Director – Chuck Russell, Screenplay – Chuck Russell & Frank Darabont, Producers – Jack H. Harris & Rupert Harvey, Photography – Mark Irwin, Music – Michael Hoenig, Miniatures – Greg Jein, Creature Effects – Lyle Conway & Stuart Ziff, Special Effects Supervisor – Hoyt Yeatman, Makeup Effects Supervisor – Tony Gardner, Production Design – Craig Stearns. Production Company – Palisades Entertainment.
Kevin Dillon (Brian Flagg), Shawnee Smith (Meg Penny), Joe Seneca (Dr Meddows), Donovan Leitch (Paul Taylor), Del Close (Reverend Meeker), Paul McCrane (Deputy Bill Briggs), Michael Kenworthy (Kevin Penny), Jeffrey De Munn (Sheriff Herb Geller), Candy Clark (Fran Hewitt), Ricky Paull Goldin (Scott Jesky), Art La Fleur (Mr Penny)
A blob of pink organic matter emerges from a meteorite that falls to Earth. An old wino has his hand devoured when he touches the blob. Teenagers Meg Penny and Paul Taylor rush the wino to hospital by which time the blob has devoured half the man’s body. Next, Paul is devoured as the blob grows in size. Police blame surly anti-authoritarian teenager Brian Flagg for this and he is forced goes on the run as the steadily increasing blob starts digesting most of the town. Meanwhile, a ruthless military contingent moves in to capture the blob and Brian discovers that it is in fact an out-of-control biological weapons project.
With the mid-1980s vogue for remakes of 1950s science-fiction films, it was inevitable that the cheesy Steve McQueen classic The Blob (1958) would undergo the treatment too. The Blob 1958 is not a particularly great film – in fact, it is a poor one for the most part, but it is a favourite one whose popularity rests, more than anything, on a classic title that seems to epitomise all that was 1950s B science-fiction.
In the original, with a budget of only $150,000, the blob was a barrage balloon dragged across the room by a fishing line. When it was supposed to devour a diner, it was a merely lump of jelly sliding across a photo. Such would clearly no longer suffice in this post The Howling (1981) and An American Werewolf in London (1981) era, and with a $17 million pricetag The Blob 1988 offers a top-drawer battery of stop-motion animation, miniature sets, air-bladder transformation and latex prosthetics. This blob is a fearsome state-of-the-art shape-changer – indeed, it would make the perfect date for Rob Bottin’s The Thing (1982).
There are some wildly over-the-top set-pieces with it dragging bodies down plugholes, pursuing victims across ceilings at high-speed, collapsing around phone booths to reveal a half-devoured body in its midst and creating giant maws to reach up after climbers.
There are at least two visions that step over into the genuinely unnerving – the half-glimpse afforded by a strobing light of a huge mass of half-melted bodies in a cinema, and the scene in the hospital as a giant sphere of pink bubble-gum drags Donovan Leitch out a window, leaving Shawnee Smith clutching only a dismembered hand.
The original film sat among the peculiar pulp of 50s teen rebellion films and hit a nerve of anger at the failure of teens to be taken seriously by adults. The Blob 1988 abandons the subtext for an intermittent parody of the John Hughes teen-angst and mating rituals staple – it becomes something akin to a The Blob Devours the Breakfast Club. It has some occasional moments of humour in scenes that dig at teen angst – a nervous guy entering a pharmacy to buy condoms only to be served by the date’s father – although these seem half-hearted.
Where the film’s sense of humour comes into its own is in the entertaining suggestions about the origin of the blob – now the mutant lump of cranberry sauce has been tied in with military-conspiracy theories and a genetic-engineering conception and is at one point even ingeniously suggested as being the source of the disappearance of the dinosaurs.
A further remake of The Blob was announced in 2010 purportedly from Rob Zombie, although has yet to be greenlit.
Director Chuck Russell previously made A Nightmare on Elm Street III: The Dream Warriors (1987). In his subsequent films – The Mask (1994), Eraser (1996) – Russell began to call himself by his given name, Charles, then became Chuck again for the horror film Bless the Child (2000), The Scorpion King (2002) and I Am Wrath (2016). In these films, Russell demonstrates an aptitude for big-budget special effects but most of these films otherwise feel dramatically lacking. Screenwriter Frank Darabont would go on to become an impressive director in his own right with the likes of The Shawshank Redemption (1994), The Green Mile (1999) and The Mist (2007), as well as creator of the hit zombie tv series The Walking Dead (2010– ).