Only four days until Halloween so it’s time to carve the pumpkins, make the finishing touches to costumes, and ensure you have a stock of mini chocolate bars for the trick or treaters. It’s also time for the HT13: The Remake to get down to the final entries on the countdown.( In case you missed it earlier today, make sure you go check out the list of 13 remakes sent in by Halloween Overachiver The Mike of From Midnight With Love.) The Blob (1988) oozes its way into the top 3 of many remake lists, but as far as this list goes, it got froze out. It’s not as if it doesn’t have lots of good things going for it. Show me any film with names like Frank Darabont, Kevin Dillon, and Art LaFleur attached, and I am going to be interested. There’s just one tiny thing that bothers me about The Blob. This one little thing keeps it from being closer to the top of the list, and sure to be the last thing that the filmmakers would have wanted to be thinking.
Before I get too deep into that, let me tell you a little bit about the story. The picture kicks off in a similar way to the original film with a crazy old coot poking the goo from outer space with a stick. (When I reviewed the original film, I warned against this menace.) He is taken into town, but soon the blob is making the old man, and anyone else around it into a snack. Naturally, the local lawmen want someone to blame and who better than Brian Flagg (Kevin Dillon) the local juvenile delinquent. The only person that knows Brian is innocent is cheerleader Meg Penny (Shawnee Smith), who saw her boyfriend gobbled up by the blob. The usual hijinks ensue with the blob running amuck in the town until it sets its sights on the crowded movie theater. This version has an added twist though as Brian finds out that the threat of the blob may not be such an otherworldly menace after all.
Let me start right out by saying how much I love Kevin Dillon. From Platoon to Entourage, there’s always been something about Matt’s older brother. One of the things that really struck me, and the next time you watch The Blob, check out the confident swagger on Brian Flagg and tell me it doesn’t remind you of a certain Johnny ’Drama’. Dillon is a fun character, and just the type of protagonist you needed for an eighties remake of The Blob, but let’s face it, he’s no Steve McQueen. Dillon also has good chemistry with his co-star (and South Carolina native) Shawnee Smith. Ms. Smith is quite the scream queen these days with four Saw films, Steven King’s The Stand, and four years on Becker to her credit, but this was her first genre film credit. I’m not going to say she was delivering top-notch work here, but she was believable in the part and looked awful cute doing it. The real hidden gem in this flick is stage actor Del Close (The Untouchables, Ferris Beauler’s Day Off) as Reverend Meeker. Though it is a small part seemingly only included for a couple of comic scenes, the ending of the film belongs to him, and words can’t express how chilling I find that effective final moment of The Blob.
Director Chuck Russell had previously penned Nightmare on Elm Street III: Dream Warriors with his frequent writing partner Frank Darabont in1987. Based on the success of that pairing, the two joined forces again to work on the script for The Blob based off the 1958 film. They made the necessary changes to keep some of the same themes (cops more concerned about rowdy teens than giant goo eating up their town) and kept the major set pieces like the movie theater, but they updated everything in a very smart way. The best thing that got a facelift was The Blob itself. It’s hard to make a rolling pink slime ball seem frightening, but it got there in The Blob. The most impressive scenes come late in the film when the gooey gobbler shows off some of its undigested food, the town sheriff. It’s one of my favorite gory moments in a horror film, and it is a credit to Russell and special effects creator Lyle Conway how well the monster plays on the screen. Russell would go on to direct movies such as The Mask and Eraser before getting more into the producing side of the business. Frank Darabont would make a name for himself by being the best at translating Stephen King’s works to the screen. Also, he has some little show coming on this weekend called The Walking Dead which sounds promising.
Now at the beginning of the article I hinted around there was something about The Blob keeping it out of my Top 3 films, and I guess it’s about time to spill the beans. When a director decides to take the chance to remake a film, his intent, I assume, is to eclipse the original film and make it passe, and as much as I enjoy the film and Russell gave it the old college try, my eye keeps being drawn to the corona of the original film. I can’t help compare the original, low budget, innocent fifties, sci-fi horror version with the shiny Hollywood remake playing out in front of me full of gore. I gave the original The Blob (1958) a three and a half back when I reviewed it last October, and I’m going to be giving The Blob(1988) a four. This may seem a little contradictory to how I’ve been talking, but let me explain. The remake is a technically better film with high production values, a modern pace, and subplots a plenty. The fact it makes me want to watch another good film might keep it out of the Top 3, but it won’t keep me from enjoying a good double feature, The Blob and The Blob.