CULT CORNER: The Blob (1988)

A 1950s classic gets an 1980s overhaul in this underrated horror remake. John gives it another look. 

Who made it?: Chuck Russell (Director/Co-Writer), Frank Darabont (Co-Writer), Jack H. Harris, Elliott Kastner (Producers),  Palisades California Inc./TriStar Pictures.

Who’s in it?: Kevin Dillon, Shawnee Smith, Donovan Leitch Jr., Jeffrey DeMunn, Candy Clark. 

Tagline: “Scream now, while you can still breathe.”

IMDb rating: 6.3/10.

The 80s was a great decade for horror, producing a versatile range of films in the genre, whether it be masked killers, supernatural forces, scary monsters, or freaky aliens. The Blob is a fine example of just how good a remake of a classic film can be. It proves that re-telling a well-known story for modern audiences successfully can actually be achieved if the right people are involved. This little gem of 80s horror is certainly a cult classic and deserves to be remembered with the best the decade has to offer.

One night, a meteorite crash-lands in the small town of Arborville, California. But this is no ordinary intergalactic rock, as a strange, jelly-like substance escapes and proceeds to cause mayhem and terror as it attaches itself to any living being it comes into contact with. With the whole town bearing witness to the next apocalypse, two teenagers from the opposite side of the tracks must work together to save their town and mankind from gruesome annihilation.

Produced on a budget of $19,000,000, The Blob was a remake of the 1958 B-Movie classic starring Steve McQueen. The film was directed by Chuck Russell, who had previously helmed A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), and would later make big studio pictures with The Mask (1994), Eraser (1996) and The Scorpion King (2002). The script was written by Russell and future acclaimed filmmaker Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile). The pair had met in 1981 when Darabont was a production assistant on the slasher film Hell Night (1980). Nine million of the budget was spent solely on effects, and it clearly shows on-screen. Under the guidance of effects wizard Tony Gardner, The Blob showcases amazing achievements in both make-up and mechanical creations.

Kevin Dillon as Brian Flagg is your typical rebellious teenager from the era, with long hair, a leather jacket and a motorcycle. The younger brother of the more recognisable Matt Dillon (There’s Something About Mary, Crash) clearly displays his acting talents, which would only grow in the future with solid performances in films such as The Doors (1991) and the hit TV show Entourage. Shawnee Smith, who over a decade later would become a Scream Queen in the Saw franchise, is a pretty decent female character and not your stereotypical air-headed victim. She starts off as the sweet and wholesome girl next door, and as the story unfolds and shit really hits the fan, she becomes more confident and tough, making her an interesting sidekick for Dillon’s authority-hating rebel.

The Blob mainly functions as a conspiracy theory film. Whereas the Blob in the original was merely an alien entity, in the remake it is a biological weapon, created by sinister government scientists. This dynamic makes the film a lot more interesting than your standard B-Movie fare, and like so many other horrors of the decade, it is executed superbly by the filmmakers, taking full advantage of the drastic improvements in prosthetics at the time. The film has also been said to be a metaphor for the AIDS pandemic, which was a big talking point during the 80s and is also an underlining theme in the remakes of The Thing (1982) and even more so in The Fly (1986).

The Blob was released 5th August, 1988, and surprisingly only grossed just over eight million at the box office. Maybe the bigger and better summer blockbusters out at the same time contributed to The Blob’s disappointing takings. Who knows? But decent horror flicks back then had the unfortunate knack of being poorly-received when first released, but were able to eventually find their target audience on home video and TV, as was the case with The Thing.

The Blob, in my opinion, is one of the best horror films of the 80s, and like the brilliant remakes of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), The Thing and The Fly, something new and unique is brought to the table without tarnishing the original classics, which Hollywood tends to fail miserably at these days…

Best Scene

Washing up is a dirty job, especially when the Blob is blocking up your sink.

Useless Trivia

(Via IMDb)
  • Frank Darabont, who has directed several Stephen King adaptations, included some references to The Stand in the screenplay. In the novel, a viral “superflu” is engineered by the U.S. government in a biological weapons laboratory that is accidentally unleashed, resulting in a worldwide pandemic; in the film, the Blob is likewise the result of experiments in biological warfare accidentally unleashed by the government. Additionally, though the government agents know the Blob’s true nature, they tell the citizens of Asheville that they are dealing with a highly contagious disease. Kevin Dillon plays Brian Flagg; the demonic Randall Flagg appeared in several of King’s novels, making his first appearance in The Stand. And the Blob’s first victim, the homeless man, is credited as “Can Man,” a reference to the character “Trash Can Man.”
  • Two minor roles were played by Playboy Playmates. Vicki De Soto was played by Erika Eleniak (July 1989) and Susie was played by Julie McCullough (February 1986).

John Cowdell

I have been writing and producing short films for over ten years and are now branching out into film reviews.

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