In 1988 the relatively unknown director / writer team of Chuck Russell and Frank Darabont, fresh off A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, tackled a new version of a classic Steve McQueen monster movie. Russell would go on to score a big hit with Jim Carrey comedy The Mask, and Darabont would achieve global acclaim with his much-loved adaptation of Stephen King’s Shawshank Redemption. But the seeds of their future success were sown in the gory, body horror slime of their Blob remake.
Brian Flagg (Kevin Dillon) is the small-town rebel, smoking cigarettes, riding his motorbike and sporting a heroic mullet. Dissent is running through his veins, man, and the local sheriff can’t help but remind him that one more mistake and he’s off to the clink. But when a hot pink globule of alien goo is deposited on the town by a meteorite, the residents find themselves beset by a molten slimeball. So it’s up to Brian and high school cheerleader Meg to foil the fluid beast, and scupper the mysterious government agents intent on capturing it.
On paper remakes never look good, and the horror genre in particular has not fared well over the last twenty years. However, the 1980s were a time when advances in effects work could really bring something new to the table, yielding some exceptional results. Three bonafide classics of the body-horror genre are remakes of horror/sci-fi pictures from the 50s and 60s. And if the cliché is that the 80s was the decade of excess, then that is certainly true for John Carpenter’s The Thing, David Cronenberg’s The Fly and Chuck Russell’s The Blob. Each took an irresistible concept and launched as much blood and guts as they could at it.
From early on, the movie establishes that no character is safe, and dispatches numerous townsfolk in a variety of inventive ways. The special effects work holds up remarkably as the movie enters its twenty-eighth year, and they throw the kitchen sink at the screen – literally, in the case of one unfortunate Blob victim. People get snapped and twisted and dissolved as the Blob cuts a slimy, gelatinous swathe through the town. It hides itself within bodies, on the ceiling and down the drain. The acrid alien jelly gets bigger with each kill, and it’s one hell of a ride as humanity fends off its vicious viscosity. Although the gore is intense, the tone is actually kept quite light, and above all The Blob keeps things fun.
The cast also features Darabont regular Jeffrey DeMunn (best known as Dale in The Walking Dead), and Paul McCrane, of Robocop and E.R. fame, as a surly sherriff’s deputy. 90s aficionados may also appreciate a brief early appearance from Baywatch star Erika Eleniak (there must have been something about that Baywatch set and its proximity to genre horror, since co-star Billy Warlock also appeared in Brian Yuzna’s body horror classic Society).
Film writers have theorised that while the original, The Blob (1958), was a metaphor for communist fear, the 80s Blob was a metaphor for the AIDS epidemic. Plausible theories, no doubt, but perhaps it might just be reading a little too much into things. It might equally be that The Blob is about a mindless pink splodge of evil, hell bent on eradicating humanity.
The Blob’s inexplicably mediocre scores on both IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes are positive proof, if it were ever needed, that the general public’s role as arbiters of good taste should never be trusted. But with another remake imminent, it seems that the heart-warming tale of malevolent, acrid slime is one for the ages. Although The Blob definitely has something of a cult following nowadays, it remains a massively underappreciated gem. It’s hard to see how any future take on it could possibly surpass Chuck Russell’s masterpiece.