This post is a part of our New Voices Section.
Written by Carlo Giovannetti.
“Would you believe me if I told you there was something inside of that rock we found tonight? Something that could wipe out this whole town?” –Steve Andrews, The Blob (1958)
That’s the way Steve McQueen’s character describes the title creature to the police in the original version of The Blob. The “blob” is essentially an amorphous, jelly-like creature that slithers around devouring anything in its path, while growing. However, it isn’t called the “blob” in any of the versions of the film. Instead, it is referred to as “monster”, “thing”, “parasite”, or “organism”. The shapeless creature was brought back to life for a remake, released 30 years after. Here’s a look at both films:
THE BLOB (1958)
Released independently in 1958, the original film is set in rural Pennsylvania. When teenagers Steve and Jane (McQueen and Aneta Corsaut) witness a meteorite crash, they go to investigate. On their way, they stumble upon an old man with a blob attached to his arm. After taking him to the local doctor for help, Steve and Jane try to alert the authorities, only to face skepticism and disbelief. Meanwhile, the blob starts wreaking havoc in the town.
Like many similar films of the era, the original is a mixture of classic horror and sci-fi, but with certain goofiness to it. This is evident to the audience from the catchy and campy title song, performed by Burt Bacharach. Even with its low budget, the film became a surprise hit.
THE BLOB (1988)
Released by TriStar Pictures in 1988, the remake changes the setting to Arborville, California. This time, teenagers Meg and Paul’s first date is interrupted by an old man with a parasite on his hand. Town “bad boy” Brian Flagg (Kevin Dillon), who was following the man, agrees to help Paul (Donovan Leitch) take the old man to the hospital. But when things go south, Brian ends up as the main suspect, forcing Meg (Shawnee Smith) to help him alert everyone about the creature.
The remake was released exactly 30 years later, in a time when horror films and gore were the thing to do. Instead of the goofy and campy tone of the original, this one has a more serious tone, focused on scaring you and making you jump. Some of the deaths are gruesome and the gore is abundant. Although it flopped at the box office, the film has gained a cult following.
First, I had never seen the original until a couple of years ago. The film is mostly held together by McQueen, who delivers a fairly good performance on his first notable film role. He brings a certain charm and charisma to his character that keeps the film focused and afloat. On the other hand, the supporting cast feels somewhat wooden and lifeless. But if you’re willing to accept its inherent silliness, then you will enjoy it more than others.
Growing up in the 80’s, I was already familiar with the remake. Unfortunately, it lacks a lead as good as McQueen. Although Dillon and Smith are competent, none of them really shines. In addition, the bonding between Brian and Meg feels a bit rushed and not believable. If anything, the supporting cast is stronger in the remake, led by Jeffrey DeMunn as the town sheriff, and Del Close as a paranoid reverend.
Another strong point for the remake is the strength of the story and how the nature of the blob is explained. Whereas the first one featured a fairly simple background, and an abrupt and somewhat lacking ending, the overall story of the remake is a bit more layered and complex, while respecting the basic template. Also, despite some issues in the last act, the execution of the new version is bolder.
THE VERDICT: ORIGINAL OR REMAKE?
To me, there is no contest. Although I can appreciate the classic sci-fi charm and McQueen’s performance in the original, my penchant for horror films and gore makes me lean towards the remake. Add to this the improved special effects and a stronger story, and you can’t go wrong with it. The original should be an interesting watch for any fan of horror/sci-fi films or cinema overall, but from blob to blob, the remake “devours” the original.
Carlo Giovannetti is from Puerto Rico. He is a cinephile by heart and a techie by necessity. Although his studies are in Information Systems, his passion is in films and has taken multiple online courses on subjects like film noir, Hitchcock, and others.