As studios have scrambled to find medium-budgeted, pre-existing material to entice a waning audience, they have been more than eager to plunder their back catalogue of horror properties over the years. A number of remakes have seen the light well before the original versions have both earned the right to be rebooted and properly matured to the point of being awarded cult status. With the odd exception (2006’s The Hills Have Eyes was a suitably reverential remake) the majority of these new offerings have fallen into the trap of either remaining irritatingly faithful to the original source material, or deviating too far from it, and instead alienating the intended fan base.
Admittedly, it’s a fine line to tread, but even as far back as thirty years ago, one film managed to reconcile this quandary. Much like the 1958 original – which starred a young Steve McQueen – The Blob begins with a meteorite crashing down to earth in small town California. It’s also here where we met lead Kevin Dillon for the first time, playing mulleted high school trouble-maker Brian. It’s interesting that Dillon’s entertaining bad boy posturing here acts as a template for his performance in TV’s Entourage, where his character’s back-story on the show slyly mirrors and spoofs the roles he was actually cast in during his own career in the 1980s.
Brian finds himself thrown together with popular cheerleader-type Meg (future Jigsaw victim Shawnee Smith) and her football jock date when they encounter an old tramp by the roadside who appears to have a painful, jelly-like substance attached to his hand. The three decide to take him to the local hospital which unknowingly unleashes the alien gloop on the unsuspecting townsfolk. It’s here where the writers cleverly deviate from the original material when (spoiler) the good-looking quarterback – the closest character this film has to McQueen – becomes the second unwanted recipient of the blob and ends up being turned into a bubbling, mushy pulp in front of Meg’s eyes.
Ditching the traditional expectations of the chiseled hero is always a fun genre subversion, and this is entirely to the credit of the film’s creative team, co-writer Frank Darabont and director Chuck Russell. It’s clear that they both possess a real love and affinity for the B-movies of their youth, particularly in staging the film’s action within an instantly recognisable small town Americana setting, which looks like it’s been frozen in time. You have the Mom and Pop cafeteria, the under-staffed police station complete with a kind-hearted, lonely sheriff (guess what fate awaits him) and the sinister scientists who look like they’ve just stepped out of a scene from some 1950’s atomic disaster flick.
Perhaps the success of this remake can be attributed to the fact that the original B-movie material hails from that much tamer era and innocent time in pop culture, and because of this, lends itself to a semi-serious, modern-day interpretation. To remake something like the edgy road movie slasher The Hitcher or even revisit the relatively recent Cabin Fever feels likes a redundant move, as the original content from those films is already pretty much in step with a modern audience’s expectations of the genre. With talk of yet another remake on the way – this time with A-lister Samuel L. Jackson attached – it’s doubtful that next version of The Blob will maintain that same loveably oozy shape it found itself in back in 1988.
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