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The Blob (1988)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/14/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/27/2014
(This Blu-ray Disc is available through ScreenArchives.com.)
People often ask me, "Mike, what is the most underrated horror movie of the 80s?". OK, no one ever asks me that, but if they did, I've got that bullet in the chamber. Sure, there are some good candidates here -- Phantasm II, Paperhouse, Unmasked Part 25 (look it up) -- but the champion has to be The Blob. This remake of the 1958 Steve McQueen film opened and closed very quickly in the summer of 1988, virtually ignored by filmgoers who apparently wanted more cheerful summer fare. I've long supported this movie and it's great that it's finally available on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Twilight Time.
The sleepy town of Arborville, California has fallen on hard times. Set in the northern part of the state, the area relies on winter-time skiers, but the past few years have seen little snow. Still, the town can rally around the local high school football team and that's where we meet wide receiver Paul Taylor (Donovan Leitch) and cheerleader Meg Penny (Shawnee Smith), who will be going out on their first date after the game. Meanwhile, town bad boy Brian Flagg (Kevin Dillon) has rejected the conformist setting of the game, preferring to spend his time practicing jumps on his motorcycle. That night, a meteor lands outside of town, and when an old man (Billy Beck) investigates it, a pink slime flows from the rock and attaches itself to his hand. Paul and Meg are attempting to enjoy their date, when this man runs out into the street. Coincidentally, Flagg is on the scene as well. This group goes to the local medical center seeking help for the man, but the pink slime quickly begins to grow and absorb anything in its path. It becomes apparent that the entire town is in danger and it will be up to a group of mis-matched heroes to save the day.
In retrospect, it's easy to imagine why very few went to see The Blob. The title can be seen as either silly or vague, depending on your point of view. Those who were familiar with the original film most likely felt that a remake wasn't necessary or hadn't liked the old movie and saw no need to seek out the new one. Also, the very idea of the blob, an amorphous mass which oozes around eating people, isn't necessarily the most frightening idea ever committed to celluloid.
This new version wisely both embraces and rejects all of those ideas. Co-Writer/Director Chuck Russell and Co-Writer Frank Darabont (Yes, the Frank Darabont of The Shawshank Redemption and The Walking Dead fame) have crafted a film which takes an old, minimalist idea and drags it into the modern age. Yes, the movie still deals with a big wad of slime, but this time it moves with deadly accuracy and it's mere touch is deadly. The old notion of a threat from space (which was very hip in the 50s) has been tweaked and given a more cynical paranoid twist which adds a new level to the story. The movie also gives us a spunky, modern heroin in Meg, a girl who wears cashmere and pearls on a date, but can also kick blob ass when it's called for. (Do blobs have an ass?)
Russell and Darabont join forces to bring us a thriller which is actually thrilling. Russell had made an impressive debut the year before with A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and he continues his use of moving camera in The Blob to create a sense of tension. Darabont infuses the script with darkness, as we learn early on that any character can die at any time. As the movie plows through the main cast, we begin to wonder if anyone will be left at the end. Thus, we have what could have been an overly camp film that actually takes its main idea seriously and creates scene after scene where we don't know where the blob is going to strike and who it's going to kill.
Again, I'm an advocate of this film, and watching it again, it definitely holds up, some bad green-screen aside. However, the real litmus test came when I showed it others. My wife swears that she saw it years ago and didn't like it, which tainted the opinion of my teenaged daughter, who was willing to give it a shot. My daughter really enjoyed it, and my wife had to admit that it was much better than she remembered. So, throw away those pre-conceived notions, especially you millennials who view this as an "old movie" and experience just how unforgiving a raging mass of jelly can be.
The Blob shows that one can be tough and wear mom-jeans on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Twilight Time. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 24 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only slight touches of grain during some of the daytime scenes and no overt defects from the source materials. The colors look good, most notably the pink blob, and only a handful of the night-time scenes are what I would consider noticeably dark. The level of detail is good, as we can make out textures on objects, but the depth is disappointing for a Blu-ray Disc. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.9 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. I'm not sure what the film's original sound mix was (stereo at least), but this sounds like the typical older-film with a new 5.1 track. We get well-balanced and crisp audio, but not many impressive surround effects. There are some notably stereo effects, but other than a few scenes, I felt that surround and subwoofer effects were simply too subtle.
The Blob Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Chuck Russell and Horror Authority Ryan Turek. "Friday Night Frights at The Cinefamily" (18 minutes) takes us to a screening of the film where Chuck Russell answers questions about the movie and gives us some nice information about the making of the film. We get both the Red Band and Green Band TRAILERS for the film. The Disc also includes an Isolated Score Track, so that fans can enjoy Michael Hoenig's score without interruption.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long