Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Blob (1988)

In my opinion, every horror movie needs four things to make it memorable as well as give it a cult status:

One, the story should always be set in the fall, between the months of September and November. That way, it gives it the feel that it’s set on or near Halloween, especially when you see the characters wearing clothing adequate for the fall.
Two, around 75% of the film should contain scenes at night. The dark is always foreboding and spooky, so to have settings filmed during the day is just a way to take the audience out of the movie, as well as the scare out of it. Everyone, at some level, is afraid of the dark.

Three, the setting must be a small town where everybody knows each other. It always helps when the fictional town features local farmers or cowboy types, or any type of character who’d seem to be not from the big city. Throw in a bunch of kids with letterman jackets and you have yourself a great start.

And four, there must be a well-known main character—someone who’s either very well-liked or looked down upon like some dreg of society. The latter character always makes for a better and entertaining part of the story.

With those points made, I’ve got to say that 1988’s The Blob has all those details I’ve noted: it’s mentioned during the film that it’s October; most of the movie was filmed at night; it’s an obvious small town; and everybody knows the main bad boy character.

The Blob was one of the 80s’ more quiet and lesser-known horror movies, which was a remake of 1958’s film of the same name. The original had a clean-cut Steve McQueen (as Steven McQueen in the credits) and was a pretty cool flick of the 50s’ creature features.

Here, in the 1988 version, it opens with the local high school football game, introducing us to the football star, Paul Taylor (Donovan Leitch), and the popular cheerleader, Meg Penny (Shawnee Smith). Paul gets tackled at the refreshment table and Meg runs over to see if he’s okay. Right before he passes out, he asks Meg out on a date that night.

We’re then introduced to bad boy, Brian Flagg (played by Kevin Dillon—Matt’s younger brother), as he has some motorcycle trouble while trying to jump a ruined bridge in the nearby woods. It’s clear from the start, as he ventures into town to borrow some tools to fix his bike, that he’s not very well-liked within the town, especially by the law.

The story follows the same path as the 1958 version as a homeless man who lives in the woods witnesses a meteorite that falls to Earth that night. He goes to investigate, finding the meteorite as some substance moves around inside of it, grabs a stick and pokes at the goop. It sticks to the end of it but the slime suddenly moves and covers the old man’s hand, leaving him screaming in pain.

The way these characters come together is that the man runs into Flagg in the woods, trying to cut his hand off with a hatchet, but Flagg stops him from doing further damage. The man runs off as Flagg gives chase, trying to help him. Cut to Paul and Meg driving on their date, the old man runs into the road, getting hit by the car. Paul helps him into the car to take him to the hospital and demands Flagg to come with. From there, that’s when all hell breaks loose as they inadvertently bring the blob into town.

Like I mentioned, this film, as minutely known as it was back then, has the necessary canon needed for a great horror movie. Seeing that this was filmed during the 80s—and it shows—makes it very nostalgic for me to watch. There’s even a touch of Hitchcock’s Psycho in the story as a character you expect to be a hero throughout the film dies within the first act.

As much as I’m against remakes nowadays, I feel that this one was justified, as the first one was made 30 years prior. But, really, when thought about, the film is just about the same as the 1958 version, just modernized and given a twist toward the end that I found rather interesting. Still, I have a love for the horror movies of the 1980s that I really can’t explain. So watching this movie the other day brought back great memories of going to the local video rental store to rent VHS tapes to bring home.

If you can get over Kevin Dillon’s super-mullet and Shawnee Smith’s densely hair sprayed ‘do, then you’ll love this flick. For a B-movie, the acting is pretty good and believable, minus the kids who sneak out to watch the latest slasher movie and the dude that sits behind them, but everybody else moves the story along well enough.

The special effects were good for its time, seemingly using miniatures and rear projection quite a bit. Quite a few kill scenes were scary and suspenseful, never giving you the feeling that it was goofy or implausible. Two scenes that stood out were the hospital scene and the phone booth scene—those were fantastic and cringing.

The pace of the movie was great with no down time. We get to know the main characters, the blob comes down in the meteor, and the shit hits the fan.

One thing to note, and without giving away the ending, it was plain to see that the filmmakers’ intention was to set up a sequel for this film. The end is purposely left open for a sequel, there’s no doubt about it. I’m guessing the less-than-stellar box office returns and the critical panning at the time quashed that idea. Too bad, though, because there could’ve been some potential stories writers might’ve come up with.

I don’t know if this will ever get a Blu-Ray release, but the DVD I own looks pretty good and it is in widescreen. But it’d be nice if we could get a behind-the-scenes featurette or some interviews, maybe a commentary track.

My final “bit” about The Blob is that you should go look for this DVD in your local rental shop or Netflix and rent it. Better yet, if you’re a fan of 1980s’ horror films, this is a must to own.