Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Blob (1988) An Exemplary Remake

A sign of these cinematic times is the flood of remakes that people rightly complain about to no end.  Certainly this is no new thing, but many maintain that older remakes seem to have been mostly very good.  This is especially true of three remakes done in the 80s: John Carpenter's The Thing (1982), David Cronenberg's The Fly (1986) and the 1988 remake of The Blob, directed by Chuck Russell.  The latter is much more underrated than the former two, so I've decided to talk about it today.  Even for somewhat older remakes I'm skeptical because the very idea of a remake is dubious in that you're simply retreading an older story, cashing in on the name recognition and nostalgia that people have with the original.  That is exactly what bad remakes do, so what exactly does a good remake do?  It takes the original plot and makes it it's own, embellishing or expounding certain elements to make it stand out on it's own.  The Blob is just such a film, it's not constantly winking to the audience with cute references to the original, making you wish you were watching that instead.  You can tell the filmmakers respected the original and that the project was something they genuinely wanted to make.  It keeps focused straight ahead and does it's own thing.  My first attraction to this film was from the knowledge of it's special effects, but I didn't expect to be impressed by the story or the characters.  However, I was.
It's such a surprise this film isn't more well regarded.  It is immensely enjoyable from start to finish.  One thing the film especially has going for it is the element of surprise.  You are in real suspense about who will survive and who is a friend or an ally.  There are plenty of great setups and payoffs, some even used to good, comedic effect.  The majority of the cast is very likable, you really want these people to get through the ordeal.  I don't know exactly when horror movies got the idea that people should hate the main characters instead of root for them.  Shawnee Smith gives a compelling performance as Meg, a cheerleader who ends up a believably strong character.  There's some very convincing emotion from her when faced by the multiple horrifying scenes in the film, including several quick moments or line deliveries that add to her character.  Other actors like Kevin Dillon and Donovan Leitch are memorable in each of their roles and stand out as individuals, not merely blending into the rest as cutout characters.  There's also plenty of supporting characters who are still distinct from one another and gain sympathy with their short time onscreen.  It was written by the director and Frank Darabont, who went on to write The Shawshank Redemption.  I was pretty much leaning forward in suspense towards the end of the climax, which kept upping the ante.  The plot has been changed to incorporate the idea that the Blob is actually a government biological experiment gone awry.  This has obviously been done before, but the presence of the military is not painted in a totally negative light, with the main characters helping one of the soldiers at one point.
Now, the Blob itself is a quite a marvel.  The ambition of the effects and the way they're pulled off give the sense that the thing can do almost anything, adding to the suspense.  This is a great example of special effects complimenting the story.  The iconic scene in the movie theater is wonderfully executed, going over the top with the effects as only the 80s would.  The Blob is also much faster in this version, utilizing tentacles and even speeding along a ceiling.  Of course the makeup effects for the Blob's victims are cringe inducingly effective.
It's another highly impressive example of amazing practical effects.  If there was one thing I'd fault the film on, it would be the sometimes sub par synth score.  Yet it's what I would call a very solid film, especially with the cliffhanger ending, which I won't spoil here.  Highly recommended, check it out and Beware of the Blob!
Pictured: One awesome gal.  

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