The remake of The Blob is one of those rare films that not only pays homage to the original 1958 film but in some ways does an amazing job on embellishing along with updating it. The plot of the film is, Remake of the 1958 horror sci-fi about a deadly blob which is the spawn of a secret government germ warfare project which consumes everyone in its path. Teenagers try in vain to warn the townsfolk, who refuse to take them seriously, while government agents try to cover up the evidence and confine the creature.
Released in 1988 there were a number of other good horror films released that year including Child’s Play, Pumpkinhead, Hellraiser II, They Live and Serpent and the Rainbow. But it was The Blob that I was most excited for. I had been a fan of the original 1958 film that I had seen on Criterion Laserdisc and back then there were not as many remakes and reboots as there are today. Chuck Russell was hot off his directorial debut on Nightmare on Elm Street 3 that was a big shot in the arm for that franchise. The one thing that was updated from the original was the carnage that The Blob had on it victims. While the 1958 film was ahead of its time as far as horror goes the 1988 version was able to ramp up every level. Writers Russell and Frank Darabont did a really smart thing with the script which was keep the elements that made the 1958 film work so well in the first place. The one thing that was the key to the film working was making sure that the audience was always caught off guard. They kill off some of the major players in the film that keep you guessing if anyone is actually safe in the film.
One of the strongest parts of the film was having Shawnee Smith as the heroine of the film that was very unusual and progressive for the time. Having her not be the damsel in distress really helps the film work. Kevin Dillon does a good job as the rebel that helps Smith save the day. Russell surrounds the young actors with lots of veteran character actors such as Candy Clark, Joe Seneca, Jeffery DeMunn, Paul McCrane, and Art LaFleur to name a few. Russell does a nice job of balancing the humor and the horror in the story as well as the action. The special effects are all practical effects and composite shots that while by modern digital effect some would find primitive, I actually think that they work better because there is always something physical in the shot. The other addition in the remake is that The Blob seems more sentient and vicious and uses tentacles to attack with. While the original 1958 film plays on the Red Scare of the time with the “mystery from outer space” theory, the 1988 version seems to mirror the distrust of the Reagan era government that has created this monster in the remake.
Russell along with Cinematographer Mark Irwin (who did a number of David Cronenberg films including Videodrome and The Fly) create a really great mood with the overall look of the film. With a very small budget (according to Russell in the commentary it was under $10 million) makes the film look a lot grander than they could afford. Lyle Conway was hired to do The Blob effects but because they didn’t use as many large physical effects and they had planned due to lack of time and money to build proper sets it was make up artist Tony Gardner that did a lot of The Blob effects also. The one thing that the film does really well is its miniatures effects and while some of the matte work is noticeable because of the limitations of the time the overall Blob is very impressive in the film.
I saw the film in theaters when it was originally release and really fell in love with it. It has all the right balance that a good horror film needs and viewing it over time on Laserdisc and then DVD it was alway a film that worked just as well on repeated viewings. Now Twilight Time has released the film on a limited edition Blu-Ray (that has sadly sold out of it’s 5000 copy run) and it my first Twilight Time purchase, so there was a lot riding on this disc.
The 1080p AVC encoded picture does a really nice job of capturing the look of the original film elements. The picture is correctly framed 1.85 original aspect ratio of the theatrical release. The colors are nice a solid and the black levels are nice and rich. I have read other reviews that think that this has been sourced from “older master” is simply wrong. The Blu-Ray retains the original film look very nicely. Thankfully the transfer has not been enhanced and the film grain in the transfer is fully intact. The colors are vivid and the contrast is quite good. The picture is a little soft but once again matching the original look of the film. Overall Twilight Time has done a great job on the transfer of the film and making sure that it still looks like film.
There are three audio streams on the disc. First the feature audio is 5.1 DTS Master Audio that does a nice job with the re-mix of the original audio that was a four channel analog mix (left/center/right/surrounds) Ultra Stereo (Ultra Stereo was a cheaper alternative to Dolby and used by independent filmmakers to keep the cost down on a production). I would have wished that Twilight Time had included the original release mix on the disc as an alternative. I prefer to listen a film in it original audio mix because it’s a more pure source and has not been tampered with that does happen on a 5.1 mix. The audio is pleasing and the film has a lot of fun with using sound for The Blob. The dialog is good and the surrounds kick in at the appropriate times when the action ramps up. The second stream is Michael Hoenig’s isolated score that sounds nice and really shows how a score can really make or break a film. The score for The Blob is very good and evokes the mood that the film needed. The third stream is the commentary that I will talk about below with the special features.
Twilight Time has licensed the Tri-Star release from Sony Home Video. There have been a lot of complaints about Twilight Time Blu-Ray’s because of their high price and lack of real special features. While all their early releases included good transfers and solid audio most of the releases only had isolated music scores as special features. When you are paying $30.00 I would expect a lot more than that considering that both Criterion and Shout Factory create new special features for their licensed titles. Thankfully Twilight. The good news with this release is that all of the special features are brand new and were created for this specific release.
Audio Commentary with Director Chuck Russell and Ryan Turek.
First I wouldn’t call this a commentary, I would say that it’s more of a Q&A instead. While the audio track is good I really had wished it was an actual commentary. The thing that I really love about a commentary is that it can be very spontaneous and you never know what the person might remember while watching the film again. I had really wished that Twilight Time had done this as a Q&A and getting questions that may have not been covered in a real commentary track. Disappointment aside the track does cover a lot of ground from a Q&A point of view but ultimately ends up being a bit on the dry side not because of Russell who is very lively and remembers nearly everything about making the film.
Friday Night Frights: (1080p 18:00)
This feature was shot when The New Beverly showing of the film that Russell attended. The video starts off with a really blocky compression of the trailer that there is no excuse that it looks that bad. Fortunately the video of the Q&A looks fine. They talk about the film and there are some questions from the audience. Overall it’s a nice piece that adds some information about the making of the film. The video is 1.78
Trailers: (1080p Green Band 1:27/Red Band 1:23)
Both trailers are surprisingly their correct aspect ratio of 1.85 and both look really good considering the age of them. The MPAA color band has been removed but the red band trailer is definitely the one that was attached to R rated features. Both the video and audio are above average for trailers.
Twilight Time has also included an eight page booklet that include new poster art commissioned for this release. It also contains an essay about the film by Julie Kirgo and some production stills. This is a really nice touch and adds to the overall package for the film.
There was a lot riding on this release for me from Twilight Time. While I had been close a couple of times in buying a title from them this was for me there first must have title (I did order my other favorite title from them Used Cars that I will review at a later date). To be honest the price of their releases and the lack of extras has kept me from buying title from them. While I understand that creating new special features do add a cost to a small company like Twilight Time, some of their perviously release titles did not include the special features that were made by the studios for the DVD released. If they are licensing from Sony then they need to include all of the previous released special features. With The Blob I think this is the first time that they have created new material for a release and it’s definitely a big step in the right direction. While I will cut them some slack with the commentary they need to work on things like that in the future.
Overall the picture and the audio on The Blob are really solid and well worth the $30 price alone. Add in the new special features and I can say that I am happy with my purchase. I just wish that Twilight Time would stop making their titles limited editions. This is a real shame because I would love for everyone reading this review of this very underrated and highly entertaining film be able to head over and buy this release. Sadly with it being sold out I can only hope that they will considering doing another run and just change the artwork to note that it’s a reissue.