It’s hard to imagine a film that embraces the notion of a campy Creature Feature more than The Blob. Just by the title alone you know exactly what you’re in for. Despite being incredibly well known films, there actually is not a contemporary remake of this story, although there is rumored to be one in development that would star Samuel L Jackson (!). So, as of this time we have the 1958 and 1988 versions, each very emblematic of the time period in which it they were made.
The story in both centers around a meteor that crashes in the woods outside of a town and releases a gelatinous creature that absorbs and devours the residents. Both films also feature an old man as patient zero and center around teen protagonists who discover and bring him to the doctor, which is where the mayhem really begins. However, at that point the similarities pretty much end.
Now, I know the original was made in the era of campy drive-in horror and special effects knowledge was very limited at that time. That being said, there are still quite a few aspects that could have been greatly improved upon. For one thing, all of the “teens” in this film look like they’re about 35. This actually makes sense because in reality stars Steve McQueen and Aneta Corsaut were 28 and 25 respectively when the movie was filmed…..and it shows. There’s nothing that shatters even the vaguest illusion of realism like “man-child” McQueen blubbering to the cops to not tell his daddy that he was out hot-rodding. When you couple this with the painfully stagy ’50’s acting, you end up with characters that are distractingly unrealistic and completely unrelatable.
The remake on the other hand establishes characters that not only look age appropriate but are surprisingly well-developed with minimal exposition. There is a general feeling of ’80’s cheesiness of course but for the most part the characters are played straight and realistic enough to make you feel emotionally invested in the story. The remake also does a far better job at having a logical justification for why most people are initially skeptical and reluctant to accept what’s happening. This is in stark contrast to the irrational insistence by the cops in the original that those crazy “kids” are pulling one heck of an elaborate prank on old Johnny Law.
Since this is a Creature Feature the quality of the creature itself naturally plays a pivotal roll in selling the scares in the film. This is another area in which the remake out-classes the original with an amorphous creature that presents as a truly threatening monster rather than something that alternately looks like a giant piece of half-chewed candy and a sad bag of jello. The remake also makes great use of practical effects, delivering some truly amazing gooey, gory kills in all their wonderful ’80’s glory.
The original also could have tightened up some of the writing which was confounding even for the era. One of the best example of this is when the fire chief notices the diner that people are trapped in the basement of is on fire and casually asks the sheriff if he has any ideas on how to put it out. (!) He then follows that up with pretty much “Ah, that fire will probably burn out in 10 minutes or so”. (Never mind that the people will most likely burn to death by then. How did he get this fucking job!?)
I mean, the bad writing is good for a few unintentional laughs of course. For instance, the scene when the nurse throws a bottle of acid on the blob, that of course does nothing, and then declares “Dr, nothing will stop it!” (you’ve tried exactly one thing, one.) Obviously he then he tells her to stay in the room she could easily escape (!) while he gets his gun and we’re then treated to one of the lamest deaths in film history.
All these kinds of issues could be overlooked however if the original provided an overall film that was an enjoyably campy, fun ride. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t. There simply isn’t enough to make it fun and the slow pace, shoddy ADR, poorly staged action, bad dialogue and lack of anything even remotely close to frightening make this a wholly unsatisfying experience. On the other hand the remake gives you exactly what you’d expect and want from a film like this which is a fun, gory monster flick that holds up surprisingly well after almost thirty years.