31 Screams in October, Vol. 2, #25: The Blob (1988)

Posted: October 26, 2015 in Movie Review
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The Blob (1988)

Director: Chuck Russell

Starring: Kevin Dillon, Shawnee Smith, Donovan Leitch, Jeffrey DeMunn, Candy Clark, Joe Seneca

If there’s one decade of horror that has never completely clicked with me, it’s the 1950’s. I’ve never quite pinpointed the problem but, for whatever reason, the majority of the titles from that ten year period don’t do much for me. That’s not to say that none of them have ever piqued my interest, a fact I’ll be able to prove sooner than you might think. But 1958’s “The Blob” is among those that didn’t manage to excite me, despite the charismatic Steve McQueen (who was, and will always be awesome) as its lead. 1988’s “The Blob” got my attention because of the many familiar faces in the cast, the standout special effects (even if they are a bit dated by today’s standards), and the ways in which it tells the same story… but with a twist.

It’s all fun and games until a meteorite drops from the heavens. High school cheerleader Meg Penny (Shawnee Smith) and her football player boyfriend Paul Taylor (Donovan Leitch) are out on a date when they accidentally run over a homeless old man who has a curious-looking blob of slime attached to his hand. Brian Flagg (Kevin Dillon), rebellious and anti-authority, was witness to it all but is at first reluctant to accompany Meg and Paul as they take the old man to the hospital. Fed up with the uncaring hospital staff, Brian leaves the couple to deal with the old man’s paperwork. While they wait for the doctor, Paul gets up to find some refreshments. It is then that he notices something is very wrong with the old geezer. Hurriedly, he grabs the doctor. When the bed sheet is lifted, it reveals that the bottom half of the man’s body is missing, as though it has been eaten or melted away. Paul calls the police station for help, but the Blob descends from the ceiling to envelope him. Meg tries desperately to free Paul but is only able to pull his arm loose, and her momentum causes her to hit the back of her head against the wall and fall to the floor unconscious.

When she comes to, Meg cannot convince anyone that her version of events is what has actually transpired. Who would believe, without any visual evidence, that at least two people have been murdered by a giant red Jell-O mold? All that Sheriff Geller (Jeffrey DeMunn) is sure of is that a good kid is dead and, somehow, the more disreputable Brian Flagg must have been responsible. But he can’t prove it and, after interrogating his suspect, chooses to let Brian go. Outside the station, Meg intercepts Brian with the rather naive intention of bailing him out via credit card (“They don’t take plastic!”). When they stop for food at a diner, even Brian won’t believe her story about the Blob… that is, until it comes up through the kitchen sink and attacks. Brian and Meg survive by hiding out inside the freezer. Fran (Candy Clark), the diner’s owner, is not so lucky. Trying to call Sheriff Geller, who was supposed to meet her for a date, Fran is trapped inside a phone booth by the Blob. It has already killed Sheriff Geller, and it envelops her next.

Returning to the meteorite’s crash site, Meg and Brian are met by a military group led by scientist Dr. Meddows (Joe Seneca). The soldiers force Meg and Brian at gunpoint into a van waiting to take them back to town, where they are to join the rest of the population under quarantine. On the drive back, Brian jimmies open the door and escapes, but Meg stays behind. Back in town, Meg learns that her little brother Kevin is missing and has likely sneaked off to see a horror movie at the theater, against their mother’s wishes. The Blob gets there just before Meg does, killing most of the staff and several audience members, but Meg is able to rescue Kevin and his friend Eddie. Meanwhile, Brian walks in on Dr. Meddows talking about how the meteorite didn’t actually originate in outer space, but is in fact a man-made satellite, and the Blob is a product of Cold War biological warfare that is working far more efficiently than previously anticipated. Brian is noticed and, not wanting him to reveal to the townspeople what he’s just learned, the soldiers give chase.

Speaking of giving chase, Meg, Kevin and Eddie escape down into the sewers with the Blob not far behind them. Eddie is unfortunately lost, but Meg is able to get Kevin to safety before herself being rescued at the last minute by Brian on his motorcycle. But their path to freedom is blocked when Dr. Meddows orders the sewers sealed off and a truck driven over the manhole just to make doubly sure he can contain the Blob. Guess they didn’t count on the scared member of their team down there carrying a bazooka. Brian grabs the weapon and uses it to blow up the truck and re-establish the way out. Meddows, furious, insists that Brian is “infected” and that he must be put down. Before Meddows can do this, he is killed by the Blob. Meddows’ team uses all the firepower at their disposal to try and tame the gelatinous beast… but they only piss it off. The soldiers and some of the townspeople are killed, with the rest taking shelter inside the town hall. The Blob growing in size with each person that it eats, it is now large enough to cover half of the building.

Remembering the Blob’s reluctance to follow them inside the freezer back at the diner, Meg grabs a fire extinguisher, and others follow suit. As before, the Blob shows an aversion to the cold, but it’s not quite enough, and the fire extinguishers only carry so much CO2. Not a problem, because Brian has commandeered the snow maker truck from the local garage and is ready to make a giant snow cone out of the abomination terrorizing his town. The Blob gets angry, flipping the truck over, but a quick-thinking Meg grabs an explosive charge off a dying soldier, attaches it to the truck’s liquid nitrogen tanks, and she and Brian get clear just in time for the charge to go off. The frozen remains of the Blob are then quickly hauled off to the town ice house where it can remain inert.

I hadn’t actually planned for my viewing of “The Blob” to fall on the same night as an episode of “The Walking Dead,” but I’m glad that it worked out that way. Featuring Jeffrey DeMunn (a.k.a. Dale) and co-written by Frank Darabont (developer and original show-runner of “The Walking Dead”), “The Blob” succeeds as a remake because of its differences from, not its similarities to, the original. The title monster this time can kill its victims by several methods in which the 1958 monster could not. The best one for me is the scene with the two teenagers sitting in a parked car, getting drunk and making out. The Blob first invades the body of the girl, hollows her out and then springs out and attacks the unsuspecting boy. The most ludicrous (but still fun) is the scene where the Blob pulls the diner’s handyman down the kitchen sink.

Familiar faces are a definite plus. In addition to DeMunn, fans of the “Saw” franchise will delight in seeing a young Shawnee Smith as a strong female lead. Actor Paul McCrane, as Deputy Briggs, is always great at playing that guy you love to hate. Die-hard fans of the original may very well be turned off by the level of gore, but should at least appreciate the twist whereby the extra-terrestrial invader of the 50’s is now something the government cooked up. I say give it a chance. After all… there’s always room for Jell-O.

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Comments
  1. Sylvia Williams says:

    The original Blob was truly cheesy, which can work, but didn’t, in spite of Steve McQueen. From your review, it sounds like the special effects are worth a view, and the casting also sounds decent!

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