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The Blob (1988)

February 26th, 2006 · No Comments

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This entertaining remake of the 1958 drive-in staple that starred Steve McQueen features Kevin Dillon, Shawnee Smith, Donovan Leitch, Jeffrey DeMunn, Candy Clark and Joe Seneca as townspeople running from a gelatinous killing machine that spills out of a crashed meteor.

In the opening credits sequence, the camera wanders through an empty and somewhat spooky town (shot in Chester County, PA), until we pan over to the high school athletic field to discover that everyone is at the football game. The dialogue here isn’t pedestrian or there merely to advance the plot, but actually quite witty, something your drive-in movie gets when Frank Darabont is the director’s buddy and co-writer.

Director Chuck Russell (Nightmare On Elm Street 3, The Mask) specialized in what are now probably considered late nite cable fare, but used to be called drive-in movies. Flying under the radar with little money, no stars and comic book ideas to work from, Russell managed to rise above most of his peers for two or three films in the late 1980s. He was doing Wes Craven far better than Craven was doing Wes Craven.

Though now vogue, part of the remake’s ingenuity is that it quickly kills off – or blobs out – characters we anticipate being with us for the entirety. And it does so quite creatively: victims are attacked from a draining pipe and sucked down a sink, blobbed from the ceiling, and from under water. One nice character gets slimed in an imploding phone booth in one of the more memorable horror demises of the ’80s.

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The film’s highlight is the revisualization of the classic movie theater attack from the original. The movie-within-the-movie playing at the Main Street cinema is a clever Friday the 13th sendup called Garden Tool Massacre. The blob gobbles up the projectionist, then the manager, then sucks a theater heckler up into the ceiling before all hell breaks loose.

Russell and Darabont wear their geekiness on their sleeves here and their transparent love for this type of film is apparent in almost every frame.

Operating on a mid-range budget and without the benefit of CGI, what could have easily been laughable effects for the blob are creative and even menacing. It lurches up walls, changing mass and color and shooting out tentacles in search of food. Other than maybe a couple of matte shots, nothing in the film looks embarrassingly cheesy. Even Shawnee Smith is all right as the 26-year-old playing 18-year-old high school cheerleader who goes medieval on the blob in the climax.

A subplot involving a military cover-up doesn’t work at all, but this is a drive-in movie and excels on all counts when it comes to watching townspeople get gobbled up by space Jell-O, with genuine wit and craftsmanship attached.

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