The Blob (1988)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #347

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Number of Views: Multiple
Release Date: August 5, 1988
Sub Genre: Monster Movie
Country of Origin: United States
Budget: $19,000,000
Box Office: $8, 247, 943
Running Time: 95 minutes
Director: Chuck Russell
Producers: Jack H Harris
Screenplay: Frank Darabont, Chuck Russell
Story: Irving H Millgate
Based on The Blob by Theodore Simonson, Kay Linaker
Special Effects: Tony Gardner
Visual Effects: Hoyt Yeatman
Cinematography: Mark Irwin
Score: Michael Hoenig
Editing: Tod Feuerman, Terry Stokes
Studios: TriStar Pictures, Palisades California Inc.
Distributor: TriStar Pictures
Stars: Kevin Dillon, Shawnee Smith, Donovan Leitch Jr, Jeffrey DeMunn, Candy Clark, Joe Seneca, Del Close, Paul McCrane, Sharon Spelman, Beau Billingslea, Art LaFleur, Ricky Paull Goldin, Robert Axelrod, Bill Moseley, Frank Collison, Michael Kenworthy, Jack Rader

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Suggested Audio Candy

Michael Hoenig “The Blob”

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Back in 1958, while Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolf Man were drinking one another under the table at the local tavern, a new evil mastermind surfaced. I’m not speaking of Steve McQueen, although he did play a significant role in introducing us to the new blob on the block in his first ever leading role. Instead, an amorphous globule of protoplasm made its presence known and quickly became B-movie royalty in the process. Thirty years on and this malignant mass of gelatin made a comeback of sorts, trading the drive-ins of old with crowded multiplexes and terrorizing a whole new strain of movie-goers witless in the process.

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Writing duties fell to Chuck Russell, who also directed, and a certain Frank Darabont, long before The Shawshank Redemption propelled him into the major leagues. The premise was largely unaltered; a colossal mass of intergalactic phlegm manifested in small town America, via flaming meteor, and commenced its consumption of the inhabitants, leaving an unlikely hero to halt its shameless slide. There was no more McQueen but instead a new star was born and his name was Kevin Dillon.

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Lesser known brother of Matt, Kevin was the Don to his Patrick Swayze, the Frank to his Sly Stallone, Jim to his Tom Hanks. While Matt was making a name for himself in Hollywood circles and making astute decisions which would guarantee his A-list credentials, baby bro was struggling to emulate his success. Most significant was his turn as the mean-spirited Bunny in Oliver Stone’s Platoon whereby he applied fresh footprints to the faces of innocent Thai townspeople. Other than that, things went a little quiet for him, until Entourage revived his flagging fortunes. Here he got to give his very best impression of James Dean and, as rebel with a mullet Brian Flagg, he single-handedly took on the might of the muculent mutation, with chick in tow of course.

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The walking womb in question was none other than Jigsaw’s right-hand gal Shawnee Smith. Megan instantly started her metamorphosis from affable girl next door type cum-cheerleading queen and traded her pom-poms for a fully automatic machine gun which she toted with the best of them. Displaying the same resourcefulness which made Ellen Ripley every Xenomorph’s worst nightmare, Smith gave us a plucky heroine capable of stifling the humongous threat of the titular blob in question. Gone were the crude stop-motion effects which lent its forebear its irresistible charm but, not about to be outdone, Russell gifted us state-of-the-art effects and enough grue to fill a thousand handkerchiefs.

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Russell’s film is now commonly regarded as a modern-day remake of the highest order and this is because it paid affectionate homage to the original, while slapping on liberal amounts of eighties sheen. Its protagonists largely consisted of caricatures but the key here was that they evidently had fun with the material. Instead, the real star was the merciless monster of the title and all those who had anything to say to the contrary could attempt to find its ass and plant a kiss on it. Good luck with that. Its relentless Katamari-like roll spelled catastrophe to anyone foolhardy enough to come into close contact with the ooze. It paid no mind to personal space and even less to melting its victims into little more than human slag piles.

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Once this occurred, Tony Gardner and his thirty plus-strong team offered revolutionary make-up SFX as a sweetener and, other than a little questionable green screen later on, they still hold up to this day. In the same way that Carpenter’s The Thing and Cronenberg’s The Fly used technology to revolutionize the now-dated original formula, Gardner upped the ante immeasurably. As for the unfussy organism tasked with wiping out those without protection, it was one big metaphor for the AIDS pandemic which bowled over an entire generation of frisky teens. It was far leaner and meaner than Blob ’58 and slid about town with far greater purpose. Among its augmentations were ironically phallic tendrils which allowed for swifter precision and movement. Son of Blob, as I like to refer to our congested friend, was evidently a chip off the old block but had learned from its father’s folly and no amount of domestic bleach was going to remove this particularly stubborn stain.

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Even a sub-plot involving an unscrupulous Government agency became superfluous to requirements as it all boiled down to good old fifties good vs. evil. Any decent B-movie worth its goo doesn’t become side-tracked by detail; it simply throws a whole heap of shit at the screen and notes what sticks. It just so happens that The Blob acted as potent adhesive. Anarchy reigned, military personnel faltered in their endeavors to retain the status quo when all it took was a motorcycle, a mouthful of Bubblicious and some Brylcream. The Fly may have been educated to degree level and The Thing may have owned the monopoly on creeping fear, but The Blob knew exactly how to court widespread panic and that’s something all decent B-movies aspire to.

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10

Grue Factor: 4/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers: Where to possibly begin? It’s a stinger that Blob, capable of stripping the skin from its marrow in a split-second and transforming Seth into Brundlefly without the added expense of relocation pods. Icky would be the operative word here; Gardner and co hit pay dart with the grue and weren’t afraid to pummel our senses at every turn with another public meltdown. Watching them scream and reach out hopelessly from within a bubble of snot never did grow tiresome and Russell’s wonderful movie was one helluva congestant.

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Read The Fly (1986) Appraisal

Read The Thing (1982) Appraisal

Read The Thing (2011) Appraisal

Read The Mist Appraisal

Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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