Monday, October 02, 2017

The Blob (1988)

This was a pretty nice one to help ease into my October, as it was just the right balance of 80s cheese; "where have I seen this actor before?" moments, and lovely lovely gooey practical effects.

For the record, the actors I recognised were:
  • Shawnee Smith (from the Saw franchise) as female lead Meg
  • Kevin Dillon (Entourage) as bad boy Brian with the incredible mullet
  • Jack Nance (Twin Peaks' Pete Martell) in a small role as a doctor
  • Erika Eleniak (old school Baywatch) as a sleepy drunken date, Vicki

In this remake of the 1958 sci-fi horror classic - real talk: I've never seen that one - a meteorite crashes in a forest near the town of Arborville, California. It makes first contact with a local, and when some teens find him and take him to the hospital, they unwittingly start a series of events that are going to leave one of them, and a lot of the townspeople, dead.

The blob itself (reminding me very much of the psychomagnotheric slime from Ghostbusters 2, which was released a year later) is a lot more dangerous than it appears, and if you let it touch you, you're basically done for. Not great news for the locals, but awesome news for us...!

A whopping $9 million of this film's $19m budget was spent on FX, and it shows! Some bad green screen aside (which must have been inescapable in 1988), the practical effects for gore and blob shenanigans are really impressive and still stand up. The blob genuinely seems terrifying!

Who's going to look after his dog now? :(

In amongst the poor innocent victims of this gooey menace, is one who definitely deserved what he got... and even if his death scene wasn't one of the best, it warranted the biggest cheer. Back then I suppose this type of character was considered funny, if a bit of a slimeball, but watching it now, he just comes off as rapey. 

Parked in his car, complete with a fully stocked bar in the trunk, he's too busy getting gorgeous Vicki drunk to notice the approaching ooze (in a blob POV shot! Genius!). When she passes out, he doesn't think twice about "continuing" the date.

What a creep. Thankfully the blob has quietly made its way into the car, and unfortunately, into poor Vicki too, and it isn't long before this guy is kicking, screaming and dying. Byeeee!

The carnage continues, bravely killing off some characters I wasn't expecting, until a big showdown in the centre of town and a very obvious set-up for a sequel (that never happened due to this being a box office fail at the time).

In a cast of entertaining but still rather clichéd, one-dimensional characters (bad boy, weirdo priest, town sheriff, diner waitress, little brother...) Shawnee Smith's Meg is the most well-rounded, avoiding the trap of shrill female lead and instead emerging as a strong, likeable survivor.

The first time we see her she's a cheerleader, but refreshingly there's no big deal made of her also being a badass wielding a gun by the end. She's just able to do that too, because she's a multi-faceted, "get shit done" kind of person.

She's not technically a final girl, but she's the closest thing to it here, and she's cool.

Side note: I just came across a mention that Joss Whedon had this character in mind as inspiration for Buffy, which makes perfect sense if true.

So The Blob has plenty to recommend it for a pretty chilled out, but fun and pleasingly gross watch:
  1. Goo. So much goo. And there's something eminently satisfying about watching the blob pump itself into a tiny enclosed space like a hazmat helmet.
  2. A cheeky reference to another film within the horror genre, with the blatant Friday the 13th rip-off the kids are watching. Fact: The real Friday the 13th franchise was on its 7th film by the time this came out!
  3. A character getting fatally sucked into a sink,
  4. Lighting! Cool 80s lighting throughout, plus X-Files-y shots of huge shards of light cutting through a forest, and hazmat suits with the little light inside. 

Speaking of 80s, we've got a sweet closing credits power ballad, too. Enjoy!

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