by Mel Valentin
Co-written by Chuck Russell ("The Mask," "Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors") and Frank Darabont ("The Shawshank Redemption," "The Green Mile," and still the stuck-in-development-hell adaptation of Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451"), the remake of 1958's "The Blob" updates the original flesh-eating alien life form eating its way through a small town premise with tighter pacing, heavy doses of black humor, better visual and makeup effects, a cheesy 80s musical score, and unexpected plot turns missing from the linear, pedestrian storytelling found in the original film that, almost fifty years later, remains notable primarily for the gelatinous title monster and Steve McQueen's star-making turn as the teenage hero (he was 27 at the time).The Blob is set at a quiet mountain town on the cusp of the winter ski season. Closely following the original storyline, a meteorite falls from the sky. An inquisitive old man decides to prod the meteorite with a stick. He thinks the stick will protect him from whatever’s inside the meteorite. He's wrong, of course, spectacularly wrong. Stumbling out of the woods and onto a local highway, he's rescued by Paul Taylor (Donovan Leitch), the presumptive hero, a sensitive jock type and a brighter-than-average cheerleader, Meg Penny (Shawnee Smith). Russell and Darabont set up the glimmers of a romantic triangle, with Brian Flagg (Kevin Dillon), a motorcycle jacket wearing, cigarette smoking, outsider type who isn't as badass as he'd like everyone to believe (he sports a mullet, a classic sign that he should not be taken seriously), stuck in the middle. As the unpretentious, sensitive jock (an oxymoron in the real world, certainly, but The Blob is fiction after all), Paul has the inside track on getting Meg's affections, but circumstances dictate otherwise.
"The rare remake that improves on the originall."
Despite signs that The Blob may be just another average science-fiction/horror flick, The Blob takes a surprising turn at the end of the first act, undercutting audience expectations and leaving viewers gasping and guessing, often incorrectly, who the Blob will target next. After the first of many unexpected (and some expected) deaths, viewers quickly learn that the virtues or altruism of individual characters are unconnected with the question of their survival or death. No one is immune, and viewers, by extension, subconsciously identify with the characters' vulnerability. Viewers are continually kept off balance, forced to switch their sympathies between different characters. A gory, painful death can come at any time, to any character, regardless of their good intentions or relative goodness. It's a cruel, arbitrary universe. Russell and Darabont seem to like their humor black, with a nasty, bloody, gory, slimy, edge.
If you're a science fiction or horror fan, The Blob's genre influences are easy to spot, e.g., John Carpenter's blood-, gore-splattered 1982 remake of The Thing, 1984's underrated and underseen C.H.U.D. (e.g., shadowy government operatives in biological containment/hazmat suits, key scene or scenes set in a sewer system), and a grin-inducing "Wall of Death" moment lifted from one of Elvis Presley's affectionately regarded films, Roustabout (Elvis as a carnival worker who saves the carnival from bankruptcy by inventing a new, motorcycle-based attraction).In a film with so much to recommend for science fiction/horror fans, there is, however, one minor flaw: the inevitable setup for a sequel (which thankfully never came), an epilogue centered on a minor character, a half-crazed ex-priest in apocalyptic rant mode. Still, "The Blob" is the rare remake that's better than the original, and, after my most recent revisit, it now tops my "guilty pleasures" list (just a notch above John Carpenter's "Prince of Darkness"). Equal parts teen, horror, sci-fi, action, and 80s cheese, with a liberal dose of gore and unexpected plot turns, the remake of the "The Blob" is easily one of the most enjoyable sci-fi/horror films of the last twenty-five years.
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originally posted: 06/09/05 17:44:46