'80s Movie Month: "The Blob" (1988) Review

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A strange life-form consumes everything in its path as it grows and grows.

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'80s Movie Month: "The Blob" (1988) Review

Rating: R
Length: 95 minutes
Release date: August 5, 1988
Directed by: Chuck Russell
Genre: Horror/Science Fiction

"The Blob" is an '80s-era film that is widely considered one of the only successful horror-film remakes to hit it big, matching the success that David Cronenberg found when he remade the '50s classic, "The Fly," in 1986. Two short years later, Chuck Russell's big-budget version of the 1968 drive-in must-see, "The Blob," found a welcoming audience and was a mild success at the box office.

The premise of the film is a cheesy one—a meteor falls to earth in a small town. The opening scene features the obligatory stereotypical shock of a homeless man witnessing the crash to Earth and encountering a jelly-type substance—the Blob—that proceeds to attack him and eat him. The assault on the homeless man is discovered by area tough kid Brian Flagg, played by Kevin Dillon (you might know him now as Johnny Chase from TV's "Entourage"), and Meg Penny, played by Shawnee Smith (now better known for her role as Jennifer Goodson in TV's "Anger Management"). The kids proceed to drive him to the hospital where he is effectively eaten alive while waiting for a doctor in what may be the first theatrical effigy for long emergency room waits.

After finishing off its meal, the Blob is then free to eat anything it encounters—a fact that provides the fodder and inspiration for many '80s and '90s fat jokes. Before too long, the military is called in to help, although the whole ordeal reeks of the worst of any conspiracy theory that might have been thought up at the time. The Cold War references in the film may very well be lost on many in a modern audience.

One thing that moviegoers really have to respect about the 1988 version of the film is that it is far removed from its '60s predecessor. The original film was spoiled by bad acting on the part of Steve McQueen, although his performance in the original version of "The Blob" was an inaugural appearance by a then-untested actor. The 1988 version sees stronger performances by a more talented pool of players. Even though the new film is, at best, a B-movie, the acting was more believable, including a surprisingly great performance by Smith and a fairly decent performance by supporting actors, including Jeffrey DeMunn and Candy Clark. Dillon's performance in "The Blob" is just one on a path he took to become one of Hollywood's A-listers today; it wasn't Oscar-worthy but it wasn't half-bad, either. So while the acting in this film is nothing to really boast about, the actors do seem to approach their roles with vigor, and there are some fun performances that really work to lighten up a subject that might be construed as dark, even by today's standards.

Movie lovers and those who are connoisseurs of special effects will appreciate the upgrade from the original film, too. The first film, in keeping with the technology at the time, featured a stupidly slow-moving Blob that was borderline comical. It was a real stretch for viewers of the first film to even become mildly scared by the creature. Not so in film two. The second take featured a Blob that actually moved—and moved fast. In fact, the Blob is lightning fast in some scenes, following the actors and even moving across the ceiling. The goose bumps that weren't there in the first film were definitely there with the 1988 version. Overall, the film has a lot of special effects that are pretty scary.

You can definitely see the '50s plot wheel turning in this film. Still, it has that '80s update that gives it a bit of a trashy atmosphere with lots of gore and a slew of special effects. The film's sequences are quite imaginative and make some use of humor to lighten the load between bits of gore, including the demise of a ten-year-old kid, a scene that likely worked toward getting the movie its "R" rating.

Overall, "The Blob" is a definite must-see for fans of the monster genre. Horror fans might be a bit let down with this film, but fans of flicks like "The Thing," "Alien," or "Predator" will find themselves enthralled by this fun film that is good for a fast, fun scare.

Rating: 3 out of 5