THE BLOB (1988)

PrintE-mail Written by Martin Unsworth

Nowadays, we’re bombarded with remakes and reboots, but back in the halcyon days of the eighties, they were still fairly rare. So when Chuck Russell and Frank Darabont updated the fifties classic The Blob and put wannabe Brat Packer Kevin Dillon in the Steve McQueen hero role, it became a minor video hit. With the film now re-released on Blu-ray (albeit in Australia from Umbrella Entertainment), we find out if it still stands up or is just a gloopy mess.

Dillon is bad boy Brian Flagg, who comes across a poor old vagrant who has just got the sticky end of a fallen meteor. His hand is completely engulfed with gunk, Flagg tries to help him but he runs off - right into the path of a car driven by clean-cut jock Paul (Leitch), out on a date with chaste Meg (Smith). So far so ‘50s-style. As they attempt to get the old man some treatment at the hospital, they are horrified to find the blob substance has eaten away his entire lower body. And here we have the major difference in the remake - rather than implying the effects of the sticky stuff, we see it all in gruesome and bloody detail. And it’s wonderful.

Like the two other great ‘80s do-overs - The Thing (1982) and The Fly (1986) - The Blob ‘88-style is a glorious cornucopia of icky practical effects that repulse but, more importantly, are bloody fun! There are some that show their age - particularly in the rear-projection composites - but this allows the film to keep (and almost emulate) the charm of the fifties version. We even get an updated (and horrific) version of the now-legendary sequence in which the jelly takes over the cinema - with a suitably more shocking outcome! However, one important change is the reversal of the character stereotypes. Mullet-sporting rebel without a clue Dillon is transformed into a caring hero, scream queen in waiting Shawnee Smith grows some major balls and gets to fire a machine gun and presentable ‘good guy’ Leitch is dispatched in a spectacularly sticky way early on.

The pace positively motors along, and thanks to director Chuck Russell and Frank Darabont’s script, is a delightfully witty and enjoyable update of the sci-fi classic. Fans of Darabont’s tenure on The Walking Dead will be happy to see Jeffrey DeMunn (Dale in the first few seasons) as the friendly Sherriff (another surprising early demise) and will no doubt appreciate the writer’s subtle humour and style. Another genre veteran, Candy Clark (The Man Who Fell to Earth) also has a spectacularly effective death scene.

The Umbrella Entertainment release only includes a short interview with Chuck Russell as an extra, which is a shame but is certainly better than nothing.

THE BLOB (1988) / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: CHUCK RUSSELL / SCREENPLAY: CHUCK RUSSELL, FRANK DARABONT / STARRING: KEVIN DILLON, SHAWNEE SMITH, JEFFREY DEMUNN, CANDY CLARK, PAUL MCCRANE, DONOVAN LEITCH, JR. / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

 


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