Editor’s note: All throughout October, the vibes get spookier and the nights get longer. It’s the perfect time of year to watch horror movies, whether you’re a year-round horror fan or you just like to watch horror flicks to get into the Halloween spirit. This year at Horror Obsessive, for our 31 Horror Classics Revisited series, we’re giving you one recommendation for a classic horror film each day throughout the month of October. What do you think—is this film a horror classic? What other horror films do you consider to be classics, and what films do you make sure you watch each October? Let us know in the comments below!
A mainstay of horror as a genre is that every few years, some classic is remade for a new generation, either to cash in, to take advantage of new technology or maybe a passionate filmmaker wants to create a spin on the story. There are two categories of horror remakes, in my opinion.
The first category of horror remakes retells the same story, adding little to no new angles, and generally speaking, is worse than its predecessor. A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) with Jackie Earle Haley as the iconic Freddy Kreuger is one I consider a poor imitation. It’s bland and forgettable. While Haley does a decent job with Freddy, it’s also impossible to go up against Robert Englund’s portrayal, which is cemented in our minds. You’d need to take it in a completely different direction to stand out or somehow be even more bombastic than Englund.
The second type of horror remake takes the original story (or concept) and elevates it using modern special effects and tweaks to the plot to create something that is most reminiscent of the original but stands on its own, sometimes surpassing in terms of box office success and lasting impact. John Carpenter’s The Thing, David Cronenberg’s The Fly, and Leigh Whannell’s recent adaptation of The Invisible Man are all here.
Another film I would argue belongs at the cool kid’s table is 1988’s The Blob.
Let’s start from the beginning: the original Blob film from 1958. It was ceated for $110,000 and originally called The Molten Meteor before switching to The Glob and then eventually swapping the first letter.
Our story begins with an Amoeba-like alien crashing on Earth, hiding inside a meteorite. It attaches to an old man, enveloping his arm. Two teens, Steven and Jane, take him to the hospital where The Blob eats several nurses and continues growing, eating, and generally being goopy. Authorities don’t believe this wild story and are soon swallowed up as it makes its way through town. After realizing the mass is repelled by cold temperatures, the townsfolk blast it with fire extinguishers, and it is eventually transported to the Arctic, where it will hopefully stay frozen. It’s notable for being Steve McQueen’s first starring role and for the iconic “people fleeing from a movie theatre” scene, which is re-created at an annual Blobfest in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.
30 years later and fresh off of directing A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (oft considered the best sequel), Chuck Russell teamed up with special effects artist Tony Gardner to remake The Blob and use every trick in the book to create the most disgusting pile of pink slime ever put to film.
The plot beats are the same, with the old man finding the meteorite blob, the trip to the hospital, and the eventual defeat of the monster by freezing it. However, it’s all ramped up to 11 with some subversion of the original. Jane’s equivalent is Meg, our heroine, an average high school student. Her hunky boyfriend Paul, who we expect to serve the same role as Steve McQueen, gets dissolved gruesomely fairly early in the film. It’s a great “No one is safe!” statement, even if the final kill count is a little over a dozen. He’s replaced with the bad boy of the town, Flagg. This creates a different dynamic that’s a better fit in the ’80s.
Physically, the Blob is now more malleable and dangerous, with Russell describing it as “an inside-out stomach, burning, melting and devouring almost everything it touches.” Instead of silicone with red vegetable dye, it’s made with methocel, a thickening agent, and appears as a bright bubblegum pink. It’s opaque, with veins and bits floating inside (including partly digested victims). Miniatures, stop-motion animation, and puppeteers are all used, sometimes switching back and forth between shots. The Blob is always moving, oozing, or doing something and this makes it feel more like a living creature.
All the effects have aged well, save for a few composite shots that last for seconds. Nothing’s perfect! That aside, it is a testament to the film that it makes what is essentially a lump of gelatin terrifying.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though, with several joking scenes sprinkled throughout the runtime including a recreation of the “Blind Date” urban legend. The opening of the film itself tricks you into thinking the town is deserted, when in fact they’re all attending the football game, setting up the vibe of the community immediately and poking fun at post-apocalyptic films in the process.
Our second subversion is the reveal that the Blob isn’t extraterrestrial in nature but in fact a biological experiment by the government. (Bacteria altered by space radiation or something, but that part doesn’t really matter.) There’s even a possibility they unleashed the Blob to test its capabilities and are now coming to collect–although containment fails spectacularly, with hazmat-suited men being tossed like ragdolls. Combined with this, a dramatic sewer chase scene ramps up to the dramatic conclusion with a snow truck stopping the blob in its tracks. A potential sequel is teased, although this never came to be and personally I don’t believe it ruins the ending and more exists as a cheeky “what-if” moment.
The Blob was nowhere near a hit upon release, making only half its budget back and mixed reviews from critics who either felt it was too gory or didn’t live up to the 1958 version. It’s interesting to me that the same was said of The Thing, with both melty films being deemed “too much.” Director Chuck Russell, reflecting on the film, said, “Maybe it was a mistake to do a remake of The Blob with a sense of humor.”
An aspect of media being remade years later, whether it be movies or video games, can bring up arguments about which is better. Horror is so diverse that someone’s favourite movie could be one you loathe. Here’s the great thing: the old versions (except in very rare circumstances) still exist for you to enjoy. It can be fun to compare and contrast the old and new! It’s like having two cakes for the price of one. Either way, my love for the Blob will continue.