BR: Blob, The (1988)

December 1, 2014 | By

 

Blob1988_BRFilm: Excellent

Transfer:  Excellent

Extras: Excellent

Label: Twilight Time

Region: All

Released:  October 14, 2014

Genre:  Horror

Synopsis: Emerging from what appears to be a meteor, a blob of pink goo starts to devour inhabitants of a small town, getting stronger, larger, and hungrier.

Special Features:  Audio Commenary with director Chuck Russell and Shock Till You Drop horror authority Ryan Turek / Isolated stereo music track / 2014 Friday Night Frights at The Cinefamily pre-screening Q&A with Russell and Turek (18:00) / 2 theatrical trailers / 8-page colour booklet with liner notes by film historian Julie Kirgo / Limited to 5000 copies / Available exclusively from Screen Archives Entertainment.

 

 


 

Review:

 

Highly underrated remake of a sci-fi classic that doesn’t attempt to improve upon nor present a radically upgraded interpretation, this 1988 version of The Blob is both an homage and a tongue-in-cheek retelling of the core story from producer Jack H. Harris’ 1958 film in which teens rescue a town from an alien glob of pink goo that absorbs its victims and just keeps growing.

Chuck (Charles) Russell had wanted to glide from producing to directing and managed to secure the remake rights from Harris when a call to direct A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) sidetracked his goals. After that film had wrapped, Russell and Nightmare co-writer Frank Darabont went back to their Blob script, and with Harris and veteran Elliott Kastner as producers, went ahead with a fairly complicated production made on a tight budget.

Even 26 years later, the effects still pack a punch (seeing partially digested human matter in the disgusting pink goo remains highly gross), but so does Russell and Darabont’s lean script which wastes no time in delivering the goods, but never sacrifices characters in favour of effects nor a brisk running time. The original hero’s been split into two teens (Donovan Leitch, Jr., and Kevin Dillon in the worst rocker mullet in screen history) – a squeaky clean jock and a bad boy nemesis – vying for a hot cheerleader (Shawnee Smith). The writers also added a larger mistrust of authority in the form of a biohazard unit that initially seems to arrive to save the town from the nefarious pink goo.

The deaths are very creative and funny, and it’s that combo of grossness, humour, and inventiveness that makes the kills so memorable, especially a man literally pulled into a kitchen plumbing system. Russell, Darabont and the effects team also seemed to have designed effects to evoke a bit of the classic fifties sci-fi films of their youths: the opening scene where a meteor glides over trees is very similar to the first scene fro It Came from Outer Space (1953); a busty girl (pre-Baywatch Erika Eleniak) attacking her sleazy boyfriend riffs the moment Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ Miles Bennell discovers the Becky Driscoll he just kissed is an alien; a chase through the town sewers recalls a similar hunting of giant mutant ants in Them! (1954); and Smith’s ‘son of a bitch’ utterance to the blob near the end echoes Chief Brody’s ‘Smile, you son of a bitch!’ line in Jaws (1975).

The film’s look is equally impressive, with reds coloured like candy, and pink being equally radiant, and yet Mark Irwin’s cinematography is very elegant, balancing a look that Russell describes as a mix of cool and warm colours – making The Blob’s look classic rather than dated eighties.

Most of the young cast were fresh to films, and Russell augmented the film with many fine character actors, including Jack Nance (Twin Peaks) as a doctor, Bill Moseley (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) as a nervous hazmat-suited goon, Joe Seneca (Crossroads) as an initially helpful biohazard team leader, and Candy Clark (American GraffitiCat’s Eye) playing a benevolent waitress whose death is especially traumatic.

Russell’s decision to stick with practical effects is proof of the ingenuity that can be achieved without digital trickery, and Clark’s demise in a phone booth is fast and brutal – the perfect kind of kill one expects in a monster film where the antagonist is just a grown mass of un-sated appetite. The stunts are equally impressive, especially a perfectly timed bridge leap in which Dillon’s character rides a classic motorcycle across a busted bridge while a car veers into a ravine and a helicopter passes overhead.

Twilight Time’s Blu-ray is the special edition Sony never bothered to make, which is strange given the film has remained in print on DVD for decades, building a strong fan base for being among the best monster movie remakes. It’s not an exaggeration to place The Blob alongside John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), and David Cronenebrg’s The Fly (1986), the latter shot by Mark Irwin.

The extra detail in this HD transfer may reveal some of the seams in the visual effects, but only in the composited layers; the practical effects never seem clichéd, and there’s a sense some model work in the end was deliberately cheesy, evoking similar effects in the ’58 original.

The Blu-ray includes a short discussion between director Russell and Shock Till You Drop writer Ryan Turek, taped prior to a 35mm print screening in 2014 at Friday Night Frights at The Cinefamily. Most of the topics are further detailed in a steady commentary track between the two, spanning the film’s entire production history, plus details on the cast, effects, and great locations.

Russell and Darabont kept the film’s setting in a small town – a classic trope that always seems to work when crafting tales of a foreign body menacing ordinary folks. There’s something especially captivating about an insular community nestled in a valley that’s forced to fight for its survival when the aggressor is alien, biological, mutant, or an aberration from within, and Russell and Darabont’s formula of adding humour to evoking that idyllic fifties small town assault – from character quirks, ironic incidents, or idiots getting just desserts from the blob– arguably established a formula other filmmakers parlayed into their own homages, spanning horror (8 Legged Freaks) to bonehead disaster films (Dante’s Peak).

Self-deprecating humour coming from the mouths of small town characters also ensures they’re not ridiculous stereotypes, since wise-cracking shows a self-awareness of bullshit coming from civic and authoritarian figures.  This approach seemed to grow during the 1980s, as both the adults in Spielberg’s E.T.  the Extra-Terrestrial and John Badham’s WarGames were either over-bearing, or made grievous misjudgments about the power and perceived danger of each film’s respective threats of an alien creature with the potential to infect humanity with an alien bug, and a super-computer whose malevolence is really just a machine with a child’s mind wanting to play an elaborate game of chess with its creator. In both films it’s the kids who literally save the day (and humanity), and it’s a formula J.J. Abrams and Joe Cornish faithfully followed in Super 8 (2011) and Attack the Block (2011), respectively.

Twilight Time’s Blu-ray (this time augmented from a standard limited run of 3000 to 5000 copies) also includes a stereo isolated track of Michael Hoenig’s score (which itself was released on CD via La-La Land Records), and there’s a pair of theatrical trailers which contain both every money shot and a multitude of spoilers – so avoid watching them until after seeing the film.

Julie Kirgo’s liner notes provide some contrast to the original Blob and Russell’s sublime remake, but it is strange no one makes note of Mario Bava’s own spin on The Blob, the fast-moving, highly amusing and sometimes gory Caltiki – il mostro immortale (1959), in which Mayan archeologists unleash a lethal blob.

Although Frank Darabont went on to direct several memorable genre productions  – Buried Alive (1990), The Mist (1007), and TV’s The Walking Dead (2010-2014) – Chuck Russell has made a mere handful of films after The Blob: the comedy hit The Mask (1994), the uneven actioner Eraser (1996), the dud thriller Bless the Child (2000), and The Mummy Returns (2001) spin-off The Scorpion King (2002).

In addition to producing the 1958 and 1988 versions of The Blob, Jack H.  Harris also produced the underrated sci-fi film 4D Man (1959), the wonky Dinosaurus! (1960), the cult film Equinox (1970), the awful Blob sequel Beware! The Blob / Son of the Blob (1972), John Landis’ Schlock! (1973), and Fred Olen Ray’s Prison Ship (1986).

 

 

© 2014 Mark R. Hasan

 


 

External References:
Editor’s BlogIMDB  Soundtrack CD Review —  Soundtrack Album — Composer Filmography
 
Vendor Search Links:
Amazon.ca —  Amazon.com —  Amazon.co.uk

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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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