The power of The Blob lies in its early depictions of small town life, the lingering shots of fountains in the town square or dusty sidewalks devoid of human life; the opening credits sequence throws the viewer right into the town before introducing them to the big football game between rival towns, the star football player able to convert a fantastic touchdown and also getting the cute cheerleader in the process. Welcome to Arborville, California, a place that feels a lot like the small town life of the 1958 film but with updated themes of bad boys, their reputations in town, and the government’s increased meddling in science.
Chuck Russell and Frank Darabont co-wrote the screenplay for this update, and they often trade off between tongue-in-cheek humor and sci-fi scares. But early on it’s clear that The Blob is not just a monster that threatens to consume the entire town; it’s also an allegory for claustrophobia in a place where it’s difficult to overcome your namesake and reputation. The Blob punctuates this from the moment Russell centers on the jock Paul (Donovan Leitch Jr.) as he gets together with the hot cheerleader Meg (Shawnee Smith). Paul looks like our ordinary hero, the type of guy who comes through in the clutch. Not only that, but he also seems like a genuinely nice guy, not the arrogant personality that his friend Scott (Ricky Paull Goldin) has. As The Blob gets rolling, Russell intercuts to scenes with Brian (Kevin Dillon), a bad boy with a bike and the epitome of ’80s hair styles (perhaps it was the intention that it looks like Dillon’s hair is trying to consume his head a la The Blob’s MO), who clearly has some familial issues and some recent delinquencies but otherwise has good intentions.
This is a jarring introduction at first; Paul should be our main protagonist, and Brian the antagonist, but The Blob paints a warmer picture of Brian than anyone else in the film besides Meg. And soon, Russell is throwing a wrench into the plot once the Blob makes its appearance: Paul gets a particularly violent, viscous-y death at the creature’s hands, or rather, jelly. It is Brian who emerges as the bad boy with a good heart, the kind of man who gets another shot at overcoming his nearly confining past to counteract not only the Blob, but humanity as well. With this, Russell and Darabont circumvent the usual themes of horror films, making The Blob a film that also improves upon the original’s idea.
But the plot isn’t the best part of the film; it’s the practical blob effects that really put the jelly on this sandwich. The Blob offers a number of awesome scenes, where people are consumed and partially digested by whatever acids are in the blob’s makeup. Some of those are done with fantastic makeup effects, like Paul’s death attempting to crawl out of the gelatinous fluid – it is, in part, a reversal of birth, and it’s just as frightening to watch. More than that, Russell doesn’t skimp on creative visuals; a phone booth bursts in on a victim due to the Blob’s constriction, and a man is sucked into a sink pipeline after being dissolved enough to get through the drain.
These are scenes that come without the CGI effects that movies of this sort would rely on now. These are practical, and adhering to the jelly-like monster of the film, messy. They add depth to a film that could otherwise be another bland depiction of an unknown terror killing off the town. The Blob is still shlocky, but it’s intentionally so; Darabont and Russell have fun with the genre’s subtext while doing significant metaphorical work.
It’s no wonder, then, that The Blob would be brought back to devoted fans thanks to Twilight Time, releasing it in a limited edition of 5000. As of this writing, it’s too late to get your hands on a copy of this, so that makes it hard to review; if you’ve already gotten it, you know how great this is. If you didn’t, then you’re probably resenting the fact you didn’t pick it up.
Either way, The Blob is a great release. It comes with a special essay insert from Julie Kirgo (and if you know me, I love my home video inserts), as well as some great cover art and a nice, if unoriginal, menu picture. The 1080p quality looks great with just a little bit of noise and fuzz, though nothing that will detract from the viewing experience at all.
The bonus features on the disc are slimmer than I would have liked, with just one interview with director Chuck Russell provided by Shock Till You Drop during a Friday Night Frights at The Cinefamily; still, that runs 18 minutes and gets some great discussion out of Russell. Also available is a commentary track with Ryan Turek and Chuck Russell, and an isolated score track option. You’ll also get both red and green band trailers.