. High school football and preparing for the upcoming ski season are the most important concerns of everyone. No one even notices the meteor fall from the sky. They're just way too concerned with after-game dates and country music bands.
Football star Paul Taylor (Donovan Leitch) and cheerleader Meg (Shawnee Smith) have their date rudely interrupted when they run into a homeless man with their car. They take him to the hospital, not as much for the pedestrian accident, but the bizarre oozing mass on his hand, a gift from the meteor. Before you know it, the oozing mass (from this point on called The Blob) has already claimed the old man and Paul.
The prime suspect is Brian Flagg (Kevin Dillon), the local juvenile delinquent. Meg partners up with him though, as he's the only one who's seen the real culprit, the titular Blob. But The Blob is not just some gift from space. Arborville is soon overrun with government biotech agents, who know the REAL origin of the murderous Jell-O, but nary a clue as to how to stop it. The fate of the free world, or at least Northern California, rests in the hands of a motorcycle riding rebellious youth and a 17-year old cheerleader. Things could be worse I suppose.
The Blob succeeds the exact same way as Carpenter's The Thing and Cronenberg's The Fly. It's no coincidence that all three movies were based on whimsical camp classics (Well, the 1951 Thing was a pretty serious movie, except for James Arness as the giant carrot). The Blob takes a fairly ludicrous premise, and adds a seriousness and realistic tone to the story, to create a credible modern horror film. Some critics argue that this is the film's shortcoming, removing the comedic overtones, but that's really why it's a good remake. It doesn't subvert the original film, and creates a very unique perspective on a similar subject. If you want a campy Blob, watch the Steve McQueen debut from 1955. If you want a more diabolical Blob, see this 1988 version. Personally, I like 'em both.
While the general tone is much more serious, many of the elements that made the original so memorable are still in place. (Just like Jeff Goldblum updating the classic "Help me" line in The Fly). The Blob still doesn't like the cold, it still makes an old hobo it's first victim, and still stops in to the local movie theater to take in a show. Unfortunately, they also decided to keep in some rather inane dialogue between Smith and Dillon. I don't know if this was meant to be a throwback to the '55 film, or just plain bad scriptwriting. Since half of the writing credit goes to Frank Darabont, who also adapted Stephen King in The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, I'd like to think the poor dialogue was intentional. Which is too bad, because it's real distracting.
But that's a minor complaint. The Blob is still a very enjoyable movie, and the updating of the special effects was quite welcome. This Blob is translucent, and we get to see the remains of the victims as it turns Arborville into it's lunch box. And despite the poor dialogue, Shawnee Smith plays a great young heroine, especially at the end. Kevin Dillon's Flagg is a bit typical of the rebellious teen, but it all fits together.
There are some interesting names in the cast, mostly in smaller roles. Jeffrey DeMunn, who would work with Darabont again in The Shawshank Redemption plays the Sheriff. His Deputy is Paul McCrane (also in Shawshank as well), perhaps best known as Dr. Robert "Rocket" Romano on TV's ER. The late Jack Nance of Eraserhead and Twin Peaks fame makes a cameo as a doctor, and his assistant is droll comedienne Margaret Smith. Finally, Erika Eleniak of Baywatch has a brief role as the unfortunate date of a football player who's a menace even before the advent of Rohypnol, the date rape drug.
Unfortunately, I was unimpressed with the video quality of The Blob. Oh, it's pretty darn good, way better than the VHS or Laserdisc versions. But this was a moderately budgeted film, and I've seen cheaper and older movies that actually look a lot better than this. The nighttime scenes are quite grainy, and the blacks are more of a dark gray. At least it's anamorphic, and in it's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, so it does look quite clear. And the widescreen transfer adds a lot more information that was missing from the sides. With no doubt, this is the best that The Blob has looked since it hit the theaters in the summer of 1988, but I think it could still look a little better.
The Blob was given a fairly standard Dolby Surround track. It's a lot clearer than in it's previous video incarnations. You do get a little left/right panning, but for the most part, it's a fairly static track. If someone wanted to get crazy, they could create a 5.1 track and give The Blob a little more presence in all the speakers, but that wouldn't be re-creating the original theatrical experience, would it?
Here's where Columbia/Tri-Star really dropped the ball. All you get is a theatrical trailer for The Blob, along with trailers for John Carpenter's Vampires and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. I remember when this movie came out back in '88, and there were a few behind the scenes interviews that were shown on MTV. No one wanted to look for these? And is it just me, or is that main menu really cheesy? Columbia/Tri-Star is to be commended for releasing a title that horror fans wanted, but I somewhat feel that they didn't want to put a lot of energy into it. The MSRP of $19.95 helps, but I wouldn't mind paying a little more for a few extra little bits on this underrated movie.
The Blob is not only a great remake, but one of the better horror films of the late 80s. What makes it so good, is that it works so well as a companion piece to the original version. Both films can be enjoyed on completely different levels, and Russell's vision does not detract from the 1955 camp classic. I don't have that Criterion edition of the original film, but I'd put this one right next to it. It's not reference quality video, but it's still a well-done disc. Great for any horror collection.
Movie - A-
Image Quality - C+
Sound - B
Supplements - D+
Is this dvd progressive or interlaced?
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