Thursday, April 14, 2011

Monsters vs. Aliens Challenge: The Blob (1958 & 1988)

This is part 2 of my Monsters vs Aliens Challenge. If you missed part 1, click the tag in this entry!

I think a lot of times we make the mistake in believing that people used to take creature feature films seriously . There is a scene in The Blob where we see a lot of teens sitting in a movie theater watching a "spooky" movie. None of them look scared, and if I remember correctly, there's even a moment when they all laugh at the screen. While the characters in The Blob all take this creature seriously and are concerned that it's a very real threat, I think that is meant to add to the humor. Things do take a dangerous turn at the end, but for the most part there's a lot of silliness to be found here.

The special effects are pretty fantastic. The blob seems to be made of harder stuff when it needs to grab on to something and it's much more loose and oozy when it needs to seep through cracks. There's also a lot of work with miniatures that look quite real. I'm kind of amazed how back at the turn of the 21st century, there was a lot of excitement about how movies could be made to look so much more real now that we had CGI technology. While our CGI continues to improve and become more and more lifelike, I still find myself preferring the techniques that these older films bring us.

I think the biggest place this film goes wrong is in its message of "adults don't take teenagers seriously." It's really gratuitous and takes up far too long on the film's 82 minute running time. Much like Attack of the 50 Foot Woman before it, the monster's rampage is much smaller in scope than one would hope for in movies like this. Whereas in that previous film I related to Nancy, I just can't relate to these teenagers in the same way. I found myself thinking "get on with it!" more often than not while watching. It does, at least, have a nice payoff. While the parents and policemen find themselves skeptical of what the teenagers have been telling them, the moment the blob reveals itself and puts five people in danger, the town rallies together. I like that there's no time spent apologizing or saying I told you so - they simply figure out what they have to do to put a stop to the creature.

It's hard to make comparisons to this blob and B.O.B. from Monsters vs. Aliens. While the movie is obviously the inspiration for the character, the blob doesn't talk; it only moves from place to place and feasts on humans. B.O.B. is obviously not so blood thirsty, and honestly I'm not sure if he even could absorb a human. He's shown to go through them multiple times, but he always spits them back out. Food and garbage, on the other hand, tend to dissolve within him pretty quickly. He also has a different origin. While the blob comes from within a meteorite, B.O.B. was lab created from genetically and chemically altered food. It's also possible that the reason B.O.B. is not blood thirsty is because he doesn't have a brain. It also makes him the most lovable member of the group and the most obvious source of comedy in the movie. He's voiced by Seth Rogen, who is possibly one of the most lovable comedic actors ever born, so that's not entirely a surprise.

Since so many of the movies in this challenge also have pretty well known remakes, I thought it would be worthwhile to cover those as well. I was semi-dreading watching The Blobremake, and it's possible that my expectations are to blame, but I was actually pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed this. I think I might actually rate it higher than the original. This is how remakes are supposed to be. There are tributes to the original film with many of the iconic scenes played out again, often in a slightly different way. There's also a fun Friday the 13th parody that we see playing in a movie theater. While the blob doesn't morph in texture quite as often as the original blob did, the higher budget of this film means we get to see it do a lot more cool things than we could before, and it's shown far more often. The story is not a direct rehashing - in fact there's one inversion that happens near the beginning that I really enjoyed. I think the updated story makes a lot of sense. In the 50s, they frequently used aliens as a metaphor for their fear of nuclear war. In the 80s remake, we get a much more obvious reference to the cold war that was currently going on. While it makes it all look a bit dated now, I think it's at least executed well.

This is not to say it is a perfect film. The characters are all cookie cutter, the jokes are weak, and the dialogue is about as predictable as you can get in these kinds of films. There aren't any major actors here that really stand out, though I thought it was funny that I recognized the two female leads from Stephen King adaptations. A fair number of the males also had me going "Hey, it's that guy!" too. The absolute worst part of the film is it's attempt to set up a sequel at the very end. At least I'm pretty sure that's what they were trying to do. It got my eyes rolling into the back of my head.

The absolute best accomplishment of the remake is one simple thing - the blob is actually scary! Its acidic nature is much more prevalent, and we see some rather gross moments as it dissolves its victims. It also moves a lot faster and frequently uses tendril-like appendages to reach out and grab people. This movie would have really freaked me out as a kid, regardless of the inevitable comparisons my mind would have made to the mood slime featured in Ghostbusters II.

I recommend both versions. Have you seen both? Which do you prefer?

Don't forget to head over to Shredded Cheddar and watch E's live blog of The Blob!

1 comment:

  1. +JMJ+

    I got a lot of my own silliness from that Adults vs. Teenagers theme, but I love the way everyone is redeemed in each other's eyes at the end of the movie. The scene in which the principal "vandalises" a school window is priceless--and the important role given to the jerkiest policeman gives him more of a character arc than he would have had otherwise (although, yeah, it's not really much of an arc).

    I agree with you that old school special effects still have that extra special something that CGI can't seem to recreate yet. The climax, when our leads are trapped in the diner, with the Blob closing in by the second, was pretty scary--or as scary as that sort of set up can be after about an hour of so much silliness. But let's give them some credit!

    B.O.B. really doesn't have much in common with his inspiration, does he? =P Well, except for the silliness. But Seth Rogen takes it to a whole new level. Voice acting is still acting and he should have been nominated for an Oscar or something.

    I haven't actually seen the remake yet, so I can't comment on that part of your review.


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