There seemed to be a trend in ‘80s Hollywood of remaking old science fiction films, the most famous examples being John Carpenter’s The Thing and David Cronenberg’s The Fly.
However, Tobe Hooper’s Invaders from Mars and Chuck Russell’s The Blob seem to have faded to obscurity in the last 30 years. The Blob, while it may not be as timeless as The Thing, is a very underrated remake.
The film’s premise is pretty much the same as the original. A meteor crashes in small town California and is discovered by a homeless man. As he prods the strange red goo with a stick, it slithers up his arm and sticks to his hand. He’s found by three teenagers and is taken to a hospital, where the Blob devours his body and escapes. Now it’s up to a couple of youths to convince the authorities of the Blob’s existence before it consumes the whole town.
In the first half-hour we are introduced to a large cast of characters, all of them of different ages, occupations and positions in the community. In the 1958 original when characters and relationships are established, it’s an indication that they are the main characters who we’ll follow all the way through the film.
In the 1988 version however characters and relationships are established but are abruptly killed off. Within the first act, characters you assume would be the protagonists are devoured by the Blob. This creates a persistent tension that the 58 film did not possess. When a character encounters the Blob, it’s terrifying because you know that there’s a good chance he or she will get killed. No one is safe.
The Characters Are More Complex
When reviewing a remake I think it’s important to consider the film it’s based on, so we can see what the remake is building on. Nowadays the characters in the 88 version may appear like typical film archetypes but compared to the original the characters are a little more complex.
Brian Flagg for example is more three-dimensional than Steve Andrews (McQueen) was in the 58 film. At first, he comes across as selfish, amoral and overall very unlikable. The complete opposite of the confident and charming Steve Andrews. However, as Brian encounters the Blob and its victims, he takes action and protects others rather than himself.
Another example is Dr Meadows, the leader of the biological containment team trying to stop the Blob. Like Brian he is more than he appears. He and his team come across as allies at first. You think they’ll work with the youths to help find and catch the creature, but when Brian listens in on a conversation Meadows has with his colleagues, we discover that the doctor is willing to go to extreme lengths to contain the Blob, even if it means endangering the townspeople.
The selfish rogue who starts caring for others and the villain who resembles an ally are common archetypes in today’s media. Hence the film’s characters are not that complex seeing them now but as I said I think it’s important to consider the original when reviewing a remake as a remake should be an improvement on the original. So, when comparing 88’s characters to 58’s, I think that the remake is indeed a fine improvement.
Like Cronenberg’s The Fly and Carpenter’s The Thing, the special effects in The Blob are so good they almost overshadow the other elements in the film. The use of puppets, both miniature and large-scale, gives a clear sense of the creature’s size. You are convinced that this thing is a living, expanding flood.
The make-up effects enhance the tension as we see in gruesome detail what happens to people when they’re consumed by the Blob. People dissolve like they’re in acid, we see their skin and flesh burn inside the creature. Whenever it appears you’re on the edge of your seat because you know how fast the Blob can move and what happens when it touches you.
Overall The Blob is a very strong remake with multidimensional characters, persistent tension and outstanding special effects. The only major issues regard the film’s longevity as like the original it’s a product of its time. With the clear ‘80s fashion and music The Blob lacks the timeless aesthetic of films like Carpenter’s The Thing. Those issues aside, I think The Blob is still a strong ‘80s horror film that deserves a lot more attention.
I give The Blob a solid 7 out of 10.