So today (or yesterday rather) begins my week long study into 80’s horror. As “The Blob” is from 1988, it would seem like I began at the end of the decade, chronologically. Instead of beginning at the start of the decade, I decided to choose a movie that really epitomizes what the 80’s were about, and the common themes expressed during the time period. You could say this movie was really a culmination of a decade’s work in the genre, so why not start with a nice, well rounded film to preview what we’ll be dealing with in the next few days?
As always, I’d like to start with a little bit on the story. The film takes place in the fall in a little ski town in California. We meet some of the inhabitants, the football stars, the cheerleader, the punk, the preacher, the sheriff, the waitress, etc. We get to know them a bit before the action kicks off, but when it does, it really gets moving. It all starts with a hobo in the woods seeing a metoer fall from space. When he goes to investigate, some of the Blob gets on him and starts to eat his hand. He is eventually picked up by the main characters who take him to the hospital for treatment. Once in the nice cozy warmth of the hospital, the Blob decided to begin it’s campaign of terror against the town. It quickly kills a few people, grows, and then disappears. No one will believe the main characters about what happened, as the only proof has gone in to hiding. As can only be expected, a government clean up crew soon shows up, sporting white quarantine suits, big metal trucks and… machine guns? The town is locked down and told they are under a bacterial quarantine. Lucky for everyone, the Blob reappears in town to call the fed’s bluff. And kill a bunch of people. Bummer.
As I mentioned earlier, this is a good intro course to the 80’s for you, especially 80’s horror. Most notably, we get government cover ups. We also get germs coming from space, but that’s just a timeless theme in horror. Not that anyone is particularly keen on the government these days either, but in the 80’s, the genre was very critical of the Man. From this one to Red Dawn to Return of the Living Dead, the government had so many damn plots it couldn’t even keep them straight. They were always spying on people, sending probes into space, experimenting with chemicals, you name it. Common ground: It was always science related. People were down right terrified of what they didn’t know, and the genre directors ran with it to unbelievable effect. In “The Blob,” we find out that the government had sent a new bacteria strain into space as a test for a new chemical weapon to use against the Soviets. The satellite with the bacteria falls back down to Earth just outside of time and they show up to watch it’s effects. Of course, it works better than they ever could have imagined, growing rapidly and destroying everything in it’s path, and the government scientists couldn’t be more pleased. This sort of sentiment was rampant in genre movies of the time, that the government was only interested in it’s own projects and not it’s people. So, in a classic set up of the time, the real battle turns from people vs. monster to people vs. authority.
That brings up our next theme of the 80’s, which is the anti-hero. While he has been around forever, the anti-hero was very strong in the 80’s. Brian Flagg is a great example. He’s a leather jacket wearing, hot headed, mechanically minded motorcycle rider with a problem with authority. I think I just covered all the bases there. The only cliche he doesn’t cover is getting the girl. Sure, he gets a pretty solid hug at the end, but usually the main girl falls in love with the bad boy at some point in 80’s movies. No, Brian’s role is strictly badass all the time, no mushy stuff.
Now that we’ve gotten a little introduction to the time period the movie was made, lets go over the film itself. Like any good 80’s movie, your first thought is that it’s campy and bad. After all, it is about a giant pink blob that engulfs people and kills them. There are a few unnecessary one-liners, but all in all it is a very solid movie. Being a “remake,” the plot isn’t horribly original, but it’s no direct rip off either. There is tons of action to keep you involved and a fun cast of characters. They’re not exactly multi-dimensional, but the actors give each role a personality beyond “punk” or “head cheerleader” or “sheriff”. By the end, you’re not scared but you definitely laughed a lot and you’re going to walk away with a feeling of fulfilment you might not get from some genre flicks these days.
What really impressed me about this movie was it’s cojones, pardon my Spanish. It doesn’t shy away from anything, and it’s one n-bomb away from being politically incorrect. Director Chuck Russell and writer Frank Darabont were not afraid to go after the main characters and kill off kids (you heard me!), and they certainly didn’t have any qualms about being smacked with a fairly harsh “R” rating. We get a little vulgar dialogue, but absolutely nada in terms of sex, nudity or suggestive themes. OK, so we talk a little about condoms and one guys tries to reach down a girl’s shirt (the little sinner learns his lesson real good), but in general we’re pretty clean here, minus the gore.
Gore. Yep, finally I get myself into a real splatterfest. Naturally, this finally occurs when I time travel back to the 80’s, pre-CGI and pre-“R” wary production companies. We’re so worried nowadays about getting everyone into a movie that we’re not really worried about pleasing the people that do walk in. No matter, that’s why we invented DVD’s, so we can go check out the old stuff. Anyway, off my rant and back to the goods. We get tons of pink, gooey grossness slithering all over the place for the good majority of the movie. Not only does the blob envelop and consume people, which showcases some awesome face stretching and distorting, but it also melts people on contact sometimes. I couldn’t figure out that one, but it worked in terms of creating great death scenes, so I can’t really complain. We also get melted faces, stringy bodies, disembodied arms and legs, mutilated torsos and all sorts of explosions. Visually, this bad boy really delivers. Some people would argue that we don’t see enough of the gorgeous Shawnee Smith, but I’d honestly take an extra melted leg any day.
Overall this was a great start to 80’s week. It was a fun flick that also impressed me in terms of it’s production quality and special effects. I’m not going to be thinking about all the plot twists and social issues brought up in the film, but I enjoyed myself. Not every movie has to get you thinking. It’s like meeting a cute girl at a bar, dancing all night and having a great time, and then as you walk her home you find out she’s pretty smart and has a good job, etc. She’s cool, and you wouldn’t mind seeing here again, but let’s face it, you’ve had your fun. You get her number just in case, but you probably won’t call her again unless you’re feeling nostalgic.